Friday, June 10, 2016

Mangos and more...

We went to Trader Joe's this morning (I love the Pickle Popcorn) and since it appears that the Trader has gone nuts over mangos this month, I picked up some Mango Salt Water Taffy. This is really good! No, I don't work for Trader Joe's but I am a devoted fan.

Back to the mangos. With Trader Joe's advertising of mango everything, a memory of Hawai'i came to me. It was 1999 and again I had to spend a week in our Honolulu office. As usual it was a great place to work. I was able to order manapua for lunch each day and I had a hotel room in the Ala Moana hotel, high above the city. Also, I had made plans to take my vacation starting right after my assignment here. My wife was coming over in a weeks time and we would then stay in the company condominium until it was time to fly to the Big Island. I had searched the web for a place to stay and since I wanted to avoid the tourists, I found a small residential area hotel in Hilo, the Dolphin Bay. I made reservations without noticing the fact that the hotel had no telephone or internet connections. While I worked the secretarial staff adopted my wife found things for her to do during the day and then invited us to dinner parties at night. All great memories. Then it was time to get on the inter island airline and fly to the Hilo airport. It was a small plane and there were few passengers, maybe 20 or so. There was a couple seated in the row across from us and I couldn't help but overhear their conversation and from what I heard, they were assuming that this plane was going to the Kona airport. Sure  enough, when the pilot announced that we were just 10 minutes away from landing at Hilo, the couple rang for the flight attendant. It was quickly determined that, yes, they were on the wrong plane. And, yes, the flight attendant had made a mistake by not noticing the incorrect tickets. What to do? The attendant said that they could rent a car (the airline would pay for it) and drive to Kona or they could stay on the plane and fly back to Oahu and then take the next flight to Kona and refund the cost of the ticket It was finally decided that the couple was going to fly back to Oahu. The whole situation was handled with smiles and laughter...the island way!

We found the Dolphin Bay hotel and it was in the middle of a residential area. It was just a two story hotel, much like a condo. There was a nice kitchen and the rooms were large. In back of the hotel was a small jungle area with a path through it. It was owned by the hotel and once you stepped into the 'jungle' you were removed from the local civilization.

With our suitcases unpacked I went to find a place to plug in my portable modem for my laptop. It was then that I discovered that I was cut off. Then I saw a note that said if you really need a telephone, there was one in the managers office but not after 9 PM or before 7 AM. I decided to do my best to enjoy this break from my 24 hour a day electronic leash. Another note told us that fresh mangoes and bananas for breakfast were available at the office. The next morning I walked down to the office and there was a large stalk of bananas hanging from the eaves and a basket filled with mangoes. I picked four of the bananas and took two mangoes. Back at our kitchen, I peeled the mangoes and sliced them. Bananas and mangoes were a real treat for breakfast. The bananas were the small tropical variety with a taste that you wish a a market banana had. Both items were so fresh and delicious that we looked forward to making the walk down to the managers office each day. Sometimes there was banana bread as well. And when the banana stalk was almost empty of its treasure, another one was put in its place.

More later  

(I see that the hotel now advertises that wifi is available. I guess they they had to give in. I would give the hotel 5 stars for people who are not looking for luxury but wish to enjoy the island without being insulated from real life on this beautiful island)

Thursday, June 9, 2016


As noted in my last post I had voted before election day. The results are pretty much as I had predicted (to myself). After the election here in California the Republicans are in wore shape than ever before. They took a beating because of the Hispanic voting bloc. The state is now 40% Hispanic and the Republican Party here hasn't figured that out yet. In the Red county that I live in the majority of voters are still Republican. But it is slipping and I can see this county becoming Purple in the next decade. The Central Valley of California has always been reliably Republican because it's economic base is agriculture. Some of the wealthiest people in California live in this hot and dusty valley. The hired help they all use is 99% Hispanic but they can be depended upon to not vote or not vote against the wishes of their employer. They want those jobs. The Democratic Party has mostly abandoned their efforts in the valley; they can use the money more profitably in the Democratic  coastline.

This city never saw Hillary. Bill Clinton came to Redding; an hour away. But Bernie came to Chico and held a rally at Chico State University. The Universities have been good to Bernie but that is not where the reliable voters are. And now it's over for him. I thing we can expect a concession in the day after the D.C. vote is counted. But Hillary would be foolish if she doesn't offer him an important position. If she doesn't, the students won't even bother to vote. They will have been convinced that all mainstream politicians are crooks and liars. She should think about the fact that Bernie has the power to hold on to a large segment of voters. Without him they will just go home and sit this one out.

On a different note; It looks as if the recent corticosteroid injection has failed to do the job. Two days after the injection and I had some fearsome pain and had to rely on my cane. It was the level of pain I used to have seven years ago and just before the second surgery that relieved me of the pain. I was hoping I would never experience that again. That kind of pain has come and gone during the past five days but it has never gone away. As usual, it is worse during the afternoon and evening hours.

It 's time to go play some Rummy and stop thinking for awhile...

Friday, June 3, 2016

I voted

Yes, I voted without anyone seeing my face or examining my birth certificate, passport or drivers license. I did have to put a stamp on the envelope so my DNA could be recovered from the stamp...if anyone was so inclined to pursue any case of voter fraud. There has never been any cases of voter fraud here, even though we have immigrants and Mexican nationals living right here among us...

I have to stop. This whole voter registration blockade just makes me furious! How dare they stop people from voting?

Well, we have made the news around here. Bernie Sanders was in town to speak at a rally. This was a real surprise as this is a deep red county. The city is probably purple. But where Bernie spoke, the university, the crowd was mostly blue. Thank goodness for the students. The combined rural and city population is close to 100,000 and they had to move the rally from the auditorium to an outside venue because of the size of the crowd.

You might think that I'm a Bernie supporter from my comments so far. But I am so divided on this election. I admire and dislike Hillary. The same for Bernie. But who can make their presidency a slam dunk? Who will be guaranteed a win over Trump? At this moment in time it looks like Trump is beating himself. He is his own worst enemy and he doesn't know it. And if any of his staff knows it , I'm certain they are afraid to tell him.  I keep looking for him to be caught in something that is unforgivable. I'm sure it's there to be found.

I was looking for someone with the class and intellect of Obama. Michelle would be my choice but she is wise enough to know not to go down that road. Oh well, it was a dream.

On another note; I had an injection of a corticosteroid into my left hip. It seems to have calmed things down. The pain is not completely gone and now that it is close to dinner time, the pain has increased. It has nothing to do with dinner, it's just the time of day I'm concerned with. I had the same injection last August and it only lasted a few months. Then, in October, the recurring pain was diagnosed as something different and I had more injections in different places and they didn't do anything for me. In the meantime, I was taking opiates on a regular basis. Not too many, but more than none is a cause for me to worry. And of course, over a period of time, the Norco became unable to block the pain. Now, I haven't had enough pain to warrant taking anything during the past 32 hours. Before this last injection the pain was nonstop and I was becoming more and more depressed. I haven't painted in a month or more. Perhaps this time the injection will work and work for more than a few months.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

No news

My last epidural injections were a failure. I will see the 'pain doc' again on the 1st with hopes that she can come up with something to remove this pain from my life. The pain just sucks the energy out of me. And I've had 8 years of it.

There's the complaining. Now for a mention of what I'm doing when I'm not complaining. It's not much; I'm still working on the family photographs. And when I'm not doing that I am tracing our family tree. Is it 'tracing'? That doesn't sound right. Let's say I'm finding out about our ancestors.

I need to find some photos of our time on the "Big Island'. That is my favorite among the three I've visited. We rented an apartment (weekly) in Hilo and I was smart enough to not rent a convertible that time. It rains quite a bit in Hilo...

I'll get to that as soon as I find the photos.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Back to square one...

I just finished re-registering to vote. I have been an Independent voter for a long time, having left the Democratic Party about ten years go. And before today, primary votes weren't all that important. The candidates were chosen long before the primary season ended. Not this year!

Luckily, I can register or re-register to vote by using the California web site for registration. It took me all of five minutes to become a Democrat again. And since it's so easy, I will become Independent after elections are over.

I left the Democrats because they were giving up their liberal roots and heading to the middle. Now I'm stuck for a choice among the Democrats. Hillary has been accused of everything from theft to murder. None of the charges have ever stuck and I see most of that as misogynistic mud flinging. I'm certainly not opposed to having a woman as President. Her gender doesn't enter into my decisions. But her cozy relations with big business is not to my liking. Now Bernie has a lot of truth in all that he says. And I would support him if he was not running against Trump. I don't think he has he 'political' strength to win against him. Right now I will be voting for Hillary though she is not my favorite. My favorite isn't even running, In fact, I don't even know my favorite's name yet. I hope to know it for the 2020 elections.

Back to the voter registration process...I think everyone would agree that voter registration is a mess all over the 50 states. I would like to see a law that mandates the states must use a federal standard for voter registration if the election is a federal one. If it's a state, county or city election, then they can use any old rules they want. But if it's federal, everyone should have a voice and in some states that voice has been taken away by registration laws meant to discourage voting by the poor. Republicans would re-instate poll taxes if they could...or go all the way back to colonial times when you had to own land if you wanted to vote. Yes, this has been suggested again.      

Some more tropical island stuff...

It's been awhile since my last post and in that time I've found out that the last epidural injections into various & sundry vertebra has been unsuccessful. This is the second failure. I will see the pain doc in a few weeks and we'll discuss our options. In the meantime, life goes on.

As I've stated many times before, I have a huge collection of images. And the range of subjects is from A to Z. I simply collect them. The favorites are images of historical objects or projects, such as building Boulder Dam, The building of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the famous Denny Regrade of Seattle, building Grand Coulee Dam, the San Francisco earthquake and on and on...building railroad bridges in Alaska? Yes, I have those. Images of the early trolley system of San Francisco? Of course I have them. Billboards located in New Jersey? I've got them! 300 plus images of ash trays. True. I could go on and on as I have close to 17,000 images. I have ASD, or autism spectrum disorder and collecting is important to me. Not because of the subjects as much as it's about the collecting itself.

Anyway...I was looking through my collections this morning. (the images are located on the clouds of Amazon, Google and Flickr) I ran across some photos of our younger selves as we were vacationing on the island of Kauai. Two weeks ago, in this blog, I had talked about our getting on a plane in Oahu and departing for Kauai. I will continue...

We landed at the small airport in Lihue and found our way over to the Avis car rental counter. I began to order my usual business class vehicle, a 4 door cheap car. The salesman interrupted me and told me that I could have a Chrysler convertible for $5 a day cheaper than the one I was planning on. A convertible? A beautiful island and a convertible seemed to go together so I agreed. Did they have a red one? Yes, they did! Of course I ordered that one. When we went out to put our luggage in the car I noticed that the Avis lot was filled with Chrysler convertibles. They must must had 50 of them! No wonder it was such a bargain.

Now I had to find my way to our vacation hotel. I had ordered a room based on an ad in the Yellow pages. The ad stated that the hotel overlooked Nawiliwili Bay and that was not too far away from the airport.

The first order of business was to drop the top of the car so that we could really enjoy the tropical air. A quick look at the map and we left the airport. 15 minutes later we were pulling into the parking lot of the Garden Island Inn. If you click on the link above, you can see that it is a very nice hotel. We didn't know any of that when we went to check in. And as we were doing that, the manager wanted to know if we would be interested in renting their finest suite; the Lanai Suite? He described it and gave me a price that astonished me; just $90+ a day. That was just $10 more than the room I had reserved. I took it! The suite was located directly over the managers office and took up the whole upper floor of one wing. It had two bedrooms, a 'living' room, a kitchen and a lanai. When you opened the large sliding doors to the lanai, it felt as if the whole suite was open to the Pacific. It was magnificent. And we could see the Marriott across the way, where the guests had the same view as we did  and they were paying 3 times as tips. I had been in that particular Marriott before and knew just how sterile it felt.

For some reason, I've always had good luck when choosing the 'different' hotel when traveling. I have always tried to stay away from the big chain hotels like Marriott.

Here on Kauai we were quite free to wandering on the immaculate grounds of the Marriott and here's a photo of the harbor from the 9th hole of their golf course. No, I wasn't playing. In fact, no one was on the course and we were free to wander. The golfing guests must have been relaxing in their air conditioned rooms.

We had places to go and see but we had no guide. So we just drove and turned here and there as we felt moved to. If the road looked interesting, we turned onto it. And in this way, we found a small shopping center that had a restaurant that looked promising. And it was good! We had a wonderful brunch while sitting outside on their lanai. I can't tell you how to get there and I don't remember the name of the place.

After more exploration we decided to visit Waimea Canyon the next day; early. And so we did, driving up the twisting road ascending the mountain while in a tropical jungle. Then the vegetation seemed to thin out and change as climbed higher. I pulled over at an overlook and Laurae took this photo of me sitting in our red car.

By the way, we saw dozens upon dozens of these red cars. Avis was doing well here.

Below are more photos of the island and one of Laurae as we made our way to the top. And at the top we found fog and cold air. Up went the top of the car and we put the heater on. We found a small cafe selling coffee and we stopped there to check our map and decide on a route out of the cold.

Here Laurae is braving the cold air as we looked down on the beautiful island.  You can see the fog lurking right behind her.

Somewhere in my photo collection I have photos of Waimea canyon and it is very beautiful.

 We had four days on the island and then it was time to fly back to Oahu and then take our flight back to San Francisco and Sacramento. In those four days we ate well, slept well and relaxed while visiting all of the usual tourist spots. It's a beautiful island and we would love to come back But I would have to have the deluxe suite at the Garden Island Inn booked and waiting for us. Plus a red convertible!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

In the past

I enjoy genealogy. I think I started back in 2004 with a visit to Ancestry dot com. Isn't that where everyone starts? Then it was an on again, off again, relationship with my dead ancestors. I may have mentioned this hobby of mine in an ancient post here. I don't think I'll go looking for it. Trust me. I did post something. I believe it was about 'Black Agnes', the Scottish noblewoman who defended the family castle successfully. She was an ancestor of mine; or so my amateur sleuthing tells me.

Last week I was looking up many of the 'Seymour' family trails (my paternal grandmother 'Nana' was a Seymour) and found that I had a very well known (at the time) ancestor that had started a war; all by himself. That was "King Phillip", a Sachem of the Wampanoag tribe, and the war was aptly named the King Phillip's War. My great uncle was Wamsutta, also known as Alexander Pokanoket, as he was called by New England colonists, was the eldest son of Massasoit Ousa Mequin of the Pokanoket Tribe and Wampanoag nation. King Phillip and the foolish colonists were responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 colonists and 6,000 Indians from various tribes. Their actions removed the Wampanoag people from memory until just a little over 100 years ago. 40% of the Wampanoags were killed and the remainder sold into slavery. But 'King Phillip' had a daughter, Ann Phillip, who was married to John Starkweather. They had a daughter, Mary Starkweather, who married John Stanton.  And they had a daughter, Lydia and on and on it went until I became the 9th great grandson of King Phillip.
If it hadn't been for the attitude of the colonists, (they didn't think they should pay for the land) the whole war could have been averted.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

More from the islands or Hawai'i lll

After I had been on Oahu for about a week I had completed most of my analysis of the costs involved in the contracts that the company had on the books. I only had a few more jobs to look at and I already knew that, ultimately, our company would purchase them. We had branch offices all around the country but to have one in Hawai'i was pretty exciting...for me. I would be the one to set up the estimating system on their computers and then train the estimator(s). And so that was what happened. I flew home after two weeks and then there was the normal grind of getting on an airplane every Monday morning and returning every Friday night as I went from one boring branch office to another. Okay, it wasn't that bad, but I did dream of returning to Oahu and made tentative plans to, somehow. make that trip into a vacation for my wife and I.

My oldest daughter had been to the island of Kauai once and had told us that she thought it was the most beautiful place on earth. Okay. I knew that what I had seen of the island during my 6 hour trip some month ago had made me want to explore that small piece of tropical paradise further. I made that part of my tentative plans.

A few more months went by and then I received the call I had been waiting for. The deal had gone through and the business on Oahu was now another branch office of ours. And I was needed there to begin training! I called them and made the arrangements to meet with the estimator. Then I called my wife and told her that it had happened and we were going to Hawai'i; Kauai to be exact. I was going to be in the Oahu office for a week and then she would fly over on a Friday. I would meet her at the airport and we would go the inter island airline and fly off to Kauai. I already had a return ticket and had just changed the departure time to coincide with my wife's round trip departure. Perfect!

Off to Oahu and this time I would stay at the Ala Moana Hotel as the small Japanese hotel had no vacancies. When I got off the plane I made my way, confidently, through the airport, over to the car rental and then to the office. I was not a tourist anymore. I was a businessman. Okay, that's not quite true. It's very hard to be 'all business' when you are in Hawai'i. Driving down Ala Moana Blvd. I smelled the sweet air from the trade winds and enjoyed the most temperate climate. No AC for me.

I renewed my friendship with the office staff. We were now equals as our company was all employee owned. Then I set up the computers with our system and prepared for the first day of training. Tomorrow. I had spent 5 hours sitting on a plane and I was not going to spend another 5 hours sitting in an office.

I decided to visit the world famous Ala Moana Shopping Center. It was close enough to my hotel for me to walk there and I did. And then I walked all over the shopping center. It was a fascinating place as all of the pricing was in Japanese Yen first with the dollar equivalent below that. I noticed that I towered over 90% of the customers. At this time, Hawai'i was the premier honeymoon destination for Japanese newlyweds. It was during this time that I noticed someone taller than I, and I'm 6'-2". This man was tall, bronzed and was wearing a dark green 'lavalava', which is a sarong for men from Polynesian or Oceanic societies. He was very impressive looking and obviously Polynesian. I began to wonder if I could pull that off? Could I wear a lavalava to the office the next day? I came to my senses and decided that it wasn't the look for me.

That evening I drove down to Waikiki to see the sights. I also wanted to see the sand from Manhattan Beach CA. Yes, the sand at Waikiki came from Manhattan Beach, my hometown. Monied interests had come to Manhattan in the 20's and made a deal for barge loads of sand to be delivered to Waikiki as the sand there was not of the quality and quantity needed for the frontage of the luxury hotels there. It's hard to imagine towing barges filled with sand across thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean.

The next day it was back to business and I began my training sessions. This was always hard work as I had to convince an estimator that the spreadsheet program they had used for years was going to be dumped and replaced by some unknown software. In my time as a trainer and part of a software development team I had learned that most estimators considered the PC to be an unnecessary desk ornament. Hawai'i was no different and I had to struggle all week to convince the estimator that the software would help him and not hinder him. We made plans to come back in 3 months time.

In the meantime, I had vacation plans! I made my way to the airport and dropped off my car. My wife's plane was on time and we were soon in the air again, on our way to Kauai, where I had made a reservation at a small hotel that I had found via the Yellow Pages...

More later...

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hawai'i Too

Here's an addition to the memories of Hawai'i that I began writing about a few posts back. When I put an end to that post I was sitting on the patio of a small hotel in the middle of Waikiki while enjoying breakfast.

It was time to go back to work. I went to the basement where it was parked. A hotel with parking is a rare luxury in Waikiki. Then I joined the stream of commuters on Ala Moana Blvd on their way to work. With all the slow moving traffic around me I could be in the middle of a Los Angeles freeway. I found my way back to the office and met the estimator and superintendent of the company we were thinking of acquiring. The plan was for me to accompany the superintendent to all the jobs in progress and we would start with a hotel remodel on the island of Kaua'i. I don't remember his name now so I will call him 'John'. John went to the files and pulled out a book of plane tickets. For inter-island flights, the airline sell books of tickets to frequent flyers. Quite a few Hawaiians treat the airlines as if they were a bus line. They may live on one island and work on another.

It was a 15 minute flight and we landed at Lihue and rented a car. The hotel was quite close by. We parked and we took the construction elevator up to the top. The crews were remodeling the hotel rooms to become condo's. The hotel had been hit hard by Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Insurance settlements were tied up in court and all that time (5 years) the hotel had been closed up. Mold was growing everywhere, like black moss on all  the walls. All the hardware, like door knobs and hinges were corroded so badly that opening them was difficult.

I made my assessment of the work to be done and we found ourselves with 3 hours to spend before the next flight back to Honolulu. John, who was a native of Kaua'i offered to drive me around and show me some of beautiful sights on this small island. One of the first things of note were the blue tarps on the roof of quite a few houses. John said that the insurance money to replace the roofs was often spent on other things. Then we drove up the mountain to Waimea Canyon. It was an amazing place to visit; the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific". It didn't seem to take very long and it was time to get back to the airport. I knew that I wanted to come back sometime in the near future.

Another memory: John spoke with a Hawaiian accent and he spoke 'pidgin' as well. Oddly enough, I welcomed it. In 1978 I was fresh from L.A and looking for a job in Reno NV. A new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino was being built in Reno. Odd again, I knew the superintendent that was hiring. I had hired him about 10 years previous when I was in Reno to build a department store. Small world. Once we did all the handshaking and reminiscing, he hired me to be a foreman on the job. Also odd' we were working for a Hawaiian construction company, Oahu Interiors. I was going to be doing layout work on the hotel and the crew I would be working with were all from Hawai'i. And they all spoke pidgin. Within a few weeks I was speaking it as well. I tried speaking it at home but was quickly overruled by my wife. Also, it turned out that John and I knew a lot of the people I knew in Reno. Small world once again.

The next day I went out with John and we went to the Hawai'i State Capitol building. It was being remodeled from top to bottom and John had a crew working on it. It was a very impressive building and we toured it from top to bottom. I was struck by the use of Koa wood throughout. Every office had every desk and chair and table and cabinet and door made from the beautiful wood from the Acacia Koa tree. There must have been a million dollars worth of Koa in the building.

We left the building and stood in the inner courtyard of the building. The architecture was amazing! And then I noticed how hot it was becoming. I was sweating! John explained that since the walls of the building cut us off from the prevailing Trade Winds, we had lost the natural air conditioning that they brought with them. That is why the lanai was a vital part of the architecture here.  Then I remembered the airport at Kauai and the fact that none of the outer walls came up to the roof level. Air was free to come over the top of the walls and cool the airport. I imagine that they have blocked that air movement since 9/11.

We went back to the office just in time for lunch and I was introduced to Manapua, a steamed pork or  chicken bun. That's just a rough description. Truth is, they were heavenly! I ate Manapua every day for the 2 weeks that I was there. Someone in the office would volunteer to go to the box lunch place up the road and bring back our orders every day. I went a few times and was surprised to see that it just a joint in a strip mall. It may have been a joint but they sure could cook.

After lunch and until dark, I was stuck in my temporary office, calculating the projected costs versus the contract amounts for the projects I had reviewed. From my desk, if I leaned forward and turned my head to the right, I could see a small section of blue sky and the occasional cloud. My view of Paradise!

I should mention that on my second or third day in Hawai'i I left the office just before it was dark and drove up to the Pali. I had read about it and just had to see it. I pulled into the parking area and I was the only one there. I walked up the path to the overlook and was amazed at the view. I could see lights beginning to turn on in far off Kaneohe. What sun was left was being filtered through dark clouds on the horizon. The cliffs of the Pali had an other worldly look to them and I could easily imagine the slaughter that took place there, so many years ago. I stayed there until it was dark; enjoying every minute of my solitude.


Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Growing old

A large part of the growing old experience for me has been an increase in the stories I remember. Not fiction, but memories of the events that were important (at the time) in my life. I'm becoming one of those old men that can tell you a story at the drop of a hat. (drop of a hat? where does that old phrase come from?)

For instance; Mr. Blue, the proprietor of life on peach eater creek has been sharing photos of his recent trip to Hawai'i and the island of Oahu. As I viewed the photos and read the story I was transported back to the days when I was visiting the islands. I didn't have the usual tourist experience as I was there on 'business'.

At this juncture in my life I was in transition from being an estimator/project manager for a very large construction company to becoming a software developer/IT specialist/instructor/go'fer for the same company. I was leaving the estimating job behind...and leaving The Boss from Hell (TBH) behind as well.

I was working from home at the time and I received a phone call from the CFO of the company. We were friends because of our shared interest in computers and spreadsheets. Lotus 1-2-3 to be exact; the only spreadsheet around at that time. Out of the blue he asked me if I would be available to fly to Honolulu the next day. I was silent for a moment as I tried to process this request. So he explained that the company was thinking about buying a similar construction company that was for sale in Honolulu and he wanted someone (me) to visit some of the jobs they had contracts for and see if the jobs had any chance of being profitable. I would visit the jobs with their superintendent and then go over their estimates. Would I be interested? Sure!

He told me to go to the airport the next day, early, and pick up my tickets. They were one way tickets as we didn't know how long I was going to be needed. Now I had to pack a bag...and tell my wife when she came home from work. My going away to distant locations for jobs had always been part of our life; I wasn't worried about her reaction to the news. Well, maybe I was a little bit worried. After all, my destination was a tropical isle and not New Jersey or Bakersfield. She might have something to say about that...

The next day came and I found myself on a 747 flying over the water. Lots and lots of water. Hours of blue water.  Our travel department had secured me an exit row window seat and so I was quite comfortable and after 5 hours I was able to see the small speck in the ocean ahead of us that quickly grew to 'island size' as the pilot began turning and descending. I recognize Diamond Head from the pictures I had seen. I saw Pearl Harbor and then we were taxi'ing up to the gate. My friend had told me that it was faster to walk to baggage claim than to wait for the wiki wiki bus and so I did. This was when I first noticed that the air smelled 'sweet'. A wonderful smell that I later learned came from the Trade Winds that constantly blow across the islands. Those same winds bring beautiful white clouds that accent the tropical blue sky. I was simply amazed! 24 hours earlier I had been laboring over some spreadsheets and here I paradise!

I rented a car and followed the directions to the office located in an industrial area close to the airport. Here I met my friend and was introduced to all the management and office staff. All very friendly.  Then I was given a space to call my 'office' and a stack of plans and specifications. No time to waste; it was time to get busy and review these plans because I was going to have to go with their superintendent to some of these jobs tomorrow. Okay...

After some time, my friend came in and said to call it a day, it was 7 PM, and he gave me directions to my hotel. It was in Waikiki, about 15 minutes away without traffic and an hour away during rush hour. I finally found the hotel, a small 4 story hotel with very tall neighbors on each side. It was a hotel that catered to Japanese tourists and it was sized to fit right in to a hotel district in Tokyo. Everything about the hotel was diminutive. Very clean and very charming. Breakfast was free and served outside on a patio.

I remember sitting there, enjoying the calm of this secluded patio. There were Palm trees and other tropical plants around me. The air was the perfect temperature and it smelled sweet. I was hooked!

I will write some more about this time in another post.


Plus and minus.

      Time Goes By has an interesting subject this morning and I joined in with my comments. Below is an expanded version of what I said....    

       I retired at age 64 (I'm now 75) because I could not stand the thought of another week of flying to and from, here and there, and then sleeping in a motel for the week followed by another week just like the week before. Only the airports and motels changed and after awhile they all became the same. Even the Phoenix Inn in Lake Oswego (home of The Crabby Old Lady) became boring. They were also the first to call me by my first name when I walked through the door. I dreaded seeing the blue airport shuttle pull up in front of the house...
       I thought that retirement would be my salvation from a job I had come to hate, and retirement would deliver the perfect life I had dreamed of. Sure enough, the job I hated soon faded from memory. That was a good thing. I had begun race walking (the silly walk) before my retirement and now I could devote myself to the sport. I had completed one marathon and many half marathons, 5K's and 10k's. I planned and competed in 4 more marathons. 2 of them in Portland, one in the Redwoods of California and one in Anchorage Alaska. We were going to explore the USA by car and by marathon. Yes, I do know that I had to get on a plane to visit Anchorage. Then, at age 68, my body gave out. Before my office days, I had spent 30 years working in construction. I worked in steel framing and drywall (a job I loved) and because of that physical abuse I've now had 4 back surgeries and the pain is still with me. I take pain meds on a regular basis. I had epidural injections 3 weeks ago and they failed to stop the pain. I've now been taking pain meds for 8 years.
      But not all is negative. I returned to art and began to paint regularly. I sold a few paintings and then, 3 months ago, I was given a show and my art was seen by lots of people. I was interviewed for the University newspaper.  I paint even more now. That part of retirement has been fulfilling; creating something of value and something that is appreciated by others.
      Next week I will be having another round of epidural injections. So, I'm not giving up and I feel  the positives of retirement simply outweigh the negatives.

Friday, April 1, 2016

What I remember. And what I don't...

Weird happenings. For me. I went to my neurologist this week to hear the results of my MRI brain scan. With some relief I heard that I did not have Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus. What is happening is my brain shrinking (they all do) and the ventricles don't. The ventricles have not enlarged as first thought to be the case.

While at the doctor's office I had to have a 'brain health' test. This is done yearly and it is meant to show early signs of dementia and other terrible diseases. I was doing fine, I thought, with just minor mistakes. Then it was time to 'identify'. The assistant would point to an object and ask me to tell her what it was. Again, I thought I was doing fine...until she pointed to an object hanging from a hook on the door. What was it? I didn't have a clue, yet I knew that I should know what it was. I tried and tried to dredge up the name of the object without any luck. She finally relented and told me that it was a stethoscope. Yes! Suddenly it was clear to me. But why this object, an object that I wore around my neck when I was in the Navy? How could I forget that? Even with that error on my part I was told not to worry and that I had done better this year than last.  

The doctor also told me that he wanted a MRI of my neck. Less than a month ago my neurosurgeon had me have an MRI of the upper and lower back. Followed by the MRI brain scan a week later. That's three MRI's in a month. Once I had the spinal cord stimulator removed, it seems as if everyone wanted to se more of me...internally. The neurologist wants to see if there is any narrowing of the vertebra within the neck and if so that could explain why I am sometimes unsteady. If I don't hear from him, that means all is well and he will see me in six months.

I know that's too much 'medical talk' for this blog. But 'medical' describes our lives lately. If lately means the past year. Appointments, appointments and more appointments. We looked at our tax form and we spent over $18,000 for medical last year. And that is with Medicare and a supplemental. So don't ever tell me that I'm lucky to be getting the free Medicare and that everyone else is paying for my health care. Not! These figures just made me  fully aware of just how deficient Medicare is. I can pay the $18k but what about the elders that can't? Why don't we have universal healthcare? We could, but it would upset some Generals and the defense industry.

Speaking of art. I wasn't but I will. I'm finally going to have my gallery wall(s). My son-in-law is coming over on Sunday to get up on the ladder and hang the high work. The living room wall is 12' high and I'm devoting 5' plus of that height to art. The wall is also about 18' long and I'm using 12' of it. We arranged all the art on the floor and then I took photos of our arrangement; I think it will speed up the process.

Since I didn't sell any of my large pieces, they will take up a good portion of the wall. I do love to paint 'large. But what do you do with them afterwards? I would like to sell (some of) them but opportunities are rare. Yesterday, I went to Aaron Bros to pick up some earthquake adhesive to anchor the frames so they are level and stay that way. And while I was there, I saw that they were having a sale on canvas. I tried to say no but I came out of the store with three 30"x48" canvasses. Three beautiful blank white canvasses! Now I need some inspiration...

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Big Gulp

I have always had a love/hate relationship with the aqueduct that drained the Owens Valley for real estate interests in the San Fernando Valley. This happened at the turn of the century (the 19th to the 20th centuries) It started this way; our family started making yearly trips to Lake Tahoe back in the late 1940's, and to make that journey, we traveled on highway US 395, from Mojave to the Mt. Rose turnoff in Reno. We passed Manzanar on the way and Mom and Dad told us the sad story of that place. And Dad also told us the story of the great water theft that created the huge dry lake we passed in the Owens Valley. This was once Owens Lake and the Owens Valley was home to many pear and apple orchards. William Mulholland and the water authority of Los Angeles quietly bought as many of these orchards as they could by offering lots of money for them. The orchards came with water rights, of course. And that was what Mulholland was buying. Once they enough of them they declared their intention to build an aqueduct to convey the water south. The other farmers quickly sold out as fast as they could because without water, they were doomed. The City of Los Angeles now owned the Owens Valley. This story and others are deemed fables by the pro water groups and it has become a sore subject all around.

The years went by and the trips along US 395 were more frequent as my Dad and I would go north for the spring opening day of the trout season. And there were always more stories about the great aqueduct. Then, one fall day, I went with some friends to do some Chukar hunting on the slopes above the Owens Valley and close to Ridgecrest. Driving to our campsite, we passed over aqueduct, almost buried in the ground below the dirt road. Later, I walked back to the aqueduct and followed it to a place where it was fully exposed and I stood upon it. It's very large! And standing there, I was amazed to think that this 'pipe', so full of water, was  delivering all that water, 24/7, to L.A. This part I hated.

What I loved was the incredible project this aqueduct was. Men built this when electrically powered tools were non existent. This was an era of steam and mule power. They built this over rugged terrain that should have stopped them. They drilled through rock and created huge iron siphons to move the water up the hills. It took them many years, 1908 to 1913, but they were successful.

I've been collecting pictures of the construction of the aqueduct for years. Collecting helps to satisfy the ASD portion of who I am. Maybe I can pass the photos on to a curious grandchild, or maybe not. In the meantime I am enjoying the process.

In the photo above you can see Owens Lake. At one time there was regular steamboat freight service on the lake.

Here is a photo showing the famous Jawbone Canyon siphon. You can see a man standing near it on the left side of the huge pipe.

The 'pipe' section of the aqueduct was made by connecting short sections together by riveting. You can see the connections below. And each section was delivered by rail to a siding and then transferred to a wagon drawn by a 10 mule team. Then transferred to a custom made rail system that was constructed next to the aqueduct. That was then towed to the end and then riveted on. I've seen photos of these sections with a car inside of them to demonstrate their size.

With that amount of water being drawn out of the valley, it wasn't long before the lake was gone as well as all of the ranches.  

Now, with poetic justice being done, Los Angeles has been forced to flood the lake with a very shallow amount of water because the dust that was created in the dry lake was shown to be toxic, with a concentration of heavy metals and salts. It's a very small amount of water and it only has to cover some troublesome spots and not the entire lake bed.

Go to to find these photos and many, many more.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The War on America by Americans

Speaking of magazines, I just finished an article in the New Yorker, 'The Bidding War' by Matthieu Aikins. The article details the corruption in the military as they threw money away during the Afghan War. Lots and lost of money. General Petraeus called money another weapons system and encouraged the spending of vast amounts. Simple theory was that the money would trickle down (where have we heard that theory before?) and raise the living standards of the average Afghan who subsisted on less than $200 a year.

Some notes from the article; the Afghan War has gone on for 15 years. A war, and a General or two that were handpicked by the Republicans. During the 15 years, Congress has appropriated $800 BILLION dollars to pay for it. $800 billion? I can't even imagine that much money. What does it look like? A $113 billion was spent for 'reconstruction'. That's more money than was spent on the Marshall Plan after WWII.

A lot of the money was spent to hire civilian contractors to do the dangerous little jobs, like trucking, so that the soldiers would be safe. An admirable thing to do! By June of 2010 there were 107,000 contractors. Today, those contractors outnumber the troops by 3 to 1. The US spent $87 billion on contractors between 2007 to 2014.  

The article is really about one trucking contractor, Hikmatullah Shadman. And as you read the article and see how much money was thrown away, you would have a hard time thinking that Hikman was guilty of anything. I know that I don't. But what I am certain of is the guilt of all the Americans that subverted that money for their own purposes. And there are hundreds; ranging from Generals to Privates. 115 US troops have been convicted of theft, fraud and etc. That's not enough. Petraeus should be doing time as well...

It's too much!

I don't have time for this! I'm inundated by magazines again. I do this every 4 or 5 years. I'm coasting along, reading one magazine a week. Fine. Then I see a special deal on a subscription; only $1 an issue for 12 issues! Now I have two and I'm still comfortable. Once again the "can't pass it up" subscription shows up and now I have 3; but it's also a monthly so I'm confident that I can handle it. But, I'm an artist and I spot some magazines at the Art Center and decide that I need reading material that will speak to my interests. 3 more. Then one day, my brain decides to do some searching for memorabilia and I see old car enthusiasts magazine. I used to be very interested in old cars and before I can stop myself I have subscribed to 2 of their publications. Now I'm getting worried. I have stacks of unread magazines. And yesterday, a magazine, "Modern", shows up uninvited. Where did that come from? To add to the confusion, a friend keeps bringing me his used Scientific American magazines. I love them, but where do they fit in?

I guess I'll have to wait them out and cancel them one at a time; at the renewal date. But you do know what they use to keep me? Yes, a much better deal than the first time. 13 issues at just 85 cents an issue! But only if you act right now!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Serious thoughts

I don't remember where I found this article but I'm glad I did. It's an article on the rise of authoritarianism. Here is the link... American Authoritarianism
It's a lengthy article. Be prepared to read it as if it were an article in the New Yorker.

Friday, March 4, 2016

No Sale

The art show is almost over and I will be taking the unsold art work home on Saturday. I was interviewed by a reporter from the Orion, the university newspaper on Tuesday morning and the article came out on Thursday; a little late to spark sales I believe. Of course there is always the chance that someone saw the article last night and has decided to visit the gallery today to buy a masterpiece at a bargain price.

There is one buyer here in town that I secretly hope (it's not a secret now, is it?) will stop by and look at my work. He is a private collector here that has donated his collection to the new Museum of Northern California Art, or MONCA. They now have a building that they are renovating and hope to have open in a few years. In the meantime, they are using 'pop up' galleries to display some of his collection and the collection, from what I've seen, is very, very nice. I understand that this collector is still collecting and looks at local offerings on a regular basis. The most expensive painting I have at the gallery is $450 and most are half that amount. I like to think that they affordable.

Since I want to continue painting 'Large' I will have to find a market for my art. I don't have enough walls in the house to display paintings that are 3'x4' at a minimum. I would have to have rotating displays and keep the excess hidden under the beds.

I have been looking at  the possibility of marketing via Saatchi Art On-Line. I think I will be able to have a good chance, or a better chance, of finding an audience for my art. Abstract Expressionism isn't the easiest kind of art to sell. And they only take a 30% commission. You can't beat that!

Sunday, February 28, 2016

If this then that

That's IFTTT.  It's a great site that gives you some simple programming to make your life a little easier and a lot more interesting. You don't have to do the programming; it's all done for you in 'recipes'. My mind isn't all that sharp anymore and so these little 'recipes' do for me what I wish I could do myself...if I could remember to do them. Or remember to remember.

I may have mentioned this site before. I think I started using them about a year ago. And here they are, a year later and still around. I guess that makes them 'successful'.

They have recipes for Mac's and for PC's. Recipes for iOS and for Windows. Apple and Android. The recipes can set your thermostat and /or turn on/off your lights. I have an Ecobee thermostat and I found a recipe that will email/message me whenever the interior temperature reaches 105 degrees. I now have a fire alarm. I can set the temperature for that warning; maybe it should be 100 degrees? I also have a recipe that automatically sends any photo I take to my Dropbox. NASA now sends me the photo of the day. I get a message every time the International Space Station passes overhead. There are 100's of recipes and you may find one or two that will fit you.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Just what I need...

More medical decisions being made by...Governor's? I just read that the GOBC of Governor's has decided that they will be implementing their own rules concerning the use of opioids. The GoodOldBoysClub should keep their hands off and let the physicians handle this. Start giving money to the law enforcement branches that investigate the over prescribing and other violations of the drug laws. That's where it would do some good. But doing this will cost just a fraction of what it would take to do it right. And it's all about the 'budget. The fact that they have ignored this for so long has just made it harder and more expensive to correct. We really don't need another set of laws on top of good laws.

As a patient with long term pain (7 years) I have to worry about the damage these bureaucrats will do to those of us that require pain medications. And no, I am not addicted. After 7 years I take less Norco than I did seven years ago. The pain levels fluctuate over the years and so does the amount of Norco consumed. I was taking Fentanyl once; a very dangerous opioid. Guaranteed to make you 'high'. I told the doctor that I needed something less potent. Recently, about 2 weeks ago, I asked the doctor to reduce the amount of MS Contin I was taking. That's the way it is supposed to work; the doctor and the patient, together, determining the proper dose.

What will I do once the state determines that I've had enough Norco for the month and I need more? Really. Need. More. I know I've written about this problem before but the news article I just read revived my interest. I know that once the pain starts and I'm without a drug to alleviate it, I'm going to be mad. Mad, but without the ability to place some pain on the Governor. Let him experience pain! I guess I will have to start using marijuana. And my Medicare won't pay for it. So it's another expense for an elder on a fixed income. Technically, I can get a medical marijuana card (another expense) and then buy some weed; but not in this county. This county is solid red and redneck and they hassle medical marijuana card holders. "We know what you're really using this grass for! And it's not for any so-called pain!"

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It's time for me to take a break

I'm developing tics. I have moments of rage. I sometimes cry uncontrollably. And all because it's 2016, an election year, and I'm watching the Stoopids explaining their reasoning for voting as they do. No, it's not nice to make fun of the intellectually challenged and so I must find something else to do with my time during these next 9, or is it 8 months? I really don't need to see any political ads. I already have a candidate to vote for. It's the Anti-Stoopid, whoever the Democrats choose.

And then there are the Senators that have chosen, once more, to display the fact that they hate a black man as President. They are willfully deciding to disobey the law and will not even talk to a candidate for Justice of the Supreme Court. I think it's seditious. I think they should be arrested. A 5 million plus majority of Americans voted for Mr. Obama and we want him to do his job; nominate someone for the post of Justice. But to do what they are doing, willfully disobeying the law...a law that was never challenged until these old white men saw a black President; we have become the laughing stock of the world.

Stamp collecting? Maybe that would take my mind off this sorry state of affairs.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Now what?

       As I noted last week,  the art show opening is over  and there were no new red dots/sales over the past week and weekend.  It's just a waiting game for any additional sales and sometime in March I will take the paintings back home. I really want to see a lot of them back on our walls. I have grown to love them. I've been painting to keep myself sane and it's working so far.
        While I was doing nothing the other day, I thought I should have some business cards, and then I thought about what should be printed on those cards. I came up with these ideas...
Steven Dunn, Artist 
Available for the Painting of Murals to Miniatures
Abstract and Abstract Expressionism are our Specialty
Sales and Rentals of Well Mannered Miniature Horses
Certified Dealer in New and Used Samovars. 
I am an Exclusive Dealer For the Troika All Brass Electric Samovar
We buy, sell, trade and swap       
Gently Used Samovars. Email us for an Appraisal
Food Stylist…Reasonable rates. Dinners Only
Curmudgeonly Dock Walloper With Over 20 Years of Experience in the Field

Maybe I should put all of these on a card...using the front and back of course. 

I think I had better go back to my painting.

Scrapping the scrap books

It's early on a Monday morning and I'm busy taking photographs of my scrapbook, page by page. I'm doing this so that I can keep it on my computer as a compilation of JPG files and file it under "Scrapbook", of course. I love scrapbooks and photo albums. And this scrapbook in particular. I may have mentioned it before; it's a scrapbook that contains all sorts of business cards. I saved business cards, starting back in the 1980's. I have a vague memory of one like that that my Dad had and I really wish I had it now, even though it was quite small. But I don't; What I do have are a lot of current business cards as well as old ones and all the expired credit cards I once used. I have all my old drivers licenses. Fishing and hunting licenses. Plastic room keys for hotels I stayed at. Cards from all of my doctors and dentists. Hospitals. I think you get the idea. I have almost filled this very large album and I'm ready to start shopping for a new one. If I have 3 or 4 of any one item, I will begin to collect more. I'm not an active collector of solid objects. I don't sniff out the items I want on Ebay or Craigslist. If they come to me, I take them. That's all.

I have Autism Spectrum Disorder and so collecting comes naturally to me. I'm lucky; I have a wonderful wife and she keeps me and my collections under control and mostly invisible. The collections are invisible, not me. Every once in awhile, she will insist that some items must go and she gives me a good argument as to why they should go...and with some sadness, I will pack them up and take them away. When I was the IT guy for our local branch office I collected electronics. Lots and lots of electronics. Keyboards, monitors, mice and everything in between, plus all the cables that made them work. I was persuaded to surrender them to a local salvage group that was turning the junk into working computers, printers and scanners for the local high school district. I'm down to 2 small boxes now, mostly cables.

The computer has become a wonderful tool for me as a collector. I have folder after folder filled with images of things. I have 67,000 plus images on my Flickr account. Close to the same on my Amazon Prime account. Then there are Google Photos and Dropbox, plus my Apple Cloud account. All filled with thousands upon thousands of images. Did I mention that I also have these images saved on 3 portable hard drives and a couple of 'jump' drives? All of these images help in keeping my collecting under control. A photograph of something is almost as good as having the real thing. Besides, lately I've been collecting images of old steam locomotives; where would I keep one of those? In the backyard? Nope, but I do have over 1,000 images of these beautiful steam driven wonders.

And talk about how easy it is to collect! All I have to do is decide on what I want to collect and then let Google be my guide. Fruit box labels? I have hundreds already but I can always use a few more. And one of my latest; complimentary ash trays. Every hotel room had them. Every bar and restaurant. Every casino. Now I have hundreds of them and I'm looking for more; via Google. My mom and dad had a very small match book cover collection; maybe 50 covers. When it became mine, it was down to half that number. I'm beginning my own collection and it will be huge; maybe 500 MB. Yes, I have car collections. And auto advertising. And auto accessories. Get the idea?

Saturday, February 20, 2016

continuing in the same vein said the phlebotomist

I've been trying to paint recently and it's been terrible. Very bad. Awful. I stink. Up till the time of the show I was creative. I was cranking out good paintings every 3 or 4 days. I was surprising myself with the quality. Then it stopped. The day after the show opened I finished two paintings that I had started earlier. One turned out to be a fine piece, the other, not so much but still worthy of my signature. Right now I have 5 paintings in rotation. I paint over them on a daily basis; wasting paint.

I suppose I shouldn't force it. If I have talent, and I know I have, it will come back. Maybe a change in format would help. The smart thing to do would be to paint small once again. Saves money on canvas and on paint. But I have a large 4'x4' piece of hardboard that I have painted on before. It just needs some bracing on the back of it and I could work on that. I love large paintings and the ones I'm having difficulty with are small, 16x20.

More sunshine here. We had a few days of partial rain, certainly nothing to brag about. Trees are blossoming and it is at least a month early for them. I don't know what this will do to the local money crops of almonds and walnuts.Some ranchers are doing olives and I suppose they will be fine. Olives are not weather dependent. I know the apricots are in trouble. They blossomed a good 5 weeks early and they are a very sensitive crop.

Monday, February 15, 2016

The second one...

I got carried away and posted that last bit of writing just a bit too fast. I had one more painting to describe.

This is a watercolor with pen and ink. It's on a medium weight paper and it's mounted on  a thin piece of Foamcore. It's been banging around the studio for the past 8 years? I think so. It's easily one of my first drawing/paintings.

It had never been in a frame but I found these 80% off frames at Aaron Bros. the other day and $8 for a frame, a neutral looking frame at that, was hard to resist. I bought four of these, 16x20 at $8 each. And two at 10x12 at $6 each. A bargain.

After I framed it, I had to admit that it looked much better. It turned out to be my wife's favorite. Half a dozen people commented as to how much they liked this one and wished they had been there sooner and bought it themselves. Who knew? Anyway, it was titled "Frenzy' and it sold for a $100.

After the Opening

It was a grand opening night. Sort of. I sold two paintings. Or, you could say that I sold three paintings as one was a diptych. They were small paintings and only $100 each. I sold the diptych myself. That doesn't sound right? I sold a painting. Personally. The one I sold was the diptych. I'm sure it's understood now. But, there is a story to go along with the sale. An older gentlemen (younger than me but barely) approached me and asked if I was the artist? I confessed and he said; "There is a painting over there...I guess two of them. And they have the word "space" on them. Are they about space? Or what?" I went with him over to the paintings and explained that "Spaces" was the title of the paintings. That they were watercolors on a heavy watercolor paper (300#). And that the paintings were representative of what is called a 'reflected ceiling plan' in architecture and that I had painted it because I had a long career in the construction industry. I had painted it for fun. Actually, I had painted about 6 but these were the only two I had entered. Now I should mention that this guy had a gruff voice and looked like Broderick Crawford. He looked as if he had had a rough life. He was short and compact with a demeanor that told me that he would be no pushover in a bar room brawl. And so he tells me..."I'm a retired English teacher and a friend of mine is an architect. Would he be able to see that that this was an architectural painting? I want to give it to him as a present". I assured him that any architect would recognize that this painting was inspired by 'blue print' drawings. He thanked me for the information and left. A few minutes later I see him return to the painting; this time he has one of the sales people with him. I watched her put a red dot on the tag next to the painting. I had just sold a painting! A $100 painting. Or, a $70 painting for me and a $30 painting for the gallery. Truth is, 30% is pretty low for a commission in the art world. I heard that it's more commonly 40% or more.

Everything was wrong about these paintings and I was really glad to see them gone. The frames were wrong. I hate frames! The colors are not right. These are watercolors but applied with a very dry brush over a wash that was applied over a pen and ink drawing. It's an embarrassment and it's gone! And I learned another lesson about not judging people until after you have met them. An English teacher? Who would have guessed? Now I'm stuck; it's sort of customary to write a 'thank you' note to the buyer (they can't have the painting till the end of the show) but if he's an English teacher that means he will be scrutinizing my note writing efforts. Will he hand it back to me with errors noted and a grade given, all in red pencil?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Are you kidding me?

In my last posting I complained at the end that my memory was failing due to to the drugs I have been taking. Did I remember that fact? No, I read it on my blog.

I had a great day on Tuesday. I went over the exhibit at the art center with the director, making sure that I was happy with the exhibit. He loved one of my smaller pieces ($100) and said that he would buy it right then if he wasn't an employee. Then he pointed to a larger picture ($600) and said he would buy that one as well...but he can't. He used 32 of my paintings and would have used them all if he had more wall space. I was thrilled. And the pieces looked so good under the professional lighting.

This morning I was having coffee with my daughter and my wife. My daughter mentioned that the childhood home of Jackson Pollock was for sale. What? I didn't even know that he had ever lived here. The house is quite old, built in 1903, but is very well kept. And they only want $9,000,000 for it. Did I mention that comes with a 17 acre almond orchard. Still, that is expensive for an orchard.

Now that I knew that Pollock had once lived here, I knew that I must be 'channeling' him and perhaps I had driven by the house when I painted this one. It's 24"x24" and painted with acrylics on a birch panel. And I want $220 for it. That's a steal!

After coffee it was time for me to visit my nephrologist. Nephrology, or care of the kidneys became an issue about 2 years ago and a nephrologist was recommended for me. Great doctor and we got along right from the beginning. First thing he said was 'drink more water!' 3 visits later and my lab work told him that I would no longer need to see him. That's good! I've been gathering up physicians of every specialty...or so it seemed. And his advise had worked; drinking more water was the primary reason for the change. It seems that elders stop drinking a lot of water as they age. That stresses the kidneys and in turn all the of the other systems. The road leading up to a cardiac event may have had its beginnings in a drop in water consumption. Drink more water! Keep a water bottle with you at all times.

Was I talking about memory recently? Maybe...either way mine is shot. And I'm hoping this is due to a temporary increase in pain meds. I may have to trade memory for pain. Okay; I want my memory back and I'm willing to have some pain for it.

Clumsiness is back as well and once again I'm hoping it is caused by the pain meds. I haven't fallen yet. I have a suspicion, a slight one, that my neurologist may be on the right track. He had looked at a CAT scan of my brain from 4 or 5 years ago and saw what could be symptoms of Normal Pressure Hydrocephaly. He wants an MRI brain scan (March 6th) so he can see the area of suspicion in better detail. The NPH could easily be the cause for the memory problems and the clumsiness...or not. We will see.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Time and time again. Did I say that already?

I have been reading Ronni Bennett's blog this morning and the one I'm reading is the Monday blog. Perhaps, Ronni doesn't get up as early as I do?

That aside, the blog is focused on SSI. I don't know about you, but I think about SSI quite often. That's our Social Security investment. At the age of 16 I was washing dishes at Tai Song, a local Chinese restaurant. That is the first place where I was paid weekly. A real job. It's also the first place where I saw the letters 'SSI' and a dollar figure after it. I knew I had earned that money and now the government (you and I) was taking a portion of it to keep, for safety's sake, until the day I retired. I certainly didn't think that my retirement, at that time, was 48 years ahead of me.

Over the years, the SSI amount changed. I no longer worked at a Chinese restaurant. I worked at a gas station and I worked at a liquor store. The government (you and I) kept taking out that money even when I worked directly for the country. I was in the Navy and at the time, SSI was a bigger part of my wages because the government (you and I) paid me so very little. A large amount or not, I knew the money was mine and it was an investment. An investment in my future.

By now you must know that I believe the government to be controlled by the citizens. I don't believe it to be part of a grand conspiracy to control the citizens. I don't believe in 'grand conspiracies'. Every conspiracy has a weak point and that's one of its members. Or two. Show me evidence of a grand conspiracy that worked. They all fail because no one can keep a secret.

My retirement age was 9 years ago and one thing we have learned during those 9 years was that we need that money. And we are very lucky elders. We both worked for a union construction company. I was in the Carpenter's Union for 25+ years and my pension money was guaranteed.  It still is. The last 20 years in my working life I worked in management for a construction company. I had a 401(k) and a pension. No one ever told me what to do with my 401(k) and so I did nothing with it. At my core, I was still a carpenter and not a financier. I suppose that if someone had said that the 401(k) was important, I might have made some learned investments and we would be multi- millionaires now. But no one did and I didn't and here we are.

We are living comfortably but we keep an eye on our investments. We have a financial planner. That's all they do. They don't sell insurance or anything else out of their offices. It's a father and son team and they have two offices. They are conservative by nature but will invest in any manner that you wish. I've been a customer for over 10 years and we seem to be quite comfortable with each other.

oh, seems like I'm going astray. I was going to stay on the subject of SSI and I've begun to wander away. It's the drugs that make writing such a chore. I have an IQ that's into the 140's, very low 140's, but I can't remember common words. I start to write and my mind drifts away. Pretty soon I'm talking to myself. The words 'doddering old fool' come to mind. Maybe I will try this again when I'm thinking a little more coherently...

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Life and more life

Lots of stuff happening these days; or so it seems. I have the opening night reception of my first ever art show coming on Friday night. I was worried about it till today. Today being the day I went to the gallery to see how the hanging was coming along. Our art director had everything under control and it is going to look very nice. Others in our painting group seemed to have the same thought about it. There was one glitch; one of my paintings sold before the show opened. That's a no-no. And the sale of that painting had to be canceled. An art center volunteer had bought it and she came to me to apologize profusely.  It was a $100 painting, so I was quite happy that she thought my painting was worth it. As I walked the gallery, the director pointed out one of my larger pieces, a 30"x48" painting and he said that he would would buy that one in a minute if it hadn't been just a little over his budget. I understood; it was selling for $600. If it doesn't sell during the show, I will offer it to him for $500.

I had to go to the big radiation center today for an MRI. What an ordeal! It turned out to be a 2 hour MRI of my upper and lower back with and without contrast media. With my painful hip and spine giving me fits all during the time I was in the 'tube'. And the tech that was handling it was making me more and more more irritated. He kept referring to me as "young man" or "youngster". It's obvious that I am 75 years old. He may have thought that he was being cute. He was not. I had my perfect response for the next time he said it and of course he didn't do it. It is starting to irritate me more and more when they treat me as a less than capable (mentally) just because I have a physical condition that hampers my ability to do lay up shots or play a 6 sets of tennis. We all get old; get over it! If you help me, do it because you see see that I need some help, not because I'm old and need help for everything. Sorry, I'm not expressing myself very well. That's due to the meds I'm taking.  As long as I take this morphine sulfate along with half a dozen Norco tablets and a few Dilaudid each day I will be be forgetful (who wouldn't be?) and will be talking out loud on a regular basis. At least I'm not out wandering around the neighborhood! (I don't think I am?)

I guess that is about it. My old bones need a rest and I can do that if I look into the front room and see my old recliner. I will have to talk my cat out of it, but she won't mind sleeping on my stomach. When she rests on me it reduces my pain.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

A week or two later, part ll

I've been busy putting together the art show that I have next month. I have to take it all in the gallery next weekend and then the curator will determine which of my paintings will be seen. He told me to bring 'around 30' and I have 32 of them. I think they are representative of my best work. They go from 4"x4" to 3'x4' and everything in between. I have some paintings that are quite linear. Lines and angles. Then I have others that are clouds and swirls of color on top of color.

This is one that shows you what I mean when I say 'linear'.

Here's some color exploding. They are both 2'x2' and acrylic. One is painted on canvas and the other on birch plywood.


I am expected to give a 1-2 minute talk about my art at the reception. That is going to be hard to do!
With my other ASD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, I don't do well at receptions or public speaking.

With all my canvases finished and cataloged I am suddenly bored. I've been able to go out to my studio and paint almost every day as I made sure I had enough of my work ready to show. I don't have any more large canvases and that is what I desire...I guess I better get used to painting small for awhile, I have half a dozen blank 16x20 canvases, just waiting for some paint.

A week or two later.

It's been a while since my surgery and I'm pretty much recovered from that trauma. I do have two new scars decorating my back now. The scars are not quite as ugly as they were. When I see how far he had to cut down my spine to release the cable I want to say 'ouch'.

With the surgery out of the way I am back to the same old pain that I had before the surgery. That was expected. I will meet with my surgeon next week and he will order an MRI for me and then discuss the plans for going forward to obtain the pain relief. And with the same pain I end up with the pain relief problems that I had. More Norco and more Dilaudid. The pain comes and goes as usual. Yesterday was a zero Norco day while the day before I needed 4 of them plus 2 Dilaudid. Today it's 2 Norco and it's not quite noon.

I'm really interested in what my surgeon will recommend for pain relief once the diagnosis of ASD is confirmed. (ASD is Adjacent Segment Disease or Deterioration) Googling ASD gives me a lot of information.

Here's one that will give me a lot more metal to deal with; though I do admire the high tech look of it.
 This is all too familiar...been there, done that.

This one looks like the simplest. But I have to wonder about the life of the springs?

I hope these images don't bother anyone. I'm very much used to seeing things like this. Back in the day, when I was a Navy Hospital Corpsman, I worked for Cmdr Rolf Noer, a Navy neurosurgeon as well as an orthopedic surgeon. Back in those days a surgeon could have both boards. Anyway, we were all quite familiar with the contents of his black bag; saws, chisels, files, screws, nails and etc. His tools would fit right in to a carpenters tool box.

Thursday, January 21, 2016


The 15th has come and gone and gone is the battery and cable that goes with a spinal cord stimulator; it didn't go easily. The surgeon, Dr. Mimbs, told my wife that the cable had gone through the foramen and that it had become embedded in the spinal structure. The 15 minute surgery turned into a 1 hour one. The outcome was the same except for the added after surgery pain because he had to cut and saw and chisel the cable loose. The surgery that was going to let me go home directly afterwards now hit a snag. I was told that I could go home as soon as I peed. My body doesn't do well with demands and and after a couple of hours went by it was obvious it wasn't going to comply and so I was admitted to the hospital and I no longer had a voice in what was to happen. It did happen, painlessly, and I was soon anchored to the bed.

Nice hospital. Great nursing care. the food was blander than bland. All in all, I could not complain at all. I have Medicare and supplemental insurance and so I did not have to worry. Back in the 60's and 70's all the medical needs were met by affordable insurance. I was in the Carpenter's Union and we had negotiated a contract with our employers that included health insurance. I had Blue Cross and the hospital charge for my wife's pregnancy was $0.00.  I was also a contractor during this time and I included the cost for the insurance in my bid for a job. The system worked.

Now, for some reason, unions are portrayed as being greedy and evil, usually by people who have never been in a union. Health insurance costs have gone through the roof and no one wants to pay for them or try to rein them in. We're just lucky that we are living at this time and have the ability to pay. We'll be gone soon, but for those that have a generation or two to stay here on earth, these costs are killing them and our nation. Don't we all deserve medical care?

Anyway, the catheter came out on Sunday and  I complied with their request to pee this time and was allowed to go home; where the pain of the surgery is very uncomfortable but I have more drugs to take care of that. In the meantime, I wander about, cane in hand, as I try to remember why it is that I am wandering... could it be the drugs? Ya think!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Updates and etceteras

I've been to see my surgeon and signed off on the work he is going to do on the 15th. Then, he sat down and smiled, saying "I know what's wrong with you!" I must have looked confused, so he repeated it, adding "I know what's been causing this pain. You have ASD; Adjacent Segment Disease (or Degeneration)." He then told us all about ASD and as he did, I saw it clearly. Yes, that is what has been causing this. He was happy because he had identified the problem and I was happy because I now knew what the problem was. We didn't talk about 'cures' or what the course of action will be. That is for after the surgery because after the surgery he can use an MRI to see the problem in detail. The metal in my back has precluded the use of the MRI. I really like this surgeon; after telling us all about ASD, he sat there for another ten minutes while he told us funny stories of things he had been asked to do when he was a resident. We were all laughing.

That same day, I had been to see my neurologist and told him about the surgery to remove the offending metal trash from my back. He was delighted because he could now have an MRI brain scan, (of my brain) with and without contrast. He ordered one for early March. If he's happy, I'm happy.

The art world is waiting with bated breath for the opening of my art show. I wish. Truth is, the opening day is creeping closer all of the time and I continue to paint large. I now have paint on three 30"x48" canvases. None are complete but they are close. I now have 32 paintings ready to show and 4 that are just a few days away from completion. I just need to stay away from Aaron Bros. Art store and the one cent sales or their 'three for the price of one' sales. After this show is over, I will then look forward to a 'three for the price of one' sale. I am now over my fear of larger canvas. I want some canvas such as 40"x60".  That's almost four feet by five feet. I don't know what I will do three canvases that size, really I don't. But I need to paint some! There is one place in our house that will take a canvas that size, just one. I could swap the paintings in and out every four months.  Good idea!

I think I will post photos of the show paintings on our Tuesday Painters web site.

Back to my back. I did look up some of the fixes for ASD and they all require surgery. That doesn't bother me. Dr. Mimbs is the very best! Most of the fixes install a hinge of some sort just above the fused vertebra. I really need to get rid of the pain as I'm getting very tired of the side effects of the morphine and morphine Norco mix. I talk to myself. I drop things. I space out and my memory can't get much worse.

I realized the other day that I have ASD twice. I have one for my back and one for myself as I have Autism Spectrum Disorder and that defines me. Between the surgery and the art show, my autism is being challenged to stay in the background. I don't use the telephone so that is a challenge. My telephone is really my camera and photo file mover. I don't like being touched and I had a pre-surgery exam the other day that wasn't pleasant. I'll get through it; I always do.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

The Gong

I just came away from a conversation about 'The British'. I was telling my wife that it looked as if the return of Downton Abbey was all over the internet. And she noted that it was odd that there was such an interest in all things British these days. (We've been watching Broadchurch and a host of others like it on Netflix) Then I told her that, growing up, I saw lots of British films. She was amazed. I explained that my mother had been the reason for that interest, as she was a real fan of Sir Alec Guinness, he of the Lavender Hill Mob. She would take me to see all of his films. And all other British films. Or, I should say, all of the films that made a rare appearance at an out of the way and tiny theater, like the LaMar, in Manhattan Beach.  I also explained to her that as a 9 or 10 year old, I was awed by the gong(er) at the beginning of all J. Arthur Rank films. She had never heard of such a thing. Then, I remembered, she was not the only one that gave me a blank look when I mentioned the 'Gong'. Friends of mine, over the years, had said they had never heard of J. Arthur Rank. So, for all who've never heard or seen the "Gong', I found it on YouTube (of course) and embedded it here for you to play it as many times, or not, as you want. Enjoy!  

Thursday, December 31, 2015

You never know

        I'm sure that I have mentioned the fact that I paint, and I paint with seven other artists on Tuesday mornings. If you haven't heard it, you will now.
        Being a friendly group, we thought that we should share our art with the community, so we applied for a group showing at the Art Center. The same art Center where we paint every Tuesday. After a short time we were told that our application was scuttled. We were not upset. It was a long shot to begin with.
       Weeks went by and then, this past Tuesday, the Art Director came into our work space and said that he was sorry about our failed attempt, but, if we were to give him some samples of our work, he would present them, individually, to the board for inclusion the Discovery Series. That's a three week long show where one unknown artist has hers or his work shown with the works of two well known and established artists. The artist is given about 45 feet of wall.
        The only hitch in this offer was the fact that he needed the photos within the next two hours as he was presenting all of the candidates to the board, that afternoon.I was thinking of looking for some images on my laptop and I started to do that...then a friend came to talk to me and then my wife came to pick me up. Just before I closed the laptop, I said, "Just give me a minute..." and I gathered up four or five photos that may or may not have represented my work and I attached them to an email and sent them off.
        On Wednesday I had not even looked at my email. It had been a bad day for pain and I had taken a lot of Norco. A lot. But, Thursday morning was different and I opened an email from the Art Center and learned that I had been selected! I had many, many emotions right then. Joy. Despair. Excitement. Despair. You can see where this is going. To be recognized for your work in the art community is an honor...well, it is for me. And then there is the problem of the Reception. Maybe three or 4 hours of standing around with a smile on your face while overhearing all of the comments about your work. "My 3 year can do better than that!" Since I have ASD, the reception is very disturbing to me. I have been in similar situations and I had walked simply away from them. I'm certain that I shouldn't do that here.
       Okay, I will cogitate on that problem...and in the meantime, I will go out to the garage and get some more paintings done.

Monday, December 28, 2015

We have a date

A surgery date. It will be on January 15th and all we need now is a time. Once again we wait. Not that it matters much. Speaking from experience, the hospital will change the time, every time, and at the last moment. Sometimes earlier in the day and sometimes later. Whatever. I'm looking forward to it.

I have found that most people are not happy to have surgery of any kind and so they think my attitude of gratitude is a bit odd. I have also told people that I don't expect this surgery to 'fix' my pain problems. They don't understand this and wonder why it won't work. I have to explain that this is just a step toward eventual pain relief and that pain relief is certainly not guaranteed, no matter how many times I have surgery. Again, these friends are mystified as to why I don't have some sort of guarantee from the doctor. These are the same people that are unhappy with every outcome they experience from the doctors they visit. They also wonder why I don't drive off to  a distant medical center; 200 miles plus. There, to talk to a doctor that has the same chance of 'fixing me' as my local surgeon. (He moved here from that same distant city because he wanted to have his children grow up in a more rural setting)

The new pain drug regimen is unsettling. The Morphine ER 3 times a day plus Norco has me seeing some things that are not there and talking out loud whenever I feel so moved. I don't drive any more so I'm relatively harmless. The goal is to stop or reduce the use of Norco for break-out pain...or stop the break-out pain altogether. Which it has. It's cut it in half and I'm happy with that, even though today happens to be a bad day and promises to be worse.

Bad pain days will quite often result in good painting days. It's as if the brain (me) needs to focus on anything other than the pain. Some of my better paintings have been created when I was in pain. Speaking of better paintings; I had a chance to view some of Ellsworth Kelly's earlier works and I realized that one of my paintings, one from a year ago, is very much like one of his. I'm happy about it because I hadn't seen any of his works in years, yet his style shone right through! There's nothing wrong with that, all artists 'steal'. Mr. Kelly admits that when he went to Paris for the first time, he copied Picasso.  I guess I shouldn't use the words 'steal' or 'copied'. Let's say he was influenced by Picasso, as were thousands of other young artists. I know that I've been influenced by many artists. Starting with Virginia Cobb and followed by so many more; Gaudi, Basquiat, DeKooning, Pollock, Krasner, Richter, Anna Barne, Nolde, Hyams, Mehretu, Heilman, Diebenkorn, Freud, Hockney and many others. The ones that I think were a greater influence I have typed them in Bold.

I must get to painting. The promise of more pain has been fulfilled.

Late breaking news...the surgery will start at noon which means that I must be there at 10:30. News of this is of no interest to anyone; except to me and the lovely lady that will drive me there.