Friday, December 13, 2013


It's 2 AM...what am I doing up writing this blog? I shall get to that in a minute, but first I must apologize for being a bit lax in my blog posts's the cold...I may have mentioned this before but I really don't like the cold...I am a Sun Worshipper. Cold weather makes my circulation slow to a crawl, my nose runs, my eyes water and my fingers curl up into pathetic claw-like appendages that seem to be grasping desperately for warmth. Winter has hit Southern California like the Grim Reaper, sweeping over the beaches and covering all forms of life in ice....well, OK, maybe not ice..there is no actual ice, but it IS cold with daytime temperatures barely getting out of the low 60's sometimes with a windchill and nighttime temps plunging into the 40's, or as they would say in Seattle, beautiful balmy weather. But as I may have mentioned before, Seattle-ites are all crazy and the proof of that is that they live up there in the frozen tundra where people have to hack through the frozen ice to hunt for seals and then use clamshell scraping tools to carve out the seal blubber to put in their latte's. I know this because my friend Ethan told me all about it and he lives up there...well, he told me about the Latte's anyway...he didn't mention the seal blubber and stuff but I think he was just trying to put a good face on things. So putting the warped perspective of Washington residents aside, it's freakin cold. People here are wrapping scarves around their necks and wearing coats!...AND hats! Which brings me to why I am up at 2AM writing this blog. We are fast approaching the shortest day of the year, which is one of those things that people here in Southern California often point out. It is a way of being optimistic about the brutal conditions we are trying to endure here. Soon the days will begin to lengthen and Spring will be in sight. It's how we hang on through the cold, dark days of the season. We know there will be an end to it. But the night comes on by 4:30 in the afternoon the light of the day is starting to fade and my life here in the caravan, without electricity has adjusted to the cycles of dark and light rather than the artificial rhythms that electric light allow. After my work day ends I usually hang out at the local coffee house until dark and then, braving the biting chill of the night, I pedal off to my parking spot. I turn on my burner and warm the place up and then usually climb into bed by 8 o'clock. Six hours later it's 2AM and I'm awake. I recently read how they have uncovered some old writings from the nineteenth century that refer to a "first sleep" and a "second sleep". Apparently, back then before electricity, when people had to watch TV by candlelight and laptops ran on kerosene, people slept twice in one night. That was the common thing. They would go to sleep with the sun, sleep 6 hours or so, then wake up and do stuff for a couple of hours, and then go back for their "second sleep". There are a lot of hours of darkness to fill when you run by the sun and stars. So that seems to be what my body has naturally adapted to. So here I am, writing this blog.

I've made a number of changes in the caravan since I first headed out on the road about 4 months ago, when it was warm, (sniff, sniff). When I sensed the coming winter I set about doing a few things to make it more cozy. Firstly, I got rid of the little pump up white gas stove that had to be used outdoors and installed a propane burner inside. This has been AWESOME! It allows me to sit up in bed and make coffee without the hassle of getting dressed and going outside and setting up the side table and pumping up the stove, etc. Plus it uses way less fuel than the white gas stove did and burns a lot cleaner. Another improvement I made was adding a pull out awning to the Starboard side and a storm cover for the windows on the Port side. The awning has been also awesome as it keeps the rain and dew well away from the little roll down shade that serves as my door.


So when it rains I can actually have the shade rolled up, stay inside and make soup and watch the rain drip off the end of the awning. My most recent addition has been the flower pot heater. I saw this online and decided it was the perfect heating solution for my tiny space. The way it works is you take a small bread pan, put four or five of those little tea-lite candles in it, and invert a 6 inch clay flower pot over the candles, resting on the edges of the bread pan. It will burn for about 4 or 5 hours and does a great job taking the chill out of the air, and you can simply light it and go to bed without worrying about it. I decided to build it into the galley counter so it would take less space. When it's not in use I put a cutting board over it. It would work even better if my caravan wasn't so open air, but at the moment there is no shortage of ventilation. When I want to really heat it up quickly I put the flower pot on the propane burner and turn it on as low as it will go...the flower pot heats up and radiates a lot of heat, even after the burner is turned off. It's made life much more comfortable now that the Winter weather has arrived. We are finally getting a break though. This week is promising temps up into the 70's, and, while it's not the 80's, I can deal with it. Well, I think it's time for my "second sleep" now. It's 3:36 and time for bed.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Quite a few of my wanderings have been on two wheels...sometimes by motorcycle and sometimes by bicycle. This story is about one of those bicycle trips. I had been living in Key West at the time and decided to head toward the California Coast by way of bicycle. I scrounged up some old bike parts and assembled a three speed bike that only had one working speed. I didn't think that was too critical because I was traveling through Florida at the time, and Florida is flat. It was not a modern light weight touring bike by any means...I had a rack on the back and mounted an old wooden coca-cola box back there to make a sort of pickup bed where I could keep my food. I put a little herb and spice rack in it, upright against the back of my seat...that's where I kept my various herbs and spices and my bead stash. Then I lashed my bedroll onto one side of the rack and and hung a bag made from an old persian rug on the other side for my clothes. Over the front wheel I mounted a wooden box that carried my art supplies. It had a picture of Ganesh the elephant god, Hindu patron saint of travelers. Mounted on the lower frame I placed a Galliano bottle wrapped in woven palm leaves to carry water yeh, not super light weight. My first challenge was making it up the 131 miles of bridges that connect the Florida Keys. In those days, (this is the early 70's) the bridges were very narrow, just a lane wide enough for a car and then a little curb with a railing. The longest bridge was seven miles, and that one I decided to cross in the middle of the night when traffic would be lightest. It was terrifying. I started over it at 2AM and could watch the headlights from an approaching truck coming up behind me from a long way back. When it got fairly close, I would lift the bike up onto the curb, which wasn't really wide enough to stand the bike straight up on, then i would straddle the railing, leaning out over the abyss and the ocean below and hold onto the handlebars with one hand, trying to get as much room between me and the semi-truck bearing down on me as I could. The lights on the bike worked by one of those little generator things that rub against the wheel, so they only work when the bike is moving...which meant I was pretty much invisible to the truck. Just about the time the truck's headlights hit me, and the driver realized I was there with my bike kind of leaning into the lane, he would try to swerve but by then there wasn't really time and he would thunder by, shaking the bridge, me hanging on for dear life out over the water. So this was how the whole trip over the seven mile bridge went....pedal, pedal, pedal...put the bike up on the curb, straddle the railing, lean out, and FA-WHOOM! The truck thunders by inches away. By the time I got to the other side I was exhausted and put down my bedroll and fell asleep right next to highway one.

But as it turned out, that wasn't the most dangerous part of the trip. When I got to Alligator Alley, the narrow highway that runs through the Everglades I was literally getting blown off the road by the slipstream from the huge trucks that were roaring up through there. I rode on and on into the night and it was hot and humid and I couldn't stop and rest because when I did the mosquitos would have me for a late night snack. As long as I kept moving the breeze kept them off of me. Somewhere around 2AM the next morning I came upon a little bar out in the middle of nowhere. It was open and there were three pick-up trucks parked outside. The idea of getting out of the bugs and taking a break seemed great and besides, I was pretty exhausted. I pushed open the door and found myself looking at a long bar occupied by three cowboys. I could tell they were cowboys because they wore cowboy hats and cowboy boots and cowboy shirts. I wasn't wearing any of those things.

I had a Stetson Open Road hat (kind of a Clyde Barrow sort of style) with my paintbrushes stuffed into the macrame hatband. My hair was to my shoulders, my jeans had been patched with the skin from a roadkill rattlesnake I had found and skinned in the desert, plus other patches of velvet, satin, leather and various other bright colorful fabrics. I wore a necklace I had made from bones and beads that had some sort of small animal skull I had found, hanging from the middle of it. Various pouches hung from my belt. I stood in the doorway and the three cowboy hats turned and looked at me...then the bartender, wiping a beer mug with a rag, turned and looked at me....then he looked at the three cowboys and then he looked at me. The cowboys had been there drinking for hours and were obviously pretty drunk. All sorts of thoughts flooded my mind at that moment...the first was, "TURN AROUND AND RUN FOR IT!" But I immediately realized this would be folly. I was way out in the middle of nowhere, there was only one road through it, I was on a bicycle and the cowboys had pick-up trucks. There would be no escape. So...I walked up to the bar and sat down next to one of the cowboys. Immediately the other two slid off their barstools and one stood behind me and the other moved up next to me on the other side. I was surrounded.

"Howdy..." I said, trying to sound nonchalant.

"Well whadda we got here?" slurred one of the cowboys.

"What I can't figure out, "began the other," is, is it a boy or a girl?"...he punctuated his query with a loud belch.

"What the hell are you anyway?" said the third, rhetorically I assumed. I decided to answer anyway. I figured that they must have somehow found me threatening to their way of life and to the very fabric of society because I looked so unfamiliar to them. My task was to convince them otherwise.

"After a few more slurred slurs aimed at me I decided that I better try to engage them in conversation, and maybe, if I was lucky I could get out of this alive.

"I know I must look pretty strange to you guys," I said, "But that's because I'm not from around here. I come from the west coast and most people where I am from look a lot like me, because that's normal there. We have different customs and different styles of dress out there. In fact" I said, "if you were to go there, people might think you looked strange to them, because they wouldn't be use to seeing people like you. But even though I may look odd to you," I continued" I'm probably not all that different in most ways. I believe in being a good person, and being honest and working hard. I love my country and my family and I am thankful that I live in a free country." OK, I was laying it on a bit thick here, but the occasion seemed to call for it. Well from there we all four got involved in a long conversation...I, playing the part of the visitor from another planet and they were just drunk enough that they were willing to listen to what I had to say, swaying and swigging beer as I talked. Somehow, I guess I said all the right things because within the hour I was their buddy. They were slapping me on the back and insisting on buying me beers. We had a pretty good time together. After a couple of hours I bid them farewell, shaking hands all around and stumbled out the door and got back on my bicycle. The cowboys all got in their pick up trucks and roared off, waving and wishing me safe travels. I pedaled off up Alligator Alley, feeling refreshed after my rest stop, smiling with the warmth of newfound friendship and a good beer buzz.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013


The sun charged over the hill like Genghis Khan's army, overwhelming everything in it's path. Blues and purples transformed into gold and ochre...a flock of birds exploded from the trees, fleeing, (or celebrating?) the sudden appearance of the burning orb. Even the shadows seemed to be caught by surprise as they tumbled from the treeline and stretched their fingers down the hill. The stranger had been up for over an hour and sat in the red and gold caravan, drinking dark roasted coffee and watching the world's improvised response to the rising of the sun. He was glad to see it, feel it's warm rays and let it's golden light wash through the caravan.
The previous night had been drippy wet and cold. Mist snaked it's way through the trees and collected on the eucalyptus leaves over the caravan. It gathered into large drops and fell loudly onto the roof. The stranger stayed dry inside his tiny gypsy wagon, and reasonably warm, wrapped in his bedding. At 4 AM he sat up and turned on the light over the galley. He lit the burner of the stove and put on water for coffee. The interior of the caravan warmed up almost instantly. He scooped coffee into the filter and set it on top of the cup, then settled back against the pillows and waited for the water to boil. At this early hour when the world was still wrapped in it's indigo cloak, the caravan dweller felt a deep peace, the nightsounds softly accompanying the mystic quality that permeated everything. Although he had chosen a spot for the night that was only a short ride from the cacophany of the city, here all was quiet. The dark, pre-morning hours held the landscape in an eerie mist-world. He stepped out of the caravan into a soft, diaphanous half-light. He wiped down the bike and silently rode toward Venice Beach.
Once he reached the beach he guided his bicycle-caravan along the beach walk, the thick mist still softening edges, blurring the harshness of the reality faced by the people who lived on the streets. As he pedaled through the quiet, still-sleeping town, images appeared like smokey projections and then disappeared again, receding into the blue-grey shadows. Motionless forms wrapped in blankets lay scattered along the beachwalk, down the side streets, and along the sand. An elaborate improvised home made of appliance boxes and a broken umbrella occupied an to it, a large tent-like structure put haphazardly together from old blankets.
Carts piled high with the belongings of the street people, that were pulled from the trash that had been discarded by the better off. Bicycle dwellers, some with overloaded trailers, some weighed down with the castoffs of others lashed to their carts with mountains of the broken flotsam and jetsom that represents a poor man's wealth. Venice Beach is a study of unintended consequences...a Jackson pollack painting of Mardi part One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and one part Post-apocalyptic wasteland. A beach town with an attached outdoor insane asylum. Up ahead a lone figure sits hunched over in the cold mist. His clothes are filthy and in tatters and although it's cold and wet, he wears no shoes on his feet. His face is mostly hidden by the ratty hoodie that covers his head. As he sits there, dirty, wet, cold and unimaginably alone, he rocks back and forth, mumbling softly to some imaginary entity. The gypsy caravan rolls to a stop in front of the figure on the bench. The mysterious stranger can tell this person is lost in a maze of madness and delusion...he wonders when the tragic creature last had anything to eat. He has to be hungry. "I have food in the caravan," thinks the stranger..."more than I need." He dismounts from the bicycle and approaches the lonely figure, thinking to offer him some bread and cheese, and maybe a beer. "How ya doin, man?" The figure turns his eyes to meet the stranger's and rage flashes from them like a taser. He grits his rotting teeth and hisses like a cat that's been cornered by a Pit Bull. The stranger takes a step back toward his bike...this hopeless creature doesn't want his help...doesn't want anyone's help. He just wants to be left alone in his madness. The Hell that this tragic soul occupies is his home. It's Hell, but it's his alone. It's all that he has left. People sometimes say that God never gives you more than you can handle, but it isn't true. It's just one of those things that people say because it sounds nice. This person has been broken. He will die this way...out here in the cold, alone in his madness.
He rides on further down the beachwalk. The fog seems to be getting thicker...making it hard to see, driving mist into his eyes, filling them until they overflow, leaving wet tracks running down his face. He passes more sidewalk sleepers...nightwalkers, carrying their few possessions in old packs and plastic bags. They've walked all night, too wet and cold to sleep, or unable to find a safe place where they won't be rousted or robbed of what little they they walk until daybreak when they can sleep on the beach.
Finally the stranger comes to a remote stretch of beach and parks the caravan. By now the last traces of night have been consumed by the dawn, and he watches as the sun charges over the hills like Genghis Khan's army, overwhelming everything in it's path. A flock of birds explodes from out of the trees, and the stranger wonders if they are fleeing from the sudden appearance of the burning orb or if they are celebrating the dawning of a new day.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013


Yesterday I was working on a new painting station that attaches to the front of the caravan. I had some paintings stacked inside and was just rummaging around when a woman approached suddenly and asked if I would resolve an argument she was having with her husband. I haven't usually been known for my marriage counseling skills but still, I wanted to be when you ask someone for directions and they don't really know but will try anyway..."Well, I think you go down this way and take the fourth or fifth street and go left, or maybe right, yeh, I think go right and then it's maybe a mile or so, I think, no, wait, don't do that, go down here about six blocks and take a right where the flashing yellow light use to be, then..."

You know, they just want to be I said, "sure, be glad to..."

"Do you think," she asked, "that there are some people who get bitten by a Muse?" I thought about that and wasn't sure what she meant. Did she really want to know if I believed there was some kind of little fairy-person who could bite you, vampire like, and then you would forever be driven by an insatiable lust for art and creative expression?

"What do you mean by that?" I asked.

"I mean, do you think that some people just have to make art or sing or dance in order to be happy in life?" she explained.

"Oh," I replied, "sure, in my own case, definitely. I don't feel I really ever had any other choice but to do what I'm doing...." The husband had been hanging back, standing off a ways, clearly not wanting any of this conversation or at all interested in my take on it. It turns out that the question concerned their 18 year old daughter who was a singer. Mom, obviously, was siding with the daughter's desire to pursue singing as a career, whereas Dad thought this was foolish and irresponsible.

"I remember very clearly standing next to my friend on the first day of kindergarten and saying, as they passed out the Crayons and paper, "This is what I love to do!" I already knew then what my passion was. I've never had any doubt that pursuing an art career was what I would do...often to my own disadvantage..."

"See?" the woman said to her husband..."often to his own disadvantage..."she repeated, nodding her head up and down. Now the husband edged closer, feeling emboldened to make his argument. "I don't see why you can't have both." he said. I knew what he meant by this....I've heard this argument many times. When people say this they usually mean that they don't see why a person can't just go for a "safe" career path with some security, and do their art, or singing in this case, in their spare time.

"Because," I replied to the dad, "If you have a very strong passion for something, it's what you want to devote most of your time and energy to. If you do it in your spare time, it's a hobby, not a career. And to get very good at anything takes a great deal of time and devotion. And besides, when you choose something else to make your living at, it's giving up before you have really tried. I have always been ruled," I went on, "by the terrifying fear of getting to the other end of my life and saying to myself, "I wish I had gone for it....really pursued my dreams instead of hanging back in fear of failure." That, to me, is the worst thing I can imagine, because by then it's too late. You've spent your life doing something you don't really love, maybe don't even care very much about. You've spent your life putting your energy into making someone else's dream come true. Your employer's. Now, if you love your job, really love what you do, then that's great, you get the best of both worlds. Some people don't have a built in passion for one thing that obliterates everything else, and those people are lucky in a way. There have been many times when, exhausted by the effort it can take to keep trying to figure out how to make it work, I've wished I was the sort of person who could just work in a little hardware store or something and be happy with that. Yunno, just enjoy my coworkers, go home, go bowling on the weekends or whatever and be content. That is a gift, but it's not a gift I have. I seem to have been born with this monkey on my back...this non-negotiable drive to create as much art as well as I can before I leave this life. It is certainly not an easy path, and it's cost me, a stable relationship, and certain freedoms that come with choosing a more predictable path. It's never been straightforward and clear, I am always having to figure out how to proceed and hope it all works. And here's the thing," I went on, "maybe your daughter will suceed wildly and maybe she will fail, but if she tries and fails, and then chooses to change course and do something else it will be because she went for it and came to her own decision...but if you advise her to take a path she really isn't passionate about in order to be safe, she may one day look back and regret having made that choice...she will always wonder what would have happened if she went for it...and she may resent you for steering her away from what was most important to her. But maybe she won't fail...I always think of what John Lennon's aunt said to him when he was a kid. She said, "The guitar is fine, John, but you'll never make a living at it."

The Dad seemed to really listen to what I said, and I don't know what he felt about it...I don't know what happened after that...they drifted off and I went back to my work. There are so many different paths and ways to go about life and it's all a trade off. Maybe nothing is perfect. But I know that much of the incredible and wonderful art, and music and literature and science out there would never exist if the people that brought those creations into being had chosen a more conservative path. The very nature of art and science is exploring the edges of the boundaries of what's known or familiar...of putting oneself out on the edge...and it's not necessarily a safe place out there. It's not necessarily a comfortable life all the time. But I think the ones who put themselves out there beyond the boundaries add the bold accents to the fabric of our lives. Some people see artists as self indulgent and irresponsible, but those of us who occupy the fringes to do what we do, sacrifice a lot....and really, I don't think we have any real choice to do otherwise.



Monday, October 21, 2013


Awoke this morning to a thick, wet, grey sky. Everything was drippy wet and visibility about 10 feet. I climbed out of the caravan and began wiping down the bike seat, handlebars, and the awning before i rolled it up for travel. Then I pedaled over to my spot at the Lagoon. Definitely the wettest, foggiest morning I have seen here so far. I parked the caravan, climbed in, pulled down the shade and lit the stove. The place warms up in about 15 seconds or less with the stove going. Made some more coffee and English muffins. It's so thick outside I can't see the Lagoon, which is about 20 feet away. I won't be going outside to paint until things change and the sun comes out. My friend Ethan would. He'd be out in it. He would be out there painting even if it was raining, or snowing, or there was a blizzard. Hell, he'd probably paint underwater. But he's from Seattle and doesn't know any better. Here in Southern California, people start complaining about the bitter cold when they have to put on a light sweater and change outta their flip-flops. I feel absolutely no shame in admitting that I am a weather weenie. If it's not sunny outside I am quite content to stay inside by some heat source and drink coffee and wait for the sun to shine. You can't really do that in Seattle. You probably have to wait until the Earth tilts on it's axis for a nice day there. I dunno, I've never really been there....too cold. Sitting inside my little caravan, dry and warm, makes me think of the homeless people who are sleeping outside, and who woke up, probably while it was still dark, wet and cold to the bone. I feel great compassion for them and very grateful that I have this dry, warm cozy space.

Suzanne in front of her gypsy camper

Yesterday was quite a day. I rode to Venice Beach to do laundry and stopped to meet Suzanne, who I had been told about before. She lives in a very beautiful gypsy-style camper...all wood and scalloped shingles, with her six rescue cats. She is the Suzanne who inspired the Leonard Cohen song. I pulled up with the caravan and we became instant friends. She didn't feed me tea and oranges that come all the way from China, but she did offer me brandy which I gratefully accepted. While there, I met several other interesting people who are friends of hers...some Italian girls, a woman who makes films, and a retired sea captain who is 83. He is a clear-eyed, dapper fellow and another person who had many stories and adventures, but not the sort that reveals them without being asked. Earlier that day, as I was parked by the beach and making oatmeal, I met another 83 year old man. I nearly fell over when he told me his age. I never would have guessed him to be that old. He is a silk screen artist who lives up in a little artist community in Oregon and was down here visiting his daughter. I asked him how he likes being 83 and his immediate reply was, "I love it." Made me smile and gives me a glimpse of what life can be like for a man in his 80's. It was a day that was filled with people and conversation. As I started to head back to Playa del Rey, and my parking spot for the night, the caravan blew a tire...the second one this week. Both of them were old and had many miles on them so I guess it was just their time. I unhitched the bike and rode down to Manny's bike shop, getting there just before he closed. Got a new tire, and a spare to carry, and rode back and changed the blown tire. It was dark by the time I arrived back at my parking spot, but I felt full from the day. Venice Beach is a town full of interesting characters living unusual lives. It's enriching and inspiring to meet folks who have not just followed the beat of a different drummer, but who have created their own beat to dance to. I feel that, individual by individual, i am finding my tribe here.

To read more about the amazing Suzanne, follow this link:


Wednesday, October 9, 2013


The lone figure emerges from the pre-dawn mist, apparition-like, rolling on silent wire spoke wheels. A strange red caravan painted like a circus wagon trails behind. It's still dark, and the only sound is the gentle splash of oars as the rowers glide in long canoes up Balona Creek, their single light glowing like an oil lamp through the fog. The stranger is usually up early, before the first signs of morning begin to compromise the dark. It's a magical time when the quiet is so rich and total that it fills up all his senses. He feels as though he has the whole planet to himself at this hour, shared only by a few other souls who pass in the darkness, wordless, on bicycle or on foot....a few other souls who know and share this secret hour. The bicycle with the painted wagon winds it's way along the bike path that meanders through the empty beach. Sounds are amplified in the stillness...the nightwind, not quite wind so much as air that creeps along over the sand and feels new and fresh as though it is being breathed in for the first time. Waves build and crash onto the beach and suffuse the air with salt spray and ocean smells. The mysterious stranger pedals slowly through the alien beach-scape, senses wide open to this nocturnal wonderland. In an hour it will be gone, the night world crowded out by the awakening of the sun. Spontaneously, he turns off the bike path and makes his way to the lagoon, finds his favorite tree and pulls the caravan under it's canopy.

The morning has broken and the sunlight reflects off the lagoon and fills the caravan with golden light. The stranger lights his stove and brews coffee, watching a small white egret patrolling the shallows. Ducks cruise by sending patterns of ripples through the mirrored surface of the water. Two pigeons walk along the sand finding morsels of breakfast at the water's edge. The small town is waking up now, dog walkers, joggers, bike riders....locals head for the cafe for breakfast and conversation over the morning paper. A squirrel comes up to beg for food while the stranger sips his coffee. It lives here in this tree that shelters the always comes by when the caravan is parked here. The stranger says "good morning," but offers it no food. The squirrel seems to accept this and scampers off to look for his own breakfast. The day, at this point, is a blank canvas. The man in the caravan views each day much as he views the abstract paintings he creates...without a preconceived plan, at least not a fixed one, except for the coffee. Coffee is always part of the plan. He approaches the promise of the day with openness, but soon, a definite direction will take over, as it does on canvas, and the day will unfold. The parallels between life and art seem very close together...inseparable, actually. Life is an art project waiting to be created...each day an empty canvas with endless possibilities.


Friday, October 4, 2013


Today was laundry day, so I rode to Santa Monica to my favorite internet coin-op, Bubble Beach Landromat. After I was done, I realized I hadn't eaten and so decided to get something at Perry's, which has to be one of the most pleasant places to eat breakfast ever. I ordered something huge at the counter and then carried it back to the Adirondack chairs under the umbrella and stuck my bare feet in the sand.

The seating at Perry's

From there I could enjoy my breakfast and look out at the palm trees and the previously mentioned women's bikini soccer team practice...only they weren't there today. Instead, there was a group of people practicing Capoeira, and this brings me to the subject of today's post. I have to admit something at the risk of alienating some of my Facebook friends...some may even de-friend me but, nevertheless, I must be honest and speak my truth...and that is, I really don't like Capoeira...there it is, I've said it! In fact, I don't even like watching it. I think exercise that is done outside in public should be beautiful to even, and Capoeira always looks kind of awkward and people who have rubber bands holding their joints together....kind of like watching Josh Blue do the Robot...just not very attractive. So I have been thinking that I should start a Facebook page with an online petition to ban the public practice of Capoeira because it's just unattractive. Now kickboxing, on the other hand, or pole dancing, (especially pole dancing,) can be very pleasant to watch and yet for some reason you don't see people practicing it on the beach...and this brings me to the subject of today's post....Why isn't pole dancing being taught in girl's High School Gym class? It is certainly something that every young woman should know and builds health, strength, and flexibility easily as much as any Yoga class. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-obvious example of how public education is failing our young women. In today's uncertain economy and competitive job market women need something they can fall back on, and pole dancing would be the perfect solution. Besides the fitness aspect, it would allow a young woman to become an entrepreneur without the need to spend a lot of money on clothing for the corporate world. One quick trip to Victoria's Secret and a shoe store and a motivated young woman could be taking home several hundred dollars a night in her underwear. In fact, I think I may start a Facebook page with an online petition to make pole dancing a mandatory part of the high school curriculum. Well friends, I promise that my next blog post will get back to my usual art and bicycle gypsy wagon subject matter, but I just had to take a moment to address something that I feel is simply part of being a good citizen. I feel very strongly about education, so I had to speak up. We all must do our part.


Monday, September 16, 2013


I've been working to finish up a couple of commissions this week, both paintings of other of Big Sur and one of Hawaii. It's been interesting to shift into painting the local scenes here. Having spent most of my California life in the central and northern coastal areas from Morro Bay to Big Sur and Mendocino, I am use to painting scenes that have a spectacular beauty.

ISLAND AFTERNOON 16x20 oil on canvas , commission

It's beautiful here, very much so, but not in a spectacular way like Big Sur or Hawaii. There is a different kind of beauty here...more like a quiet beauty or the beauty that comes from being in a place that is simply extremely pleasant. I was thinking about these things on my bike ride this morning. The sun had just come up and a marine layer was floating across the Creek like some kind of diaphanous ribbon of smoke, all lit up a soft, golden color. As I rounded the corner where the bike path goes by the Ballona Wetlands I caught movement out of the corner of my eye. A pair of coyote pups bolted from the bushes, chasing each other round and round in the misty, sunny morning light, seeming to delight in the fact that it was another day. I stopped my bike and stood for awhile, watching as they would dart into the bush and out again. Then, riding again, I watched the creek reflecting the golden mist and a great blue heron doing his stand-and-wait thing at the water's edge. At times like this I seem to be just riding along, but really I am very focused, recording images for future use. I discovered years ago that I could catch the image and details of a bird in flight by just quickly glancing at it and then shutting my eyes, capturing a moment in it's looking at a single still from a movie. That way, I could actually study a single position of the bird's body without being distracted by the continuous movement. So I've been finding my way through the process of learning to paint a more subtle type of glorious. It's interesting and challenging and makes me look closer and tune my awareness to a finer degree. I've painted a number of smaller local scenes and they seem to sell quickly, and allow me to explore this new thing in a fairly rapid way. I am starting to enjoy it very much.


WATERFALL 16x20 oil on canvas, commission


Monday, September 9, 2013


My birthday is right around the corner and it always makes me think of what has come before and what is ahead. I remember clearly as a 17 year old surfer on the cliffs of pleasure point in Santa Cruz, wondering what sort of person I would be when I was 50. Somehow, 50 was the age I always looked forward to...I always felt I would sort of hit my stride at that age. When the auspicious day finally came, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I woke up and thought, "Wow! It finally happened, I'm 50! I wonder what today will bring.

I decided to take myself out to breakfast and just sort of let the day unfold. I went to the local coffee place, The Bean, and ordered my coffee and breakfast and just listened to the conversations around me as I sat expectantly...all my senses watching how the day was developing. At the table next to me I heard a bit of the conversation, something about a small plane had crashed into the World Trade Center...then, a little later it became known it was an airliner....Then, shortly afterward, another plane hit the other tower of the Trade Center, and it became clear what was happening. Along with everyone else, I just became kind of numb as the news came out. Eventually many of us ended up down at Walmart watching repeating footage of the planes hitting the buildings and people jumping to their deaths, and eventually, the collapse of the two towers, on a bank of 15 or so television sets in the Walmart electronics department. By noon on my 50th birthday I was just stunned and speechless. After that, September 11th, which had always been just my birthday, took on a whole new meaning around the world. One thing is for certain...I will never forget my 50th birthday.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013


Living in 12 square feet is one of my more economic uses of space, but it's not a new thing for me. I've had this micro-lifestyle addiction since I was 17 when I took out the back seat of my '56 Buick Century, so i could sleep in it, (and fit my surfboard inside,) and hung American flags in the back windows for curtains. Since that modest beginning, I have built little homes that move in a wide variety of vehicles. There was Bosco, my 1952 Ford Panel truck. I didn't know much about building then, and noticed that some of my cabinets didn't stand upright very was then i discovered the concept of diagonal bracing. After that, things stayed together better. I had 5 vw busses that I converted into moving homes...a couple of which had raised roofs and wood stoves. Then there was my beloved Divco milk truck. It was a 1955 that looked more like it was designed in the 30's...they are the milk trucks you always see in movies or on tv...very rounded nose, telephone booth style folding doors, rivets all as hell. As was my usual style, I cut off the roof, raised it, added portholes, took off the back doors and extended it 16 inches with cottage style woodwork and a shingle roof that had moss on it....when it rained the moss got thicker and greener. I added a tiny marine two-burner wood cook stove, and a pyramid shaped sleeping loft over the cab with a folding, counterweighted ladder that lead up to it. There was a deck on the roof with a little turned post railing around the edge. The kitchen cabinets were incense cedar and the sink was hand-thrown stoneware with a brass spigot from an old beer tap. It had a lattice window on one side and my very first stained glass window, (a sunrise) across the back. I lived and traveled in "Divy", as she was affectionately known, with my then two year old son and his mom. When we needed more room for the little rugrat to crawl around the rug, we sold Divy and bought a 1946 International school bus. It was sitting in an empty lot with it's beautiful huge front fenders and bug headlights, enormous hood, big grill with a vine growing out of it. On the back it said, "JESUS LOVES YOU". It was being sold by a church and we fell instantly in love with it. As usual, I cut off the roof, cut off the back end, (no offense intended to Jesus) and raised the roof with long Douglas fir poles that I bent into arches and bolted to each window post. Staying with the pole-framed motif, I added dormers with a loft in the back that curved around toward the front of the bus, framed with poles, and held together with fluted dowels. Then a cantilevered loft for the kid was built over the hood, and I added numerous little dormers, skylights, a stained glass window, a full sized wood cookstove with warming ovens, french doors in back, a madrone kitchen counter with another hand thrown stoneware sink and a rocking chair. Our little family lived and traveled in "Rosie LLama", (named after a baby goat) for several was a storybook, "wind in the willows" sort of life. Other micro-nomadic homes came after that, several more in full sized vans and mini vans, and I built several house-busses for other people. One favorite that rivaled my current bicycle gypsy caravan in size was a 1949 vw bug, (yes, I said bug,) that I removed all the seats from, except for the driver's seat, and built up the floor to level it. Once you do that, there is a surprising amount of room in an old bug. Lots of headroom and the space from the front of the front seat to the back is long enough and wide enough for a comfy bed, which was a very padded Tibetan rug that doubled as a sitting area. Along the back, beneath the little window I built a bookshelf, clothing cabinet and behind the drivers seat, along the side rear window I put in a tiny counter with a little stove. I added a macrame' plant hanger with a Javanese purple velvet plant that hung from the rear view mirror, (which unfortunately met an untimely and gruesome death when it got burned to death on a particularly hot day). I hung bunches of herbs to dry from the ceiling. It had a little herb and spice rack with glass bottles mounted at the back of the kitchen counter. I use to pick up hitchhikers and they were always amazed when they got in at how big it seemed inside. I would park it at the store and, inevitably, when I came out there would be a crowd of people around it peeking inside and laughing and pointing. On the outside, in 8 inch high letters, I copied a passage in the original Sanscrit from the Bagavad Gita which, roughly translated meant, "We are unmanifest in the beginning, manifest in our interim state, and unmanifest again when we are annihilated, so what reason is there for lamentation?" Somehow, that just spoke to me. In later years I built some micro-houses on flat bed trailers, with high ceilings, clerestories for lots of light, and spacious lofts. When I lived in Maui, at one point I had a t-shirt painting studio in my Honda squareback, with and airbrush and CO2 tank to power it. What compels me to build and live in these micro-dwellings? I think it's that I love the idea of home, but I get a bit nervous when they are affixed to the's such a commitment to one spot. So I build homes that move. I love creating a small space and seeing how spacious I can make it efficiently I can make everything work. Usually the entire time I'm living in one of my nomadic homes, I'm tweeking and redesigning to make things work ever better.

So my point, (and I do have one,) is that although most folks I encounter think my little home, and my lifestyle, is very doesn't seem unusual to seems pretty much like normal. I guess it only makes sense that the paintings I am selling most of right now are miniatures. I carry paintings up to 16x20, but it's the little ones that are currently the most popular...and that's working for me in an interesting way. It only takes an hour or two for each one, so it allows me to try out lots of different ideas without a big commitment of time on one piece. It also allows me to carry quite a few in a very small space. So I can sit in my micro-caravan, painting micro-paintings, and drinking a micro-brew. (Someday I gotta do this in Micronesia just to continue the theme.)

Monday, September 2, 2013


I was parked in my favorite shady spot under the big overhanging tree at the Playa del Rey Lagoon, working on an order of miniatures I need to complete by this weekend, when three tiny faces appeared beside the caravan. Siblings, was my assumption, who I guessed were maybe 3 years old, 5, and 8. The big brother of the group seemed to be the spokesperson for the other two. Kids are so cool because they are wide-open curious and completely unfiltered in their thoughts. They will ask you things that adults won't. "What is this thing?" big brother wanted to know.
"It's my home and my art studio," I replied.
"Do you sleep in here?" he asked.
Then, before I could respond, Little Sister, (the three year old) held up her bright pink backpack and said, "Did you see my Hello Kitty backpack?"
"Cool!" I said.
"Do you know Hello Kitty?" she asked.
"Well, I've heard of her." I said.
Then Big Brother asked, "Are you homeless?"
I kind of laughed and said, "No, this is my home right here."
"Do you like it?" Little brother chimed in.
"I love my home," I said. I can travel around anywhere I want in it.
"Do you have a car?" Big brother asked.
"No, " I replied, "I have a bicycle."
Little sister, who had been rummaging around in her Hello Kitty backpack pulled out a doll and said, "See my doll?"
"Cool". I said.
"Do you know Michael Jackson?" She asked.
"Well, not personally but I know who he is..."
"Do you have food?" Big brother asked, still thinking I might be some sort of homeless person.
"Yes, I have food right there," I responded, pointing to my pantry. Finally Big brother seemed to suddenly understand the whole idea and smiling, said, "So you can just go along any where you want to and live there?"
"Uh huh," I said. "My home is always with me." Big brother seemed to like the idea now. Little sister was still digging through her backpack looking for more things to show me. They asked me if I would give them one of my paintings and I said I was sorry, but I couldn't give them away, for that was how I made my living. I sell them to people
"Do people ever buy them?" little sister asked, having found nothing more to show me in her backpack.
"Yes they do." I said. They stayed around a while longer, watching me paint and asking questions. I think they just weren't sure what sort of person they had stumbled upon and were trying to sort it out, but they were very interested in this artist guy who didn't live in a house. In that way they were much like the adult people I talk to everyday. The idea of someone living and working in this little red wagon is something that always seems to surprise people. It seems so normal to me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Woke up to a beautiful, very tropical feeling morning. Usually I head straight for the beach to make coffee but this particular morning I just sat up, brewed the coffee where I spent the night, along the bike path next to the harbor entrance. Watching the rowers glide silently by while I have coffee and muffins.


Sublime morning at the harbor

Pretty peaceful. Several interesting people come by and I have interesting conversations, sharing my life and theirs. I've been painting some miniatures that I put on little display easels and got an order for eleven of them. I went off to my local art supply store and bought some hardboard to cut up to size and some more display easels and went back to the beach....sat in the caravan and worked on my panels while watching some bikini girls do their soccer practice. I just thought I should make sure none of them went "offsides"...actually I'm not really sure if there is such a thing as "offsides" in soccer, but I was keeping my eye on them just in case. The phone rang and it was someone who had just bought a small painting from me a few days ago along the Playa del Rey bike path. She called to commission two larger paintings for a room she's redoing. After a very nice talk, I went back to sanding my panels and monitoring the bikini soccer chicks and thinking...."yeh, this is how life should be..."


Beachfront Office


Monday, August 26, 2013


It's been a busy 24 hours...all started when I tried to get to an enticing spot with the caravan over a grassy, sandy spot and got stuck. The caravan doesn't do well in sand, so in the process of trying to get unstuck, the caravan tipped backward on the axle and pulled the bicycle off the ground. I finally got out of the sand trap, and went off to bed. Next day, while I was at the Venice Beach art show, I discovered that the hitch arm had a crack in it and the brace for it had pulled it's screws loose, making the whole thing very vulnerable to breaking in half.

Emergency lashings hold it together.

All I could do at the moment was lash the whole thing together and gently ride and walk it to my camp spot. Next morning, I very gently rode/walked it the short distance to where I make coffee and where I intended to make some repairs. As I was slowly riding a smooth section of bike path I suddenly felt the caravan disconnect from the bike. My immediate thought was that the hitch arm had broken. The safety strap held and the caravan tipped forward, then hit the back wheel of the bike and rode up on it, dumping me and the bike into the sand. No serious injuries to me, or the bike, but the caravan had some damage. One of the stabilizer legs on the rear corner got bent, a panel on the front got pushed in slightly but fortunately the caravan stayed on it's wheels...if it had gone over, I'm sure there would have been a lot more damage than there was. What happened was totally unrelated to the hitch arm I was worried about. The quick release fitting that connects the bike to the caravan failed. Grooves had been worn into the ridge on the male end that the bearings in the female end hold onto. It finally just didn't have anything to hold onto anymore and separated. The following day I took the bus to Culver City where the hardware store is and bought an assortment of things that I could re-enforce the hitch arm with.


I had a replacement for the part that failed on the hitch connection, so that was an easy fix. The hitch-arm was a bit more work....mostly because I have no access to electricity so no power tools. But today I managed to get the whole thing back together and I think it's stronger than it was originally. Then I discovered that I had lost my phone.....


Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Remember when you were about two or three years old and someone would sit you on their lap and read those picture books to you where everyone lived in a neighborhood like Mr. Rodgers' ? Everybody was always happy and friendly as they went about their day and...."oh look, look! There goes happy Mr. Milkman, delivering bottles of milk to all the people in the neighborhood. Hi happy Mr. Milkman!" That's kinda how I'm feeling these days....people are getting to know me and recognize me as that Traveling Artist that lives in the gypsy caravan. Often times when I'm riding in the morning, heading out for where I make coffee on the beach, people I've met will smile and wave and say "Look!, There's the Traveling Artist!" and wave, and I wave back and say "Good Morning."

Painting at Venice Beach

Then I make my coffee and breakfast and head off to Venice Beach or some other spot and set up and paint for the day. Many times other people I have met will stop and talk. It's almost like being a character in a kid's book. One part Dr. Suess and one part Wind in the Willows. At the end of the day I pedal the caravan to my quiet little place at the lagoon to make dinner.

Settled in for the night

Then when night falls, I cruise over to the spot I sleep at and snuggle up before a cozy fire, (actually it's just a candle in a little glass thing,) and settle in for a peaceful night's sleep in dreamland.


Friday, August 16, 2013


I probably cover about 30 miles a day or more just doing my daily routine....going from the place I park at night to the beach where I usually have coffee and breakfast, then to where I set up to paint, and then some days I have to go to do laundry or some other errand. Things are fairly spread out but I never mind the ride. Some days I just feel like riding to watch the scenery go by....kinda reminds me of when Rose and I had the trimaran and sailed it down the west coast of Florida...endless hours of lying in the nets and watching the coastline move slowly by, with only the sound of the ripples of water against the hull. Riding is like that sometimes...following the bike path that winds through the sand and just taking in the view....watching the beach move slowly past.

Nighttime can be especially sublime...there is a place where the bike path crosses a bridge over the river and then runs along the levee with the river on one side and the harbor entrance on the other....lights reflecting off the water everywhere. During the morning the fog creates a cool mist on my face. Travel by bicycle is kind of the perfect mode in some enough to actually make some distance, but slow enough to really see the sights you are moving through. Pulling the gypsy caravan behind me, I get ongoing greetings and thumbs up from passers by. It's a bike friendly community and some of the friendliest people I've met anywhere...maybe its the warm weather.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Cruisin toward Santa Monica

One of the cool things about living in the micro caravan is that when my shade is pulled down, I can see out, but nobody can see in...and people tend to assume that it's empty, so I get to hear all the interesting and candid comments. Before I put on the signage I had a lot of passersby saying things like, "what is that?" and "I think it's a popcorn machine" or, "It's a puppet show" or "is there a monkey in there?"

Now I hear most of them read the traveling artist sign but still, some don't bother to read it and continue to guess what it is. Overall, though, I get nearly unanimously positive comments. People seem to love that someone is doing something different in life, and when I say I live in it, often a look of disbelief comes over them and then they smile....home, art studio and gallery in 12 square feet. As I settle into my routines of making the caravan my home I am pretty pleased at how well it works out. I set up my kitchen in the morning on the little table that hangs on the side and make coffee and english muffins, then breakfast is usually oatmeal with bananas and dried cranberries, then a simple clean up, put away the stove and I'm ready to go set up and paint somewhere. Today I am trying out Santa Monica down by the boardwalk. My paintings are set up and the day started slowly so I decided to sit in the caravan and work on my blog for this nice feature of this area is there is wifi here in the park. Two lovely girls from Scotland just bought a miniature from me and that makes the day even nicer. Lots of cool people are beginning to stop by...some to comment on the art and some to look at the caravan. I think I'm gonna like Santa Monica.


Friday, August 9, 2013


Well, I am getting to know some of the officers with the LAPD just by virtue of the fact that I live in a micro gypsy caravan. Late last night, actually I guess it was technically early this morning, like, 3:15, I was once again suddenly awakened by bright lights flashing through the caravan's windows.

"LAPD! .....How do you open this thing up?" So I rolled up my shade and was greeted by two serious looking police officers.

"Two questions, " said one,...."Did you build this yourself?"

"yes," I replied....I did."

"And you travel up and down the coast and paint?"

"yes I do, " I said. And from there they simply asked a lot of questions about the caravan...I think really they woke me up just because they were curious about it. In the end, they said I was fine where I was and to have a nice night. Amazed again.... Though my beauty sleep, (which I need desperately,) was interrupted, I was glad to have been treated so courteously.


Back to painting at last!

In the morning I pedaled off and found a spot to set up and paint...felt really good to get back to the easel after a rather long break from painting. A great day with interesting people coming by to chat all day. A nice woman named Helen stopped and bought a small seascape. Finally I packed up and headed for the shade of the lagoon for dinner.




I spent most of the day along the beach in an area I refer to as the "quiet side". From the place where I like to park at night, along the bike path, I can either go north in the morning, toward Starbucks and Venice Beach or I can go South along the broad quiet beaches of Playa Del Rey and the little string of beach towns that the bike path meanders through. Venice is where all the action is, and sometimes it's a bit too much action for me, so I opt for the peaceful beaches to the south, as I did today. I had quite a productive day, getting the caravan organized and outfitted more as a working art studio than it has been. I fixed my easel so I can set it up most anywhere, even inside the caravan, and made a way to hang it on the wall when I'm done for the day. I got all my brushes in holders so they are always close at hand, paints and mediums all ready to go. Even though it's quieter on the south end, I still attract lots of attention and end up having really interesting conversations with people who stop by...and unlike Venice, I am meeting more local people here.
Stopped for lunch at the Playa del Rey lagoon
One lovely woman told me about the lagoon that is only two blocks away from the beach. She said that people love the lagoon and that there are lots of cool things to paint. So, having had plenty of sun and feeling ready to shift gears and make some dinner somewhere shady and sheltered from the afternoon wind, I pedaled inland and found the promised lagoon. I parked the caravan under an overhanging tree and explored around a bit....lots of stuff to paint and just a very tranquil and quiet place with people out and about enjoying the beauty. I made some dinner on my little stove and watched the egrets and squirrels and felt grateful to have discovered this little spot.