Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

The Hotel California

San Francisco

The SF Museum of Modern Art is worth the price of admission.

San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . . Hunter S. Thompson

Our wheels are about 60 miles north. We decide to take the long way home and drive up sparsely populated California 1 on the coast. We stop for brunch in a typical California vineyard and split a bottle of Savignon Blanc.

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened. ..Hunter S. Thompson

There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . . And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .Hunter S. Thompson

San Francisco, 1967...the wave crested and broke right there, right then.

"We can't stop here, this is bat country!"...HST

Monday, 30 May 2011

City Lights ???

San Francisco...2011

The first day the double decker tour bus drives us past the City Lights bookstore in North Beach, we are surprised that the tape narrative is silent about it.

The last time we were here, Ferlinghetti, Ginsburg, Kerouac, Ken Kesey and other literary giants hung out here. It was as famous as Alcatraz.

The next day we get off the bus and ask the driver where City Lights is located. He drives past it 10 times every day, but says he has never heard of it. We study the map and a young girl with a smart phone says that she has never hear of it either, but she looks it up for us on her GPS "app".

It is amazing how quickly culture moves on and old icons are forgotten. How many of us remember Paul Robeson or Otto Skorzeny?

The last time we looked, this funny looking building wasn't here. However, overall the city hasn't changed as much as many places. We only saw one guy walking down the street with a flower in his hand. Most of the people we see on the street didn't exist back then. Time marches on.

We've been to Fisherman's Wharf, North Beach, Union Square, Chinatown, the Golden Gate Park,  the Japanese Tea Garden and a French restaurant with a jazz band.

Maybe it's just the Memorial weekend, but the electric buses and streetcars are packed like sardines wherever we go. Ben and Jerry have an ice cream parlor at Haight and Ashbury. Begging is still very popular.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Goin' Up to Frisco

Forestville, California

Hey punk, where you goin' with that
Flower in your hand?
Hey punk, where you goin' with that
Flower in your hand?

Well, I'm goin' up to frisco to join a
Psychedelic band.
I'm goin' up to frisco to join a
Psychedelic band.

...Frank Zappa, "Flowerpunk"

We're going up to San Francisco this morning after a 45 year break.
The last time we saw the place it was full of hippies, nude love-ins and flower power. We were young and in love.

Jerry Garcia gave us a free concert in the park.....

The Hell's Angels guarded the sound truck.

Timothy Leary recited this poem:

 And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it
And it is all perfect, this is really it

Maybe the city has changed? Stay tuned.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Little City, Big History

Wendover, Nevada

The Great Salt Lake and Bonneville Salt Flats are part of the 110 mile drive from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the little border town of Wendover.

My brother works here dealing Texas Holdem at the "Nugget" from 1 AM to sometime after dawn. Colonel Paul Tibbets trained here in 1945 with one of the 15 specially modified "silverplate" B-29s that could carry the "little boy" or "fatman" atomic bombs.

You have to wonder at the black humor or wartime insanity that would lead the Colonel to name such an instrument of death after his mother, Enola Gay.

They spent a lot of time dropping 10,000 pound "pumpkins" around the wilds of Wendover and on Japan in single plane missions before dropping the "little boy" on Hiroshima". The picture below shows a "fatman" being loaded into the bomb bay of a modified B-29 (Modified bomb bay, no armor, no defensive machine guns).

Kit Carson sent smoke signals from Pilot Mountain in 1846 to assure pioneers that there was safe passage. The Salt Flats can turn to mush after heavy rain. Perhaps that's what bogged down the Donner Party before they turned to cannibalism 400 miles further west in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The distances in Nevada are deceiving. There are these endless valleys between mountain ranges that appear to be short distances but are miles further than the eye leads you to believe.

Once (about 1980) my brother had a farm 30 miles down a dirt road in one such endless valley. A Mormon settler had somehow built a wooden aqueduct from Pilot Mountain down to the farm that ended in a big pond full of trout. My brother would open a valve and flood his alfalfa fields (sometimes picking up a rainbow trout on an alfalfa row). He had to move out and move his house trailer to some acres he bought near the farm. Vandals knocked out all his windows and burned it all to the ground. They didn't burn his old van, but they did break all the windows.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Devil's Garden

Arches National Park, Utah

Sunday in the Spring is very busy at Arches. There are hundred's of cars, RVs and tour buses taking up all the available parking spots at Devil's Garden, a popular hike.. We walk a half mile just to get to the entrance of  the7.2 mile strenuous desert hike.

The first mile of the hike is clogged with American, German and Japanese tourists. A Japanese lady asks me to take her picture. Her little camera is very confusing. I have it turned backward at first, so she will have a memory and picture of a huge, ugly, hairy, gajin  (gaikokujin), barbarian when she returns to Japan.

After the first mile and the spectacular Landscape Arch, the trail turns primitive, sandy and strenuous. The few hikers that we pass are young, athletic and well equipped. I love their backpacks with the sipping straws to keep the hikers hydrated.

I find a huge sandstone formation that I can walk up. It provides a panorama of hundreds of square miles of geologic formations. The quiet is broken only by a raven.

Landscape Arch will probably collapse in the foreseeable future. They keep the tourists well away. 60 tons of rock came down in 1991 after some hard rain.

Blooming Prickly Pear.

I don't know what this tree is. The flowers smell really good...almost like night blooming Jasmine.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Judgement Day

Moab, Utah

Unless you've been under a rock, you are probably aware that Harold Camping, 89 year old California evangelical broadcaster, made a second attempt to call the end of the world at 6PM local time everywhere, beginning in New Zealand. It was sort of a rolling Judgement Day. The Apocalypse is running late.

Elsewhere in world news, Venezuela made a first by suspending a driver's license for 12 months. Ramon Parra, 41,  was arrested for driving an overloaded bus with a missing rear wheel. Gas costs 12 cents a gallon in Venezuela and they take driving rights very seriously. This is the first license suspension ever for this OPEC country.

We've moved even further east to Moab. It's a very busy place in the Spring. I lost in tennis to Mrs. Phred 6-3, 6-2. I no longer feel short of breath when she runs me around the court. It's surprising how my breathing has improved since I quit smoking. What was I thinking the last 55 years?

There are two lovely National Parks here. One is Arches. The other is Canyonlands.

The Colorado River tuns though here, creating many recreational opportunities: camping, rock climbing, jeeping in the back country, rafting, canoeing and canyoneering. I don't exactly know what the last one is, but it's advertised everywhere.

The rains are finally bringing out the prickly pear flowers.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Stuck in the Mud

Capitol Reef National Park

There is a dirt road into Cathedral Valley that forms a 60 mile loop though the park. To get onto the road, you drive into a river, turn right and exit left on the bank 40 yards down river. Driving into the river requires an act of faith, especially since it's been raining for days and one is unsure that the river might not be higher than usual.

The road requires a four wheel drive, high clearance vehicle when conditions are good.

The map says that the road is impassable when wet. It's been raining and snowing for the last three days.

We rent the jeep. Mrs. Phred checks with the ranger in the visitor center. The ranger says that the red bentonite clay will suck in the vehicle's tires in when it's wet. She advises against using the road into Cathedral Valley.

I tell Mrs. Phred not to worry.  Who should she listen to, the ranger or me? I've been driving her 45 years and haven't gotten stuck yet. The road is totally deserted for some reason. There is no cell coverage. Twenty-five miles into the park the road starts uphill and the red mud is too much for the jeep and it's 4WD. We slither sideways into the ditch about halfway up the hill..

We get out to survey the situation. It's a 25 mile walk back to the main road. With each step we add a pound of red mud to our sneakers. I've never seen such slippery, sticky stuff. Bentonite is used to drill oil wells and lubricate the drill bits. The vehicle tires have a coating of at least two inches of slippery red mud. It appears possible that I might be able to back down the hill. After some rocking the jeep pops loose and I back down to a wide spot and get the jeep turned around.

Dark clouds are gathering so we make the twenty-five mile return as quickly as possible and drive back though the river to the paved road..

Getting all the mud off the jeep and our sneakers proves difficult. While we are power washing a deluge of freezing rain and hail impedes our progress. Somehow we even have packed red mud inside the door jams. On to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks today. Moab has bookstores, grocery stores and tennis courts.