Category Archives: places

Venice Beach: exactly what you expect

There are in fact canals through the neighborhoods of Venice California, just like in that other place in Italy, but I’m pretty sure that is where the similarities end. I’ve never been to Italy so I could be wrong, but I’m going to guess the other Venice doesn’t feature a nearly nude bearded man on roller skates selling what he ensures everyone is a “medicinal” plant.freak showI didn’t take a picture of captain roller hair, I did not want that image captured, but that doesn’t mean I don’t advocate for the venue. Quite the opposite. You really should go there.

Just know what to expect.Every city has its place where the odd-balls go to commune. Portland makes the argument that they are that place for the whole United States, but Venice Beach is a little bit more. you see, there are places where “weird people” go to be with each other, and then there is Venice where people go to BE weird in hopes of being seen.IMG_5384

I mean, this is LA. Everyone is trying to get discovered, why would society’s outskirts be different?

drum circleSo, as you head to the promenade be ready for:
Your general knick-knack vendors, medical marijuana card vendors, crowds, people who are crazy, people who are high, people pretending to be high or crazy, drum circles, people riding beach cruisers, good street music, muscly folks working out at Muscle Beach, almost homeless artists selling art, homeless people selling almost art, pick-up basketball games on the outdoor courts ala “He Got Game”, street performers break dancing, street performers snake charming, street performers being a human statue, teenagers acting like this is Vegas, trash in the sand at the beach, a great skate park, beautiful sunsets, funnel cakes, hot dogs, beach houses too expensive to afford, signs advertising the world’s smallest front yard, a sign advertising the world’s laziest dog, cops looking uninterested, cops looking interested, and sometimes, you will see me.mewalkinvenice

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Two Story Balloon Animals: the Broad

It is pronounced “the Broed”. Rhymes with road. Or perhaps an active Bro as a past tense verb. “You totally broed it”. But no matter how you say it, you need to see it.IMG_3414

It is free but you need to reserve a ticket in advance. Otherwise you wait outside in a stand by line for as little as 45  minutes. I dropped the Missus off to stand in line while I spent nearly that much time trying to find parking. There is of course a conveniently located lot right across the street but I thought I could win by finding something cheaper.

Just park in the lot across the street. You cannot win.IMG_3401

Save the winning for once you are inside because in there you will find Andy Warhol, Lichtenstein, Basquiat, Jeff Koon’s giant balloon animals, and his ceramic sculpture of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.IMG_3329You should not need to “understand” art to be entertained, or to simply know what you like. That being said, for a museum of modern art, there is more than enough for anyone to like at the Broad. I more than liked it. I loved it.IMG_3328And if Art isn’t really your bag, you can simply sit back and watch the people watching the art. That show is just as good.IMG_3406

It is located in downtown LA, right across the street from the Walt Disney Concert Hall, and just up the hill from the Grand Central Market. You will see a bright white honeycombed building standing next to a chromed out wavy building and you will not find street parking near either. Again. Just park in the lot. The Broad is the honeycombed one with the line of people out front.IMG_3409Keith Haring

IMG_3338Kara Walker

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Keeping Portland Weird: just eating doughnuts

I’ve only watched a couple episodes of Portlandia. I saw some bit about putting a bird on everything, a mayor kayaking to work, and farm to table lunacy.  I didn’t see any of that in person, but after having been to Portland, it wouldn’t have surprised me.KeepPortlandWeird

Let me state my reservations right up front. Any place that markets itself as weird makes me worry that they are going to be trying a little too hard. Weirdness seems to me something that you are or are not in any given situation. If you find yourself trying, it is an act. Hollywood is where one goes to act weird.voodooinside

So with this healthy skepticism we got in line at Voodoo Doughnuts. The line was long and I am willing to bet that no one standing in it was a local. Add extra skepticism. We eventually got to the intentionally gaudy and kitschy interior and ordered an apple fritter, some other thing that looked to be mostly chocolate, and another that was mostly chocolate plus Nutella. You cannot go wrong adding Nutella to anything so judging by that doughnut would be unfair, but my wife ate the fritter. My wife, who spends approximately 95% of her mind share thinking about dessert, said the fritter was the best she ever had. Keep in mind this is the same woman who just last week sent an egg back to the cook because the yolk wasn’t runny enough on her sunny-side-up order.

Voodoo for the win.alleyway

The street market downtown is long and crowded, as a street market should be, and we stopped by a florist that sold a large custom bouquets out of unadorned plastic five gallon buckets  for around $10. As it should be. There were booths and booths of nick knacks, snacks, and hand made whatevers that made me feel like my laptop had opened up and spilled Etsy out all over the street.diaperNow while Etsy is not in and of itself my thing, un-pretensious flower vendor, plus live Etsy… plus harp lady, equals my endorsement.

harpOne good thing about being hosted in a new location as opposed to independent exploration, is that you may catch things you would have otherwise skipped. Like what looks like a big-box bookstore.

Powell’s is more than a big box. (props to Dr. Chadwick)bigbook

In addition to rows and rows of new and used books, upstairs they have a rare books collection. Now while going in to a glass encased rare books selection lacks the adventure of a dusty corner shop in Providence, or the prestige of a Boston library, but what it does have is a giant book of Annie Liebowitz’s life work with David Byrne on the cover.

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To top that off they had a first edition of one of my all time favorite books, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, right next to a second printing of Twelve Years a Slave.

Forget you Boston.usreading

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Sitting Around: travelling without destination

Sometimes grown-ups make excuses in an attempt to justify childish decisions. Take for example my parents’ ATVs. We never had such things when I was a kid. Once they moved out to the middle of nowhere they suddenly “needed” them.havenammon

ATVs, all-terrain-vehicles, are mobile, fast, and can go anywhere over any terrain. Hence the name. My parents use them to haul wood, retrieve hunted animals, and to tow a large scale lawn mowing machine. Ya know, they use it to “work”.lineup

As a generally irresponsible grown-up myself, I am calling their bluff. I recognize my own kind. These are absolutely toys.kaysunburst

I know people who own tractors, real life tractors, and those people rarely, if ever, hop on the tractor to go for a joy ride. How often do construction workers say, “Hey, its Friday night, why don’t we go cruise around on my bulldozer.”momgrasstrail

My mother offered to give her grand daughter a ride and they let me follow along. First bit of childish evidence is that there was no reason to go that fast other than fun. We had no schedule, we were in no hurry, and that little old lady with the kid on back were going fast.woodshedatvSecond bit of evidence; she was able to go so fast because she knew exactly where she was going and had obviously done this before.I would guess she has done it quite a bit. This is not work.

This is not work in the most true and scientific way possible. In 11th grade my physics teacher handed me a bowling ball and instructed me to carry it up the stairs to the 3rd floor, then go down to the basement, and finally bring it back to the classroom. Upon my sweaty and tired return he lectured the class on the definition of work and how I had accomplished nothing. Though energy had been expended I had returned to my original point of departure. Not work.

I tasted clouds of dust, heard a screaming engine, felt branches and bushes whack me as I passed but at the end of that ride, and every one thereafter, we ended right back where we started.

That is not work.

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Mom and Mondrian

I have described my mother as the most practical woman alive. She has never wasted her time with whining, complaining, or materialistic foolishness.I describe her that way because it is true. But do not get her wrong, despite having married a mountain man, she herself is an artist.
sinkShe does not bring up artist’s names or offer nasally critiques using words like philistine or vulgarian. She doesn’t try to critique anything at all really- that would be silly. She is not silly.
windowkilnWhat she would do is be the valedictorian of her high school but not attend the graduation.While her husband spent time fly fishing on the Provo River she was volunteering as a docent in a museum.

This amuses me because docent is probably the most high-brow word she has ever used.
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Legend has it that the only time she didn’t get an A in college was in pottery. And that was only because the professor refused to give an A to anyone who wasn’t a fine art major. Mom was in education. Because when you start college after having already had six children, going into education is practical.
momandkayBut inside that practical person, that education major about to become an elementary school teacher, is and was my mom. My mom, the 18 year old who hopped on a ship to Europe so she could marry a soldier working as a linguist in Germany. The young woman who spent her honeymoon touring Europe visiting art museums and castle galleries. The young woman who when she chooses a car, picks a yellow convertible MG Roadster.

The woman, who once retired and living in one of the most rural places imaginable, builds a structure that on the outside looks like a one story Lincoln log wood shop, but on the inside, is a studio fashioned to look like you have stepped inside Mondrian’s “Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow”.

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Eat Your Hipster Hearts Out: Dad’s stuff

My father has never been hip. I have not asked him if he was ever cool, but I’m guessing he would happily agree with me. Hip isn’t high on his priority list.

Growing up with him I never saw him doing the cool things, saying cool words, or even paying attention to anyone everyone else said was cool. We lived in a place that we all knew wasn’t cool (Utah) and while in this backwater we didn’t even do the only thing people did there that was considered cool (ski).

rugsrailImagine my surprise when years later I began seeing the cool kids of the coolest place (Brooklyn) doing things I used to see my dad do. I was, and to some extent still am, confounded. To make matters worse, The cool kids were not just doing things my dad did but they were for the most part doing it poorly.

Not everyone (Hollister Hovey does taxidermy right) but I saw dudes buying axes who have never, nor will ever, chop wood. I was confused.

stagmountsI had been away from my Dad’s home for longer than I thought and was struck by the volume and variety of objects in his home that meant something to me, and even more struck that the quality of his collection was even better than I remembered.

throneHis collection of Native American rugs were not purchased but rather they were either inherited or bartered. I remember artisans from New Mexico and Arizona who didn’t speak Spanish or English weaving rugs that would make any Urban Outfitter designers swoon.

kachinaThe antlers on the wall were shot and mounted by either my father or one of his friends. The lattice throne was brought back from Berlin back in the 60’s, kachinas and baskets from off the reservation, and Michelangelo’s Moses from Italy.

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Dad spent hours sitting in the same room as the television completely ignoring whatever was on. He was engraving on tusks of mastodon or walrus, powder horns (either cow or buffalo), and now he even has wild boar tusks. A ship carved into an imitation whale tooth makes sense, but looking at it now, the plains warrior scrimshawed onto a walrus tusk-not so much. It didn’t seem odd to me when he did it back in the 80’s.

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While Dad’s flintlock normally hangs on the wall of his living room, it has also shot an elk.

Recently.

flinthawkhornWandering the loft I touched the objects and experienced tactile nostalgia. I remember the times years ago when those things were part of my environment, and like all things in youth I took them for granted. Now that I am older than Dad was when he created or collected these things, I recognize their value independent of my memories but mostly appreciate them through my appreciation of him.

I look up to him and strangely enough I look up to his things.

His things represent experiences, places, and all the various aspects of him. They are him. They are him so much that as long as he lives he does not collect things as much as he earns them. For instance the the objects from Samoa do not come from my youth but from his old age.

He tells me the staff and fan were gifts. They are symbols or talismans representing speech giving, talking, or pontificating. If you have met my father this makes sense. I don’t need to know anything about Samoa or her traditions to believe my Dad. Not because I trust his expertise in this South Pacific nation, but rather I know for a fact that were he to ever earn anything, it would be for talking.

I appreciate things that are earned. Especially things with a good story. That stick is inherently both.

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Those things are cool. They are real in so many ways. They have not only aesthetic value-which I’m glad people are recently appreciating-but more so they meaning. Not a fad. Not an a crafted image. No irony.

Actual cool.

You can’t have a collection this cool without some it it rubbing off on you. Or maybe its more likely that the objects got some of the cool as it rubbed off from him.

Maybe he was cool all along, just not hip.opafisher

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Home and Place

flagfrontnightThe first major structure  on the property was an outhouse. Less than a week from its completion we founds tufts of hair wedged into the outside corners where a bear had used it for a back scratch. Next we built the little red cabin. There was an idea that they would live in it till the real house was finished and then it would be a barn. I was twelve and my job was to help spread the cement for the foundation as it poured out of a giant spinning drum on an equally giant truck.

At 15 my brother and I ran pipe from the well up the hill for running water.

cabinAfter my parents retired and were living in the little cabin full time, they started on the real house. When most people say they were going to retire and build their own house, they really mean they intend to pay someone else to build a house for them. Not my parents.

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As a newlywed I didn’t use any vacation to go on a honeymoon but I did take time off to drive up to Idaho and help my Dad and uncle put in the floor joists. That was 15 years ago and the house still stands.

They finished the house but never stopped building.marcelwateringWe always called it the property, it has jokingly been called a ranch, but really it is more of an estate. I say estate because “compound” connotes something different than what they have going on up there. The house, a cabin, a gazebo housing a hot tub, a large free standing garage, a wood shed, and most recently both a pottery studio and a wood shop.

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I think they keep building mostly because they cannot stop themselves. Which, in the grander scheme of things is ironic because they key draw of this property in the first place was its lack of development.ericworkingoncar

Luckily, despite my parent’s industriousness, the wildlife still outnumber the humans. At one time my father and uncle had to have a gentleman’s agreement to not shoot anything from the front porch. This means they passed up elk, turkey, deer…hot tub

and grand kids.

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