Rehearsals with Jennifer Lawrence

Add bears that can open car doors to the good reasons you may have for being sure you keep your car locked. Consider yourself warned. Hardboiled type outdoorsman I am only casually acquainted with is prepping his Sprinter van for expeditionary holiday north to Alaska. Bears up near Lake Tahoe have been testing his preparations.

Here’s the dirt…

Too many expeditionary types pack rifles or large caliber handguns. My experience suggests its bug spray you’ll need. Mosquitos in Alaska, Yukon and Northwest Territories make for a memorable misadventure. Expert Arctic Circle types I know swear the best way to beat the bugs is get there before they hatch and leave before they are organized into a posse and come looking for your sorry carcass. Basically, by Memorial Day think of getting south— summers are overrated. 

Late in the day atop Rogers Pass in British Columbia I took a space in a provincial park campground. All in all, I had a terrific false sense of security. I was between dates for shows traveling from Edmonton to Whistler. Dinner was prepared and plates were cleaned and put away. There was a horrendous commotion in the hours before dawn. I heard horns honking, people yelling, I didn’t know what to do I was asleep on my bunk beneath my camper shell in the back of my pickup truck. At dawn I walked the campground and found the side of a huge self-contained camper had been attacked by a bear. It must have been corn fed, it was a whopping big animal. The bear clawed off the side of the camper like a sardine can. In its voracious search of food, the contents of the camper were strewn across most of British Columbia. The campers had fled, and it would be a few hours before they arrived with a ranger to assess the natural disaster. 

I have since heard it advised if you are traveling in bear country to mount a powerful air powered horn in your vehicle and to arm it with a motion detector that will trigger its blast should the vehicle begin to be broken into. Isn’t that a great idea— you want to play around grizzly bears you had best come prepared to play to win.

The world’s largest particle collider, the Hadron Collider, the very same device that had a decade ago discovered the famous— so called God Particle— is in France and is at it again— looking for things no particle research scientist has ever seen, only this time the beam they’re using is many times more powerful than the beam used in their last experiment. Which begs the question if indeed it was a God Particle that was discovered back then perhaps this next discovery would be the particle that created the God Particle’s Super-Duper Particle of All Particles right? The first most obvious question we’ll want an answer to the question nobody has yet thought to ask— is it theoretically possible that science will ever get to the bottom of this mystery— what if there is no master particle. What if it was a one off, you know entirely spontaneous, that somehow the Universe simply stumbled upon the singularity and for at least the next 30 billion years the cosmos will continue to expand until it reverses direction and the entire thing collapses back into and upon itself where it will wait in dormancy for another spontaneous spark that triggers the whole dance again and again— think an infinite number of universes that all happen one at a time— we are talking the largest feedback loop in the history of everything under this and all suns. Insurance coverage by State Farm is available— I’m sure.

For sure conspiratorial excess we need to shift our attention and quantum physical theory of dark matter to the East Coast of the United States. Something or someone blew up the Georgia Guidestones this week— I’m betting it was someone, others suspect it may have been spontaneous much like the creation of the universe— come on man, work with me. This theory goes it was spontaneous and the result of the tiny particles unleashed by the Hadron Collider that did it. Maybe the particles zipped through and around the globe entered the delicate tissue of an unsuspecting victim that then directed the suspect to go to the monument and detonate an improvised explosive device. I think I know a sports bar where such victims are currently well-oiled and long past the point of no return.

I’m just a plain talking ordinary California native really. I do not tend to allow my feet to leave the ground, flights of fancy are taken in rare instances but usually I remain tethered to something solid, something reliable, that I can count on, that will be there for me, and then I can show up and I can be there too. I like to agree with other people. If I see a car, and then say it’s a car and someone agrees with me I take that as a place to start from, we can agree on that much, from there we can proceed.

I’m chasing down a thermal gremlin aboard the boat. Turns out that my engine compartment came installed with ducting plumbed to both bring in and take out fresh air and that without this flow the engine compartment heats up and the engine then runs too hot setting off the alarm and then I must shut off the engine. None of this is visible, I like to see it so I may say I can believe it. In this case my weapon of choice is a thermal heat gun that I can use to take the engines temperature. 

If for example you have ever been in love, really fallen head over heels for someone, then you know as we all know that there is no surefire method of knowing if it is the real thing, will it last or will it go away, is it the real McCoy or some kind of mirage, an illusion, a little trick your heart is playing on you, and someone please tell me exactly how in the hell it is the heart and not the head or some other extraneous body part leading us around by love’s nose— 

One more example. What goes on behind closed doors stays behind those doors. I’m good with that, but I’m wondering how it is we all seem to know so little or way too much about such human behavior. I guess we all must be doing it much the same as others are doing it. What if you are an outlier, what if your way of doing isn’t remotely like the way you imagine the vast overwhelming others are doing it. I’d like to think we’re all doing basically the same thing within the margins of error. I’m not sure we can be sure. 

Still, I wonder if we can know. What if you are a true inventor, an originalist, a creator, a titan of imagination, a veritable carnal astronaut, the kind that is willing to journey to furthest reaches of the known explored physical boundaries of humankind. 

It is not knowable, you know that right— we think we might know but we don’t, do we— what we can pin down and know for certain is written down on a short list. Entering a darkened room with a heart filled with phantoms you can only see ghosts and shadows of, that cannot be proven to be true, or even know if they are mere mental fictions you’ve manufactured and then you go into this odd chamber one on one, and what can any of us truly know, when we unlock the fun lover and love seeker in our heart that has suddenly to be found not located in our instincts, I’d like to believe they are coded instructions from genes, and everything you need to know is quite suddenly located— and we know we’re where we are supposed to be because it feels right, consensual and fulfilling. 

Never mind that most of us don’t tape these affairs, there are no still photographs, no vocal recordings to consider erasing. We’ve spent our lives left to wonder. I suppose if you have a kid or two, you’ll take some satisfaction knowing some part of the project worked out. I’m happy most of what I’ve done for fun was in a dark room with my eyes closed. Imagine you were always on a movie set, there was always a crew there, your co-star is ready to shoot the scene, and you’ve got all this pressure on you, this new movie has got to be the best. If I’m thankful for anything this would be as a good a place to start as any. I’m thankful I don’t have to shoot a love scene, all these rehearsals have been hard enough.

Jerry Hall Dumps Murdoch

Forces in the Universe seem to have come untethered. Every nook and cranny packed with fascists and their misguided sympathizers, our scrimmaging is misbegotten, discourse is unbearable, burdened with a despairing lack of civic imagination. 

San Francisco’s fireboat

California isn’t the same place The Mamas and the Papas sang about at the Monterey Pops Festival— 1967 is long gone— that loving feeling has been lost, civility has vanished into rear view mirror. Whatever phase our imperfect world was in then is not the world we face now.

There is no consensus, there’s no mainstream, there is no functionally productive counterculture, there are various factions, these different groups dismiss the legitimacy of all the other groups. Hell, Nancy Pelosi had to go to all the way to prove her point— she had to go to the Vatican to receive the sacrament from the Pope himself because all his disobedient bishops in America wouldn’t allow Madam Speaker to set foot in their churches because of her position on abortion. Disobedience by Bishops in the Catholic Church takes hypocrisy to everlasting heights of pure contradiction. 

Priceless Navajo Real Estate

My contacts in the Navajo Nation all point at the outrage-du-jour and remind non-indigenous citizens that stripping away rights, resources and property that Americans may be suffering now is nothing compared to what the government has done to the Navajo since the founding of the United States.

I’m in the narrative business, storytellers are always on the lookout for a crackin’ good yarn to spin. Journalists go to the assignment desk and are sent out to cover breaking news. Let’s keep it simple, you know they cover a plane crash, car wreck or a fire. A nice easy to understand honest to God tale of loss and tragedy. Guy smoking in bed falls asleep and is killed when he accidentally starts a fire. The LA Times reporter writes that item up then by 4 that same afternoon is across the street from the LA Times Building knocking the first one back at the legendary Redwood Bar and Grill. Journalists are nothing if not well-oiled dispassionate observers.

Dead Ender

Maybe that’s the best work for another writer, but that’s not my scene, that’s not the pig I want to roast. Take the lobbyists working for the fossil fuel industry, they went out found a bunch of unemployed lawyers that could no longer find work that can still pay the bills representing tobacco companies. These amoral disinformation operators go ahead and pick up this pack of hounds to run a climate change is in doubt operation on low information Americans. Fossil fuel companies run things not just here in America, Big Oil runs the world. You get in the carbon extraction industry’s way, and they’ll be happy to chop you into little pieces and dispose of your remains in a pizza oven. 

But even that very well understood fossil fuel disinformation operation doesn’t quite get at the unfathomable fucking story of story’s the world finds itself waiting for. The biggest story of them all is hard to put your finger on. You want to be invited to the rubber room, you want to get fit for a straitjacket, go ahead and start explaining how you think there’s something rotten in Denmark and that you have a big idea, that you alone know who is responsible,  where they are located, and how it is that nobody goes and gets those bastards and brings them in for all that is good and right and staving off the world from cataclysmic chaos and death. Where’s Batman when you need him?

Putin is a miserable dictator, his act is wearing thin, his insights and instincts have gone haywire, he’s still doing the same world domination crap he’s always done its just more tone deaf— he no longer has the touch, and the one time KGB spy now has another 800 miles of border to defend having driven Finland into the outstretched arms of NATO. The pariah that is Putin will live out his days trapped in a monochromatic banal kingdom that tried to reclaim its lost glory by reviving a century old narrative that is gone— the Soviet Union’s time is over. 

That Vladimir helped get Donny Two-Thumbs elected President over here has more to do with dumb luck than any master force he may or may not have unleashed in the run up to the 2016 election.

An unrepentant Zuckerberg can place no claim to being the big boss of bosses. Elon’s act is thin gruel, I’m losing patience with his juvenile tweets, takeovers and unending holes he is always digging. This guy Peter Thiel seems to come up on everyone’s list of potential mischief makers— his pungent flavor of gay does such dishonor to my favorite Edith Piaf fans.

Go figure it’s Jerry Hall dumping Rupert Murdoch that has finally kicked this miserable news baron of a man to the curb. Vicariously all of us have wanted to divorce this democracy menacing media mogul. As Mick bellowed between pouting lips decades now long gone— what a drag it is getting old— Murdoch’s old is the most wretched of all I’ve witnessed. King Lear’s doom was more cheerful.

Daybreak off Point Conception

Maybe the Federalist Society gets close to holding the key to unlocking the door to domination and unleashing the monster of all monster’s, their pursuit of being masters of the universe isn’t a done deal— but you know as nominees for the most powerful awful in the universe— Leo Leonard and his ilk are playing one hell of a game. Toxic evangelicalism does not look pretty in a gown worn by a justice on the court.

The year was 1939, it was a Broadway musical, Very Warm for May, Jerome Kern composed the music, Oscar Hammerstein’s wrote lyrics— the intro to All in Fun— (you can look them up on line… or better yet stream Tony Bennett’s version.(

Daybreak Tonopah, Nevada

Since the center doesn’t seem to be holding, perhaps it is time to remind friend and not friend alike that it is a livable world, peace, clean air and pure water that is in play and at risk. It is All in Fun that is hanging in the balance, those of us with a few miles on our odometers have a responsibility to pass along to our children and their children a better world. It’s all on the line now, come November vote for the truth, vote for democracy. I’m going all in with fun— I tell you it beats the rest—

Call for a General Strike

The ruins of Chaco Canyon give us a glimpse into the life of one of America’s earliest civilizations. There is evidence the first people prevailed as a culture and economy for 1000 years, the tribes of the desert southwest of Arizona and New Mexico thrived here. After years of abundant rain our first people were unprepared for drought and the food insecurity that resulted. Corn, squash and beans depleted the already marginal soils. By 1230 Chacoans, the people that lived in the canyon had built the tallest buildings in North America, a feat that would not be eclipsed until 1830 in New York City—

Chaco Canyon

Our current circumstances, our present civilization, feels fragile, supply chains are strained, water in the American West is scarce and millions of acres are under threat of collapse. Our inability to organize in the face of these environmental threats is cause for concern. Let the record show that the first people, those who came before us, discovered that out here the rural west can become inhospitable, unpredictable and spark conflict among the stakeholders.

Great ruins of Chaco Canyon

The Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine has shattered a tenuous peace in Europe. A Stalin like leader Putin without warning or reason invades a sovereign neighboring nation. Trump likely advised by the transnational organized crime syndicate was urged to abandon democracy and remain in power. To pull the insurrection off he would need knowledgeable insiders, enemies of democracy that understood how our interlocking institutions worked. If it feels as if our nation has been taken over by a out of this world Manchurian candidate you would not be wrong.

This weeks rulings by the Supreme Court feel anti-majoritarian, the decisions feel Medieval, subjugating women and terrorizing citizens by allowing weapons to be legally concealed and carried.

California where I live is home to 40 million people. This is a complex, economically productive state. To make the Golden State work the citizens have had to organize. The world’s largest system of aqueducts have been constructed. California produces more food than any other state in the nation. Yes, it is a jumble of water districts, billions of dollars were spent building dams for reservoirs, farmers have squabbled over who would get to use this water and who wouldn’t. The fighting continues to this day even if the writing is on the wall and the resources we fight over are clearly diminishing just as our population is growing.

California a land of unrivaled beauty

Air Flight Controllers, certified aviation mechanics, and a host of federal safety inspectors work to keep us safe should we need to travel by air. We use supervision and regulatory agencies to manage our private sectors airline companies. When we talk about collapse we need to think about the very serious responsibilities our government is charged with carrying out. Drinking water, sewage treatment, food inspections, communicable disease control and our well regulated stock markets— all of these different areas of national importance remain bound to the rule of law. The collapse of democracy would threaten all of this.

Our climate is getting hotter. Science has found the causes of our problems as we continue to quarrel about the solutions. The wealthiest fossil fuel enterprises in the world are not going to be shutdown without a fight. Likely much of their money is going into the pockets of an unhinged Republican Party that has been all too eager to pander to these oil barons. The energy transition needs move with speed and instead an obstacle course is thrown in its way. If you want a piece of good news last week California for a brief time, a few minutes to an hour actually produced 100% of its power from renewable sources. Just as a civilization can be brought to an end, it can respond to its challenges, make changes and fend off a collapse and continue to prosper.

Hearings underway by the January 6th Committee have revealed there was a criminal conspiracy to overthrow the results of our last election. A few weeks ago 19 children in Uvalde, Texas were massacred, shot to death with an assault rifle, some of the bullets hit with such force as to decapitate these innocent victims. Friday the Supreme Court stripped constitutionally guaranteed rights from women. Many current members of Congress, Republicans all were actively participating in the attempted coup and the evidence of their seeking Presidential pardons for their crimes has come to light.

Little Guys working for the Big Guys

So, here we find ourselves and what to do— I’d like to see the nations women call for a general strike, I’d bet a majority of the men in this nation would back this call to resist. We need to inflict economic pain, the business leaders have to understand that there are two parties in our nation but only one that is bound by the truth while the other has devolved into a mad pack of petty liars. The liars have sown chaos, their allies in the media have aided and abetted their misconduct, and now the very fabric of our governance is threatened.

Stripping women of their right to an abortion, to have access to family planning services, to be treated as a second class person that the state holds dominion over is beyond outrageous. What is before us is a choice to either abandon this experiment in self governance and descend into the hell that the Republican authoritarians seek— or we recommit to the work of building a more perfect union— there is not a second to waste.

One hell of a week—

Vet Showmen Pay Lip Service

Trip to Kona has been a bit of a tale. A carrying cart failed just before coming over to the islands resulting in a propane tank landing square on my big toe. That kind of changed the last two weeks. An urgent care doctor glued the gash back together slapped me on the butt and told me to get back in the game.

Road Ready Low Miles

Then my buddy Waldo hobbled by a motorcycle accident comes to the Kona side of the island to visit. Hobbling together we got out and about the two showmen not accustomed to being on injured reserve. Gallows humor ensued well into the wee hours of the early morning.

Street show veteran get togethers are like comfort food for the soul. I can still do this but I can’t do that. There are the favorite shows to review, some performed together some solo. It goes on and on like this. There is the part where we brag about how few props we needed to do a show. Waldo made his living as a suave, dashing and lightening quick juggler that never dropped. I was every bit of Waldo’s equal (allow me to amuse myself) but for the drops— I am perhaps best known for my trouble with this minor detail— Try not to applaud when I make a mistake, you’re only reinforcing my bad habits—

Our careers were long. I like Wally to tell me his Perth, Australia stories. He likes our time together in Arizona and gets a kick talking about those adventures. Street performers are not sentimental, but we have lived privileged lives traveling both here and abroad and earning a pretty penny along the way. The present and future we imagine is framed as a life beyond our work as showmen.

A Space for Books

Two months ago I visited with Sean Laughlin and Lee Ross. Conversations between all of us track by topic to do with shows, love and a bite at life lived with no regrets. A performance happens in a particular time and place and after— like that— vanishes into the slipstream of time. We might improve the show, we might do better shows, there may be advances in our skills, better costumes, bigger paychecks and fancier stages. Of the many tens of thousands of shows all of us have under our belts most are now in the rear view mirror. Any of us might still do a show, but none of us are likely to do anywhere near as many as we have left behind to the sands of time.

One benefit of not having a demanding show schedule is that it gives your head the space to consider the less examined parts of your life. This is to the good. A bad show is like a losing game and after back in the locker room a showman can suffer pangs of regret. Climbing that hill day in and day out is in one sense about being ready to defend your emotional life. A good show pumps you up and lousy show lets you down. Without having to deal with that rollercoaster our offstage time isn’t ordinary time, it is human time, we are allowed the chance to be back in touch with our most ordinary day to day self. The more selfless we can live, the less stuck in our heads the better. This is our occupational hazard.

Waldo and a hat trick

Where we live and who we love is always a topic that hovers near our meetups. Some of us are in, some out, some up, some down. The funniest are on the ropes getting a pretty good pummeling by the object of their desire. Most interesting to my way of seeing things is my showmen friends have had a life full of love and it shows they have skills they know how to be in a relationship. Some of what causes so much trouble is our time away from our partners while we are on tour. Our finances are what they are, like any self-employed sole proprietor there’s a lot of ups and downs in a business famous for uncertainty. This isn’t a common circumstance and while the romance of loving a showman is second to none the practicality of such relationships requires a dash of courage with a twist of letting go—

Sore toe and all being here on Kona turns out to be a good thing. Waldo and I will see each other over on the mainland later this summer. We can continue to build on our extended conversation. There will by then be new information. Waldo is slated to speak with many of our peers in the weeks ahead. By the time I see him again he’ll have ten new next things to do. Sean’s still got his place in Silver City, Nevada to wrangle into shape, most of that work is done but not all of it, and then there’s the matter of what’s next to do that isn’t about a show or a house— I think he’s interested in finding a path for his heart. Lee has slated a shoot of a short feature he hopes to complete before September. Editing will consume his autumn. I know his family is coming out to Colorado for his birthday. He’s got a lot up in the air right now and how any of it sorts itself out remains wrapped up in the creative mystery.I’ve been stuck restructuring my office where I write and have had to clear my desk of the chaos I’ve allowed to place a gauzy haze on the clarity good writing demands.

Scratch Tomato Sauce Fixings

Right now as of this moment the project is to do with a pesto made with pistachios— highly recommended. Then, when I get back to California I’ve got raspberries, figs and a melon patch to work into our meals. That’s likely where my focus will be tied up. Eating good food, cooking interesting dishes, having fun playing in the kitchen with food grown from our garden is its own simple pleasure. Yesterday was the solstice and the long days are all to the good. Life isn’t that complicated if you don’t let this one visit to earth run you off into the intractable pieces beyond a showman’s ability to fix.

No Service Might Be Best

Watched the Giants play the Dodgers Saturday. Hospitals are filling up— the virus is on the rise again. There was life before Covid-19, there was the life we lived waiting for a vaccine, and now we live some version of a safer yet not entirely safe inoculated life in the aftermath of this pathogenic crisis. 

Tonopah sunrise

What is clear is that whatever we had in the before times, before this fiasco is never going to return, there is no getting back to that way of life. I know people in show business that are trying their best to resume a full schedule. Some have been infected even though vaccinated. There haven’t been any fatalities I know of, but the work is not hazard free, there is no going back to the before times. I worry about my friends still in the business, like being a school teacher the work shouldn’t be this dangerous.

Best thing to happen here is watching the NBA playoffs. Scattered here and there among the players and fans are the few that mask up. I know of two that said they came down with Covid after going to the game at Chase in San Francisco last week. Watching the playoffs at home is on my list of safe activities. I’m still trying to pick a matinee to sneak in to see Maverick’s Top Gun on the big screen. Hopefully few will be there. And while we’re here, Steph Curry’s performance in Game 4 has been written up as this great player’s greatest performance in a playoff game ever. San Francisco is host to one of basketball’s best to ever play the game. That’s antidote to some inner malady we are all trying to get well from.

The Proud Boys showing up early on January 6th to scout potential entry points for that afternoon’s insurrection was something, full on seditious conspiracies are like that. Not that I’m into paramilitary maneuvers, but the Proud Boys forming stacks that would probe for weak points around the Capitol seems like there was some preplanning going on. Can’t we agree on that much—

Is there anywhere that’s safe

Giants play the Dodgers this afternoon. This morning I’ll do some maintenance on the drip irrigation system. Water here is tight— this little thing called a megadrought has been on a rampage. Manzanita is the answer to this problem. We’ve got a variety of different types, they are native plants that requires little to any water, deer pass them by, the manzanita are a perfect one-two punch to go along with the cork oak trees.

Since their extinction event we don’t have dinosaurs, that Yucatan asteroid took care of all those pesky critters, but the world seems to miss its monsters and has gone ahead and invented its own. Putin is the new most awful person in the world, and that’s saying something because he does have some stiff competition. I can’t help read the sick with cancer stories

Listening to the dry economic analysis of why inflation has taken off is a bit too perfect and flawless hindsight. Locking an entire world down and then trying to reopen has never been attempted before. This was all new and as it happens things have gone a bit haywire. Invading Ukraine has been no help, and you think gas is expensive try buying a bushel of wheat.

Locking down Shanghai for a month hasn’t helped. Turns out creating global supply chains that depend upon the policy swings of a totalitarian nation does have its drawbacks. Trading oil with the Russian dictator Putin has proven to be as stupid a thing to do as paying Stormy Daniels off after giving her a poke at a party and wanting to keep the random entry hush-hush.  

Civilization’s Ruins

Elon Musk has lost his patience with wealth and fame has traded in his burnished reputation for a more tarnished look. And no President Biden should not be arranging to go to Saudi Arabia, using a bone saw to dismember a journalist from the Washington Post has cemented MBS’s reputation as a royal punk and tyrant. 

Getting off fossil fuels has the potential of decentralizing our energy market. Instead of trading with tyrants each region of the world can deploy renewable energy systems. This is the old think global act local strategy.

The wheels feel like they are falling off this empire we’ve built. Favorite seditionist in the category of supporting nitwit wife goes to Ginni Thomas. Our Supreme Court’s Clarence Thomas’s main squeeze turns out to be a foe of democracy. If we had a calvary I’d order the soldiers to ride on her whereabouts and bring her in, but bring her in alive, we do want to have a few choice words with this deranged woman. 

March for our Lives was out in force on our streets this weekend. Turns out spreading 20 million military style assault weapons on our fruited plain has turned our nation into the world’s laughingstock. Death by gun shot is the number one cause of death for American children. That’s one hell of a way to welcome a new citizen into the new world. 

Sunset over Ely, Nevada

Weird times indeed. Watching the Giants-Dodgers this afternoon I’ll put all my troubles out of mind and enjoy a good long slow game that no longer really meets the moment. Like a long coastal sail the world is no longer set up for us to waste so much of our precious time.

I’m hoping the day the Supreme Court announces they are overturning our abortion laws that at least the Department of Justice can get into the swing of things and indict the former President for his leading role in the attempted coup. I mean if we are all going to be upset why not get the whole nation pissed off all at once, get it over with, we can get on with trying to preserve democracy or buying those one-way tickets to paradise. 

Lovely little pickle said Stormy to the Fat Man.

The Garden Bench

At an art gallery in a courtyard entryway in Santa Fe we spotted a rustic garden bench. My other half, some say the best of the two halves, we were inspired, the bench a Southwest relic, was still providing useful service, the durable wooden bench was simplicity itself.

Brainstorming. I volunteered to build a bench something like this piece, once finished we could place next to our front door where we could take off or put on our shoes. 

A place to sit

We went to a salvage lumber distributor in Richmond. There we searched through stacks of planking and came upon two thick short redwood slabs we thought would be right for the project, they were the right size and for sale at a fair price. We struck a bargain.

Peroba is the name of the company, I’ve shopped here before. Two years back, I’d bought bay-laurel planks to rebuild a planter box around an abandoned California live oak. When we bought the property back in 2009 it was a small tree that had been temporarily set in the front yard by the previous owner, they’d been running a nursery operation out of the place, and this was one of their unsold trees we’d inherited by default. The immature live oak did what trees so often do it became a bigger tree. This evergreen live oak had by now outgrown the wooden and steel strap container it had been planted in. Building a larger planter box would solve an eyesore in the front yard and it would also help to maintain the proper soil height at the tree’s trunk. 

When I’d last visited Peroba they’d just received a huge trove of wood planking and beams from a two-hundred-year-old Brazilian barn. The barnwood had been weathered by time, it was hard and heavy, easily the heaviest boards in the store. Brazilian barnwood is expensive, I was out of my league, forget the cost, it would have been a waste to have such an inexperienced woodworker trying to build with such rare Amazonian treasure. I was at a museum, that the boards were fine works of art, and me I’m like a janitor, the guy who turns the lights off at closing time. The clerk at the store wasn’t sure what species of wood this barn was made of. It could literally have been any one of many thousands of different kinds of rainforest hardwood, the material had an otherworld quality— foreign, an object that spoke in its own tongue, it was mesmerizing, entrancing— all these many hundreds and hundreds of boards stacked into perfect rectangular piles, floor to ceiling 20 feet in height. 

Peroba is a dynamic marketplace, the South American barnwood now long gone. The shop also market salvaged logs. The warehouse is full of long and thick planks with live edges— there is walnut, mahogany, cherry, ash, oak, madrone— there is a vast trove of different species here. Much of the fresh sawn wood comes by way of woodsmen that bring trees purchased from private landowners. These are old trees that have fallen or are about to fall. Then, there are the grifters, the poachers— a mature western red cedar is so valuable many are cut down in the dead of night and by morning have been cut into sections and carried off. The fight to end illegal logging especially western red cedar has become impossible to stop.  

Bark of a cork oak tree

It turns out both my wife and I share a common element. At least based on work provided to us by our Feng Shui guide, our consultant listed the five elements— wood, fire, metal, water and earth. Both of us have an affinity for wood, and as it so happens of the five elements, we are both wood. Somehow, in some very tangible way my sawing, drilling, and sanding produces harmony and peace. We halfway believe our relationship is improved by our being around wood— maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, we seem to both want to believe there’s maybe something to all of this, something that exists on these other levels. Isn’t that human in some sense— there are so many ways our physical world influences our inner world.  

Cork oak trees come from the Iberian Peninsula (so does the loyal but obstinate donkey); it is estimated that there are perhaps as many as 5000 cork oaks in California. I’d never spent much time around cork oaks, once you know what they are they’ll get your attention, they’re quite stunning, the bark is unusual, it is the bark of the cork oak tree that is used to seal a bottle of wine. There are six cork oak in our yard. The three in the front have foot wide trunks, stand 20-30 feet tall, by my reckoning they’re 50 years old— that’s a fair guess, the trees have a lifespan of 250 years. In our backyard we lost one in a windstorm but there are two younger trees that are doing fine— they’re not more than teenagers now. They’ve a lot of growing up to do.

There are more cork oak trees in this neighborhood than I’ve found anywhere else here in the valley. I’ve printed a map out of the nearby streets and have been marking anywhere I find a cork oak growing. By my count I’d estimate there about 100 cork oak right around here where I live. This is an ongoing investigation and once I’ve a good tally I’ll post that number.

The largest cork oak trees in this neighborhood is one I look forward to seeing on my daily walk. Like the California live oak the cork are evergreens, come spring not all but some leaves turn yellow and fall. 

Why I don’t find cork oaks in the adjacent towns is odd. I keep thinking there must be more around. We hire a company to trim our trees, the foreman is a cork oak tree fan, considers them to be a prized tree. The foreman said there are plenty out there. 

I’m hoping to talk to the local municipal gardeners. Often, they’ll know the backstory. About a century ago this area was part of a ranch, the land was sold and subdivided. I’m guessing the original settlers may have introduced cork oak trees right here around this block. If so, it is likely squirrels would have spread the acorns. That’s one possible theory. 

50 year old cork oak tree

I pet the friendly dogs in the neighborhood, try to entice the cats to say hello. If I’m in the garden and around the trees I try to pat them too, I speak to the trees, keep on an eye on them. I like to be encouraging— you look great today, your shade that you cast is just glorious, hope your enjoying yourself, this is a fine garden you’ve found to live in. I’m happy for you, plan on keeping you happy and healthy— 

Consciousness isn’t just about what passes through a mind. I like to believe a tree knows something about how to set down roots in soil, how to transport water up through its trunk to give its branches a drink to go with the sunlight it is catching. Just because the tree isn’t talking out loud doesn’t mean it doesn’t speak. As far as I can tell my job is to put myself in a tree’s shoes and do my best to consider what kind of life they are having. They’re like offspring, I’m always hoping they’ll get a little bigger, hope their life turns out good, that they’re happy. 

I find I’ve family and friends that are doing much the same. This is good work and fun. It sure as heck beats having to trap out the gophers. Sometimes a man has got to do what a man has got to do— keeping the trees happy and giving hell to those pesky varmints. 

Building a bench, appreciating a tree and trapping a gopher. I’m two for three right now, that gopher is smarter than you, me, and that cork oak tree all put together—

Try a Little Tenderness

Last week I hit rock bottom. Slaughtering children by assault rifle in Uvalde tipped me over. The last two decades prior to the pandemic I’ve been teaching circus arts. I’ve also been performing for young audiences in support of summer reading programs. 

Up Close and with All My Heart Kern County California

My kid is no kid anymore, but because of her, because she reminded me back while she was still a child that dad could still see the world through a child’s eyes if only I would play pretend with her, all I had to do was try. A little girl saved her father’s life.

A juggling show is many things and often it is a comedy show appropriate for young and old alike, in the vernacular of the festival business it is a multigenerational attraction, entertaining for the grandchild and grandmother alike.

To qualify for work at the Los Gatos Jewish Community Center in the summer circus arts program I’d be fingerprinted, and a background check would be run out of Sacramento. This is important work, I’d be an instructor to children ages 6 through 12, and you need to be sure you’ve got the right person for the job. The same background check was performed in Arizona. 

Where? Ohio State Fair

My whole life I’ve been involved in the performing arts. Show business is my turf, my habitat, where I do my work, and has been the central organizing activity of my professional life. When there is frustration, heartbreak or tears because one of my students has hit a wall, feels like they are failure, that they’ll never amount to anything those are the moments when I can see myself through their struggles. It is also when I know to step up, because I can lend a trusted hand and help a young person anxious with self-doubt, frustrated, feeling inadequate, somehow thinking that they are not enough, that’s a teachable moment, helping a student to not judge their progress, to let go— to have the courage to just try.

Circus arts instruction is the continuous process of helping children see who they are and to be willing to just try without any expectations, trying is everything and success is not the only part, that learning a new skill isn’t about one minute, one hour, one day or one month— learning is a constant doing— we never stop pressing ahead into the unknown of our practicing and what ten thousand joys and sorrows our efforts may reveal to us. Practicing without expectation, without greed, if you keep looking for evidence of progress you often end up fueling doubt and discouragement, if you let go and leap into the mystery, you’ll be shocked by what you will find waiting.

New Citizens that Deserve So Much More Love and Care

Treating young readers to a juggling show at the local library is one way to motivate the new citizens. These humble institutions are the backbone to our country. The first humans because language was as so basic were forced to organize in small tribes, no more than seventy people, and it was only when their language skills increased were they able to build a more complex interdependent social order. 

Library summer reading shows are presented free. Most of our audience consists of the little new citizens investing part of each day in learning how to read. But there are parents, grandparents, and neighbors in the audience too. The programs are free, borrowing books from the library is free, most of the libraries know it is best not to sell soda, ice cream or popcorn. 

Civic life open to all is now at risk

I worked in the Berkeley grammar schools too. I taught physical comedy and circus arts in after school programs. From 3-5 PM I tried to engage students that had been in classes all day long. Many children with both parents working had nowhere to go. Compared to summer camp where my students arrived rested after a night at home with their parents this was an entirely different level of challenge. You can’t help but feel for these kids, I mean come on put your feet in their shoes— managing yourself, keeping your hands to yourself, paying attention, not chattering and distracting your classmates, after being in class all day isn’t easy— it’s impossible. I loved all those kids and all those children just wanted to go home and be with their mom and dad.

When a child at a summer reading program is having trouble managing themselves, I will interrupt and ask the audience, especially the father’s in the crowd— how many of you dad’s how many of you are still having trouble managing yourself— I raise my hand and most of the men raise their hand in response— see that, it’s not so easy to sit still, watch the show, pay attention— learning to manage yourself helps us all then we can gather in these larger groups and have fun together— but it means paying attention and being a well behaved member of our audience— all you have to do is just try as hard as you can—

Safety of Young Audiences is not Negotiable

In Glendale, Arizona I performed in the amphitheater adjacent to city hall. Some years back the mayor seeing my sidewalk show at the Glitter and Glow Festival suggested to her event coordinator that my variety show might be perfect for this large venue. The following year I brought in two sensational performers and we filled the seats for three back-to-back shows. Liabilities for shows with fire and performing dogs means having the right insurance. That’s just standard operating procedure. Lengthy discussions are undertaken every year over how many police officers will be needed. Different kinds of programs attract different audiences, but there is always risk, and remember this event was ungated, there were no fences, anyone can come to this free civic event.

In Washington DC and in legislatures across the United States gun laws going against popular opinion were being relaxed. One result is metal detectors are common now. Bags are searched, many are required to be patted down. 

Highest Compliment in my Book is being surrounded by them

Special event producers have always had to come up with a security plan, when the planning is inadequate, and trouble breaks out the violence can be devastating. The Alameda County Fair, Gilroy Garlic Festival and Southplains Fair in Lubbock, Texas all suffered the nightmare scenario when a gun carrying attendee opened fire at their events. 

A rural branch library has no money to spend on security. The funds are just not there. An institution open to the public depends on the fabric of our society remaining stable. Our civic life requires that citizens behave responsibly. But we are not that country anymore— our civic life has taken a dark turn and all of us can feel it— anyone, anywhere at any moment may stop talking and start firing bullets from military assault weapons, and hoping you’re not in the wrong place at the wrong time is not a strategy for building a more perfect union. 

It is reported that there are now 20 million military style assault weapons in the hands of American gun owners. I know of one or two, and one individual has been having a hard time of life of late. Do I know if or when he might snap— of course not, I’m not a mental health professional, but there it is, and here we all find ourselves.

The Star of the Show— Our Children

Decades ago, the National Rifle Association took a turn and used their funds to influence elections in the United States. Only a few million members belong, but it is this group that the Republican Party added to their coalition, a group that vows no compromise, ever, that gun ownership is absolute. Like the Club for Growth, they grade each politician on their vote, and whip members to support their cause— if you don’t give them your vote your career will soon be over.

Republicans have added voting rights, women’s health care, immigration and gun safety to a list of issues that are off-limits. All legislative action is blocked. All of us can feel it now. Everyone in the majority, all these issues have their constituencies and all show that there are large majorities favoring Congress respond. Doing nothing and generating frustration is even part of the strategy, doing nothing is seen as a win, and compromising is a loss.

It is painful to arrive for summer circus camp with the world in this state of tension. One facility where I teach has a skilled and talented staff that each morning monitors the incoming teachers and students coming to class. These are dedicated professionals, good souls to a one, all working for the common good, none out to make a fast buck, trying to strike it rich, they are there because they believe in what they are doing. 

Juggling with a dog on my head— real entertainment finally!

Our nation has turned into an intractable combative nation none of us recognize, a nation held hostage by a gun lobby that has fomented political stalemate. Russia and China are delighted, if they could just break our country apart, if they could discredit liberal democracy, prove the rule of law can’t work, then they can come for us, take our freedom, oppress us, autocrats want to subjugate its citizens. 

Our children deserve better. We have no choice, we must change course, and if you won’t or can’t, perhaps it is time to reconsider what has happened, where did our best-self vanish to— I’m just a simple ordinary person— California born and raised— the arc of justice is slow— we’ve gone offtrack— taken those two steps backward— it’s time we step up— for the love of our children and for the sake of the world it is time 

Lost Soul Nation—

Our nation is in shambles. When we have no laws to prevent nineteen elementary school students from being riddled with bullets from a military assault weapon that renders the bodies unidentifiable, when a nation gets to this point in its history we are in a state of emergency. DNA samples of the mutilated bullet riddled bodies of the children were needed to identify which tissue belong to which mother and father. That is beyond mass murder, call it what it is— genocide.

Vanished and Gone— It can happen to any civilization

Citizenship in the United States is infected with toxic individualism. We can see the infection— the illness has become institutionalized in our collective character. Bullying at school, isolated and online, lack of parental supervision, a complex stew of unfiltered content a lonely and confused young person struggles to sort through without context.

Signs of the malignancy— democracy’s fragility has been laid bare. Financial system regulators looking the other way while reckless bankers collapsed the financial system, murderous cops, sexual assault of children, Boy Scout leaders’ misconduct— the list is long the, the predators prowl upon the innocent. 

Toxic individualism begins by disengaging— psychological self-isolation is the first step. The endemic pathology requires alienation. You feel like you don’t belong, and these other’s, the upstarts are taking away what is rightfully yours. The anger toward the other is the gateway, permission to do what is necessary to take back your self-esteem and your freedom. The toxicity isn’t absolute, the behavior in many forms is mild, the conduct steals the fabric of nation’s peace, its racialized complicity empowers, there are more extreme versions of this emptiness and illness. 

Trolls on social media sites have been platformed where once they were marginalized. The American Nazi Party’s marching through Chicago was inconsequential, their message incoherent, their ability to recruit new members, to argue, to persuade, manipulating the mainstream media was ineffective. Decades ago, there was a consensus that our institutions would guard against such hate groups being amplified.

Whole ideologically driven disinformation portals riddle the internet. There are radical rightwing conservative broadcast networks that run full-time disinformation operations (Fox and Sinclair). After Putin invaded Ukraine the FCC was barely able to bring itself to shutdown Russian Television— a Russian propaganda outlet should never had been granted a license in the first place. What passes for mainstream broadcasting are executive producers under pressure from their corporate owners to backoff overt criticism of its wealthy advertisers. Generous funding by military industrial corporations on Sunday morning political talk shows guarantees a roster of sympathizers will be booked to discuss the issues of the day while avoiding overt criticism of either their enterprises or special interests. To be accurate proving such pressure exists remains circumstantial, the C-suite executives like organized crime boss operations remain all wink-wink, nudge-nudge, preserving plausible deniability. Again, our nation’s executives in many instances have shut off their moral compass.

In and of itself perhaps picking partisan supporters as guests by way of threatening to fire your executive producers isn’t illegal, perhaps it isn’t even immoral, perhaps it is more accurately described as a desecration of our civic soul. Free and fair elections are for suckers. Equal protection under the law is for billionaires. The death penalty is for those people, not your people. 

Toxic individualism is rooted in doing your own thing. You do your thing, and you don’t permit others to do theirs. Christian prayer is fine, worship at the synagogue is not. White nationalists don’t send synagogues prayers the most toxic of this kind send pipe bombs.

It is Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel and Steven Kerr that have stepped up to the podium. The lack of leadership by elected leaders intimidated by their constituents has stood politics on its head, we are trapped in a tyranny manifest by a flaw in the mechanics of our representative democracy. There are two senators representing Wyoming’s population of 580,384 citizens, California’s 40 million citizens get two. The two conservatives from Wyoming are part of the voting block from the red states and it is this coalition that has brought the nation to a gut wrenching halt.

The Republican minority use of the filibuster halts any legislation. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas answers to nobody, there is no ethics panel to review anything a justice may or may not do short of impeachment, and there is no chance a red state supported justice is going to be held accountable and impeached. Ginni Thomas should be hauled before a Grand Jury immediately to account her seditious conduct. 

Republicans bound by party over country, they twice refused to convict the leader of their own party for crimes he was proven guilty of. They failed to do their duty, they abdicated, their oath of office was ignored, unable to explain themselves they change the subject, their best propagandists respond with disinformation.

Billy Graham Junior cheers Russia’s strength while putting down our President as weak. Fake evangelist Jerry Falwell Junior goes to Florida to spend lost weekends in Miami Beach watching while his wife has intercourse with their cabana boy. 

The leading cause of death among American schoolchildren is by bullets from guns. Children are terrified. This last year dedicated to running a fair and open school board angry constituents were tolerated while they yelled at their local school boards about vaccinations, masks and course curriculum concerns. Beto O’Rourke dares to confront his own Texas governor over his permissive gun culture legislation and he’s immediately shutdown by the mayor of Uvalde telling the candidate— “You are out of line…” The overweight mayor is fiercely anti-immigrant and a build the wall advocate. He is also a white mayor with a Hispanic population that outnumbers whites by 80%. Why would that be?

Toxic individualism in a world this complicated, this populated when what is needed is healthy cooperation, a sense of duty to country, willingness to sacrifice for the common good, these are the qualities of character needed now.

The Republican Party is done with democracy, they are hell bent on seizing and holding onto power. Seventy percent of the country remains stunned and in denial, we are sleepwalking into a rude awakening. The World War II Japanese internment camps are likely to be revisited. Journalists, political activists, and environmentalists are all likely to be attacked, jailed and persecuted. If you go along to get along, you’ll do alright, until you are not doing alright, until they come for your business, your daughter, your vote. Autocrats always behave the same way and while they are seizing power they try to convince their supporters that it is only the other that they will target.

We have lost our way

Recognized by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site for the extraordinary ruins left there by our first people of North America some 1200 years ago Chaco Canyon is a true treasure to all of humanity. Toxic individualism drove some morally deficient visitor to blast holes with a gun into ancient rock art that dates to 8000 years before present. Desecrating the rock art of our first people, denying future generations the opportunity to see these artifacts as they are and have been for the last many thousands of years brings into focus how broken so many of our citizens are, how terribly deluded, destructive and dangerous they are to the human project. Democracy is at risk, civilization is threatened, and likely it is a minority of detached males in our world that have literally put an assault weapon to the world’s head. 

The children of Uvalde deserve to be remembered for being the slaughtered innocence that has finally forced America to come to its senses and put a halt to such madness. It is time for the killing of our children to stop. America’s soul is shattered, it is up all of us that still know right from wrong to step up and put our nation back on the civilized path. 

Northwest Natural Wine Night

As dinner party’s go this one turned out to be out of this world. The mix of characters worked swell, the invited included both curveballs and straight shooters— this the odd woven with the even. There was even an expectational tardy arrival of our party’s Hickey Boggs from The Iceman Cometh along with his second player— Larry Slade the syndicalist anarchist.

Putting things on ice

By paternal drive I was sent at subsonic speed into Seattle’s undercover natural wine scene. Sure, there is biodynamic wine, there is organic wine and then there is this all but impossible category to pin down that enthusiast’s refer to as “natural wine.” This is the best of the best or depending on your taste the mother of all disasters. Robert’s Rules of Reality (just back off buster I’m allowed to create my own reality) clearly state there can exist no such mapped location— fads, sensations current trends are all mere phantoms— natural wine like our favorite gods come scattered across the firmament, they are unbound and hidden everywhere.

Non-interventionist winemaking will never scale, the wild eyed ‘vineyardistas’ are in pursuit of an experience that the mainstream wine industry has all but relegated to the past. Too many pragmatic winemakers have lost the capitalistic chutzpa to bring this quixotic narrative back to life. Natural wine is the small is beautiful-keep it simple stupid answer to mind numbing sameness. Mistake number one is the conventional wine industry overuses the yeast strain— saccharomyces cerevisiae— favored by winemakers for its predictability— this mindset has ensnared the industry into producing wines that are too often too similar. 

Interior hallway garden

Let the nation of Georgia be an example. Long before they’d become trapped in the Soviet Union’s nation building racket, before Rome had tried to subjugate them, before all that grasping at empire some very enterprising non-aligned apolitical Georgian’s gave winemaking a try. Like you know 8000 years before present. That’s not just trying that’s inventing— 

Aged in clay vats, the rot from the grapes, the feral yeasts from the fields where the fruit was grown by the magic of fermentation transformed the Georgian grape juice into world class wine. Figuring out how to do this trick reliably was man’s first trick. Second, was getting the next batch to taste as good. Third, was improving the taste because by now you’ve made some good and bad wine and if you’re going to make wine at all you might as well try and make the good stuff.

That returns us to this moment in oenological evolution, what my spirit guide tells me is located at the tip of the nose, our meditation teacher calls it the present moment, to be precise it’s just under that too prominent pug sniffer and if you can breathe in and breathe out without labeling just experiencing the air moving through your nostrils without adding anything else, you’ve pretty much now know where I found myself fixated Saturday night and this without me having to screw the whole thing up by adding anything extra. For fun the debate of whether the corkscrew represented the whip used to make the cart or the horse go was eagerly bantered back and forth.

Behind the Door were Seated Six

We’ve got this problem as advances in technology trample age tested tradition. All this extra stuff we’ve acquired in the last eight-thousand years— turns out most of these improvements are superfluous— don’t need them, don’t want them— and if you dig being true to the method of making natural wine— you wouldn’t use these newfangled interventions— to the natural wine apostle’s you’ve broken faith and turned your back on what the ancients of Georgia have passed down to mankind. 

Participant’s imagining there is money in the natural winemaking racket need to hang up their cleats and take a seat on the bench. Thinking you can bottle natural wine as if you were running a printing press— business planning that imagines getting more from a winemaking style that is so capable of producing spectacular failure— the natural winemaker is always rolling the dice, coaxing a grape into a reliable bottle of wine is no sure thing. The standout feature of natural wine is that any batch or bottle can turn out flawed. Each case, every bottle is on its own journey, enough makes it through, some never will. Trying to engineer the problems out of the inherently volatile ingredients only makes matters worse— all these modern-day interdictions if that’s the road you walk will render the final product something other than natural. Imagining you can do better than just taking what Mother Nature has handed you only seals your fate on this conventional road toward the modern globalized wine industry— this is mission creep— tannic deep dark red wine to bright yellow buttery oaked chardonnay will be the hill you plant your broken winemaking dreams on.

Here’s the thing to know if you lose your way and end up a landowner. You want to get a plot of dirt— better still forget the soil— make it slate, limestone or volcanic ash. Plant your best vines, don’t do anything to help the little devils, and when they’ve ripened, you’ll pick, crush and then wait while the grapes become wine. Sure, there are issues of the peel of grape skin coming in contact with the juice, yes, and sometimes not always the minimal use of sulfites, they’re added to prevent premature oxidation— Conventional winemakers in comparison will add up to 10 times the amount of sulfites, and forward leaning sulfites in wine are a tell— sulfites steal what is right and true.  The natural winemaker makes every effort to not add or take away anything, there are virtually no interventions, the wine stands on its own, right or wrong, good, bad or until bankruptcy papers are filed.

Out in the vineyard you’ll want sunlight to do its thing, hope to hell it rains now and again, pull a few weeds, pray the pests stay the hell away and that at the end of the year hope to find other growers like yourself agreeing that this new vintage coming up in the clay vats has turned out to be a pretty good year.

With the right weather and a good grape struggling to mature in miserly soil you’ve got a decent chance of making something authentic, something with its own voice, something that stands on two grape stained feet and speaks for not just for itself but for Zarathustra and his crowd. What is being attempted here is to make something that is honest and expressive of the place and time it is from. Rather than doll the wine up the natural winemaker wants to pour you a fated faithful glass filled to the rim with a field of truth. 

I’ve learned grapes enjoy struggling— Freud would call these obstacles to happiness neurosis— that these obstacles add up to a quirk— a specific quality of nature you’ll be able to taste, this is the unfiltered and unfettered nature of this endeavor.

And now knowing all of this you have some perspective of the six obsessed members of a Seattle sited dinner party as this half-dozen plunge into the dapple lighted natural wine abyss. 

Smith- Maker of Things

Our Capitol Hill host, Alana Smith had set the table, prepared dinner— if the meal were munitions, we’d say the food was on target and laser guided— including down to the fresh cut flowers and white and blue printed linen napkins. 

Four of us enjoyed tongue loosening cocktails, Ian mixed Negroni’s, of course they were crafted with Millennial preferred mescal— gin drinking is and always will be a Boomer choice— even good gin is booze to distance oneself from like running boards, buggy whips or Studebakers. 

Matt a local on Capitol Hill now, once a Boise kid and Nick from Eagle Rock in LA, the last two for supper—the pair from the play by O’Neil were dug in a few blocks away imbibing, comparing tasting notes, squeezed into a corner booth at this local pizza joint— Blotto’s on Capitol Hill is by the way true, fresh and fun— go now— hope you can get in. 

The pair from Iceman were picking the mind of the other, Nick was serving Matt the hot scuttle on the happenings in the wine scene in LA— it’s sick, it’s fucking slaps.  Matt was hipping Nick to the Northwest natural wine distributors and how his preferred wines are hard to find, when he can find what he is looking for they are flying off the shelves in the local shops, and people do notice, his distributor thinks natural wine scene is— totally lit.

Mezzo sticking his nose into the frame

Hickey and Larry arrived well oiled, mildly repentant, unless you know Matt running behind isn’t meant to offend, his zeal for all things human burns time off the clock, that’s just how enthusiasm works. Nick pulled three bottles from his backpack— Matt presented one he’d had ringed with his hand about the bottle’s neck, our host had plenty more, the catalyst for this evening’s conversation were within arm’s reach, anything on this Saturday night was possible, our natural wine séance would commence departing outbound on a mission to make contact the other world.

Uncorking a prized bottle is akin to spelunking an unmapped cave, you plunge into the thing without helmet or headlamp, a true risktaker comes to pour wines they’ve never tasted before, until now, and at this moment among friends. It is a small but significant experience— one of the better ways to live a best life. 

As accidents go this grouping of souls was not a mistake— not a drop of wine tasted by any of us was thought to be off base. There was no funk, mouse, skunk or stink. There was more than luck involved. At least three had encyclopedic knowledge of the wine’s we were opening. Most cast their fate and wallet to the whim of trial and error— unless you are a pro, unless you are tasting regularly, taking notes, have a good nose and near photographic memory. Lucky for the six we had three that have gone near broke on the journey to possess such talents. 

La R’Vole was the first bottle to be uncorked, from Beaujolais by Michel Guignier, this a simple (the conceit is that nothing is so simple) drinkable Gamay. You begin here and embark toward something more, something better, that’s the idea, you don’t want to peak too soon.

Keep a List, Cook with Passion

The dining table was set, there were roasted trumpet mushrooms, steamed artichokes, Yukon golden potatoes smothered in roasted garlic and tomatoes, fennel and carrot salad, asparagus with goat cheese, thick hand cut sourdough toast and olives and radishes.

Nick Delozier (Larry Slate) born in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, started out a pipefitter, the younger Nick didn’t reckon he wanted to end up doing his whole life punching a clock, there was the pull of other worlds to explore. Like anyone stuck where he’d come up as a kid, he figured there had to be more to life, took a shot on LA, second time was a charm, found a job that paid and then some, the natural wine enthusiast stages real estate when he isn’t laying the groundwork planning to go full time marketing what he loves most— natural wine. That is no sure thing. Bearded, stocky, red headed, a man that is kind of spirit, Appalachian lilt to his voice, Southern mannered, tattooed, and tattooed by a lot, I’m talking he didn’t go light on the ink, but that’s how passion works, spins people off on their path, sometimes it ends up looking like a Tennessee raised tattooed wine lover— there are worse turns of fate. Copeland’sFanfare for the Common Man may well have had a man of Nick’s character in mind when composing this masterpiece.

Matt’s partner Liannabelle, this the Peruvian born muse a Tinkerbell sized laugh riot. Nicknamed El-Bell, the fiery loving petite one that always plays bigger than she appears had survived a week in Tracy, California. The monotony of tract home hell had brought on fitful pangs and homesick blues, grateful to be back in the mashup of Seattle’s architectural eclectic, funky and trendy scene that is Capitol Hill. El’s a city girl now, there are no same-same suburbs in her future, only plans to dodge being stuck in them.

Gone in a flash

Matt and Nick poured— La Tour Sarazine, the winemaker is referred to by his initials JYP. This is a white wine— Muscat Blanc and Jacquère grapes grown in the French Alps by Jean Yves Peron (JYP). Again, this second glass held its own and then some. JYP’s are hard to come by in Seattle and trickier still in San Francisco or Oakland. It’s all about your local importer, what they know and what they can get their hands on, natural wine doesn’t grow on trees and doesn’t arrive on container ship.

I’m like Ian who had joined the table to eat, drink and be part of this thrall— both of us know a mere fraction of what Matt, Nick and Alana have stashed away inside their heads. Amari’s are an Ian favorite, often described as intentionally bitter tasting, this is a much in demand classic Italian aperitif, bitter is not at all an accurate characterization for those that have acquired the taste— a well-balanced Amari will provoke and persuade. Like a Ferrari, divorce or caviar they don’t come cheap, they do come rare, hard to find, a second bottle is often impossible to put your hands on— but all of this is redeemable, the Italian aperitif is a simpler, smaller, easier class of beverage to become fluent in.

Other Worlds— a natural wine shop will open one day once city hall, building inspectors, liquor license authorities sign off. Atop the bustle that is Seattle’s Capitol Hill soon local natural wine enthusiasts will be able to go to the shop at Pike and Madison. The spry entrepreneur Matt Lucas suffers no illusions, he full well knows this effort will require every known sacrifice, getting the Other Worlds open is one thing, making his passion for natural wine work as a durable business, keeping the shop out of the red and into the black, and forget all those get rich quick schemes, Matt is hoping for something more modest, something tangible, something that he can be proud of, he seeks to build integrity into this wine shop, something that remains true to the product— the wine and its merchants work best as a matched pair.

Like no Other…

To finish off the evening our host Alana had saved a favorite bottle to share. It was a Sylvain Pataille, his Fleur de Pinot, this is his Marsannay Rosé. Mr. Pataille has been making a spare no expense Burgundian, this a dry version since 2002— two decades of trial by error. For our last tasting we would enjoy the winemaker’s sage like 2018 vintage. 

Our waiting concentrated minds. Uncomplicated— no, it was anything but, this one goes on and on, it is why you chase such an expressive wine. It is remarkable in its directness— it is easy to understand— it must be difficult to make and expensive too. Like an epic hike it is in the doing, the telling part misses the mark, still if the bottle was a girl that you were sweet on, she’d be the best love you’ve ever chased, the best you will ever hold in your arms— when you are not sure what to do, vow to never let go— squeeze hold like your whole life depends upon it— wine and love, bitter or sweet, until death do we part— wine can be like that— life! Beyond the wine’s length on the tongue there are the changes it will put you through, until you must admit this one— this bottle, has more and more to say— 

The dinner party had nowhere to go, further would have clouded the mind, Mr. Paitille had somehow found a way to bottle the last word.  

Author-Entertainer