Tag Archives: Grateful Dead

Dreaming of Jerry Garcia


Today is the anniversary of the birth of Jerry Garcia.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Jerry Garcia was a musician: player of guitars, banjos, and mandolins and a singer too. He was famous as a founding member of the Grateful Dead, but was also in Jerry Garcia Band, Old and in the Way, Jerry Garcia Acoustic Band, and New Riders of the Purple Sage.

I dreamed about Jerry just as this year’s season as a camp host started.

A couple of days before Memorial Day, I dreamed I was outside somewhere with trees. I was not in a city.

Jerry Garcia was walking around this place of my dream, smiling and happy. He was giving out LSD.

I knew him, of course. I think he knew me, but I don’t think he knew me well, like maybe we’d met once or twice, but I didn’t think he’d consider me a close friend. I wondered if he’d remember me at all. I knew he’d probably give me a hit even if he didn’t remember me because he was passing it out freely, but it would certainly be nice to be remembered by Jerry Garcia.

When he came up to me, I opened my mouth, so he could lay a hit on my tongue. I thought he’d drop a hit, maybe two, into my mouth, but he fed me I don’t know how many hits. I had little bits of paper poking from between my lips.

My feelings were torn between Oh boy! and Oh no! I was excited and scared.

How much is just enough? How much is too much?

I wondered how many hits I’d just taken, considered asking Jerry about the numbers, then decided to just go with the flow.

I heard a woman ask him in a real suck-up tone, Are you getting tickets tomorrow, Jerry?

He said, I’ve got tickets right now.

If his looks left any doubts as to who he was, the unmistakable voice erased them. It was definitely Jerry Garcia right there.

Unfortunately, I woke up before I could feel the effects of the gifts from Jerry. I wonder if the Catholic Church would view Jerry getting me high from beyond the grave cause for canonization. I bet most Deadheads would. In any case, while I didn’t wake up high, I did feel happy and at peace.

It was the first time I dreamed of Jerry, although a few weeks earlier, I’d dreamed of hearing a Grateful Dead song I believe existed only in my brain.

A couple of weeks after my dream about Jerry, I was driving when “Attics of My Life” began drifting from my speaker.

I’d not listened to “Attics of My Life” much. It wasn’t in the repertoire of songs marking my relationship with the person who really got me listening to the Dead. Since I mostly listen to music when I’m driving and I want upbeat rhythms to keep me awake, I hadn’t heard the song often since I’d been on my own. But it somehow made it onto my phone with a recent importing of music, and now it was slowly swelling out of my speaker.

It’s a lovely, ethereal song, from the 1970 American Beauty album. [amazon template=image&asin=B0059ILFJ8]

Why have I never really listened to this song before? I wondered.

Then the last verse hit and Jerry singing Robert Hunter’s words brought me to tears.


I’m not even sure if I can explain how I felt when I heard this song after dreaming of Jerry.

[amazon template=image&asin=1501123327](In The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics, David Dodd says Robert Hunter was asked about the meaning of this very song  Hunter replied,

…If I could say it in prose, I wouldn’t need to write the song. Poetry is evocative–it’s meant to communicate to deeper levels and approach the levels of nonverbal experience.

So I suppose if I can’t express my reaction to the song in prose, Robert Hunter did his job as a poet-songwriter perfectly.)

I felt as if Jerry and I had some connection. I know that sounds trite and cliché . But if we realize we are all connected (even if in a state of chemical alteredness), does that make it untrue? If I hear this man sing twenty years after his death and his voice moves me so strongly that my tears begin to flow, well, I maintain that’s a connection.

I also felt as if my dream brought Jerry Garcia to life, if only in my REM state brain. There he was–living, moving, smiling, talking, feeding me all the LSD I could fit in my mouth, bringing me comfort and peace. I dreamed Jerry into existence again, for however brief a time.


Happy birthday, Jerry.



Trance Dance


Lou told me about trance dance not long after I pulled into  Austin.

It was held at a dance studio. The participants were blindfolded. There were a few people not blindfolded who made sure the dancers didn’t careen into the walls or each other. Music played. Dancing occurred.

Lou had never attended a trance dance, so she didn’t know if people actually achieved a trance state, but she thought I should go. I wanted us to go together, but the event only happened once while I was in town, and Lou already had plans that night. I’d either have to go alone or not go at all.

The $10 price of admission discouraged me. I’d rolled into Austin with maybe $10 in my pocket (and found a $10 bill in a letter from my friend Tea in New Mexico waiting for me at Lou’s house). By the night of trance dance, I’d picked up a few odd jobs (dog siting, house cleaning, a couple of psychology studies involving MRIs), so I had some money, but $10 was a significant amount for me at the time. I sent an email to the organizers asking for a discounted rate, but received no response.

This better be worth it, I thought on the appointed night.


I took this photo of my purple Grateful Dead bandana. I traded a hemp bracelet I’d made for this bandana on Furthur lot.

It was dark when I drove to the studio and almost missed the driveway. Once inside, I removed my shoes and readied my purple Grateful Dead bandana to use as a blindfold.

All of the participants (eight? a dozen? my memory is faulty, but surely no more than twenty) went into the large open room lined with mirrors.

Ugh, mirrors. Let’s just say I don not enjoy viewing myself in mirrors. I probably would have left had being blindfolded not been a main component of the evening.

We all covered our eyes, the music started, and we were off.

Dance as if no one’s watching, indeed.

(I tried to forget that at least a few people were watching, told myself they were only watching to make sure no one got hurt.)

I was wearing a long, loose, flowing, flowered skirt. I took great delight in feeling the fabric swirl around me as I twirled. I also enjoyed grabbing handfuls of the skirt in each hand and flipping it around my knees as I kicked my legs and stomped my feet.

The music was fine, but not what I would have picked. I would have picked the Grateful Dead, had I been dancing alone. If I were picking music for a group, I would have chosen music heavier on drums, faster rhythms, a bit more upbeat. But really, the music was fine. It wasn’t the type of dance music that makes me want to rush out and do speed (The Crystal Method, anyone?), and I suppose the tempo was plenty fast enough.

I don’t know how long we danced. An hour? An hour and a half? Certainly no more than two. While I’m not sure I was ever in a trance, it became difficult to stay aware of time. The music was continuous, no break to say, This song is over; now a new one will begin.

I did pretty much stop thinking about the other people there, stopped thinking about what they might be doing, what they might be thinking of what I was doing. The world shrank down to me, my body, the music, my movement. It’s unusual for me to be in the the moment and in my body, but during trance dance, I was in both.

When the music stopped, I felt both So soon? and Finally!

The whole group then sat in a circle on the floor and had a check-in so we could talk about our feelings and any issues that had come up. I can’t remember what I said, although I think I may have mentioned that I’d enjoyed dancing with my skirt.

Would I do trance dance again? Hell yes, even for $10. But I hope the next time, Lou can be there too.

According to http://www.gerrystarnes.com/trancedance.html,

Through a combination of focused intention, breathing, use of the bandanna and movement to rhythmic music, participants can experience a trance state and be transported into an alternate modality of awareness.

The first 30 minutes includes a discussion and orientation to Trance Dance, followed by an extended dance behind the bandanna. Following the dance, the group gathers in the circle for optional sharing and to get “plugged back in” before leaving.



A New Collage Gift (The Light)



I made another collage as a gift for a friend. This friend is a Deadhead (or at least has Grateful Dead tendencies), so I used a quote from “Scarlet Begonias” (words by Robert Hunter) for this piece. I did a variation on this same theme in January 2015; you can see that piece here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/04/07/even-more-collages/. I like working with the visual images of light when I illustrate this quote.

Happy Birthday, Bill Kreutzmann


Bill Kreutzmann is a drummer. He was one of the two drummers for the Grateful Dead. (Mickey Hart was the other one.) The band’s keyboardists came and went. Mickey Hart left the band for several years. There was even a period when the rest of the band kicked out Pigpen and Bob Weir because they didn’t feel those two were taking their jobs seriously. But Bill, Bill was there through thick and thin. Oh, he might have been high as a kite, but if you hear a drum being played in a Grateful Dead song, you can bet Bill was on board.

According to Wikipedia,

Kreutzmann was born in Palo Alto, California, the son of Janice Beryl (née Shaughnessy) and William Kreutzmann, Sr. His maternal grandfather was football coach and innovator Clark Shaughnessy.[3] Kreutzmann started playing drums at the age of 13.

At the end of 1964 he co-founded the band the Warlocks, along with Phil Lesh, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, and Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Their first real gig was May 5, 1965, two days before Kreutzmann’s nineteenth birthday. In November 1965, the Warlocks became the Grateful Dead.

Kreutzmann remained with the Grateful Dead until its dissolution after the death of Jerry Garcia in 1995, making him one of four members to play at every one of the band’s 2,300 shows, along with Garcia, Weir and Lesh.[6]

Bill is currently playing with his band Billy & the Kids, which includes

Aron Magner on keys, Reed Mathis on bass, and Tom Hamilton on guitar, with additional special guests and surprises along the way.

Bill’s Wikipedia page also says,

Kreutzmann’s memoir, Deal: My Three Decades of Drumming, Dreams, and Drugs with the Grateful Dead, was published by St. Martin’s Press on May 5, 2015.[25]

[amazon template=image&asin=1250034000]I read the book last summer. Here’s the review I wrote of it:

This book is an absolute must-read for any Grateful Dead fan. (If you just like a celebrity tell-all memoir, it’s good as that too.)

In this book, Bill Kreutzmann–the first, last, and every time drummer for the Grateful Dead–tells his stories from his days with the band. It feels like he holds nothing back. He tells of the drugs. (It’s kind of a wonder Bill can remember anything at all, after all the drugs he took over so many years.) He tells of the sex. (Thirteen ladies in one night, and I won’t spoil the surprise by telling you which sexy revelation made me scream out loud.) And of course, he tells of rock-n-roll.

Bill doesn’t stand behind the door to say which Grateful Dead songs were his favorite to play, which ones he most liked to listen to, and which ones he didn’t care for. He offers his two cents on the debate about Donna Jean’s singing. He’s not shy about saying which keyboardists he thinks were truly members of the band and which ones were just filling in. He tells how he felt when Mickey returned to play drums with the Grateful Dead, and what he thought of the related bands that came along after Jerry died and the Grateful Dead disbanded. I don’t agree with Bil on all counts, but I sure enjoy knowing his opinions.

The stories in the book are told in more or less chronological order. In lots of cases Bill tells a story, then says, “that reminds me of the time…,” then tells about something that happened years before or after the original event. It works though. It’s like listening to your grandpa’s stories (if your grandpa were involved in one of the best rock-n-roll bands in history): the telling might be rambling, but the stories are so good, you barely notice.

At the end of the book, the reader realizes this whole story is a love letter to Bill’s wife Aimee. It’s also, of course, a love letter to all the Grateful Dead fans. And it’s even a love letter from Bill to the other members of the Grateful Dead, his brothers, Bill calls them many times throughout the book.

This book has an index, which I find super sexy. (Oh! How I love a rock-n-roll index.)

Happy Birthday, Bill, and for all our sakes, I hope you have many more.


Happy Birthday, Phil Lesh


Today is the birthday of Phil Lesh. He was born in 1940. Don’t know who Phil Lesh is? Well, he’s most famous for being the Grateful Dead’s bassist.

According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phil_Lesh,

Philip Chapman Lesh  is a musician and a founding member of the Grateful Dead, with whom he played bass guitar throughout their 30-year career.

After the band’s disbanding in 1995, Lesh continued the tradition of Grateful Dead family music with side project Phil Lesh and Friends, which paid homage to the Dead’s music by playing their originals, common covers, and the songs of the members of his band. Phil Lesh & Friends helped keep a legitimate entity for the band’s music to continue.

According to http://www.dead.net/band/phil-lesh,

One of the strongest intellects and most extraordinary musical talents in rock history, Phil Lesh re-defined what the bass could sound like, and in so doing heavily influenced what the Dead sounded like. Instead of being part of the rhythm section, Phil’s bass was a low-end guitar, and his improvised interplay with Garcia and Weir made the Dead the not-quite-rock-band rock band that it was. Raised in an eastern suburb of San Francisco, he began his music studies with classical violin before switching to “cool jazz” big-band trumpet a la Stan Kenton. Later he studied with Luciano Berio and composed avant-garde music in the realm of Stockhausen. In 1965 he attended a Warlocks [the name of the Grateful Dead before they were called “Grateful Dead”] show at a pizza parlor in Menlo Park, and afterwards his friend [Jerry] Garcia informed him that he was the new bass player in the band. Fortunately for future Dead Heads, he said, “Why not”?

[amazon template=image&asin=0316009989]In 2005, Phil’s book Searching for the Sound: My Life with the Grateful Dead was published. Here’s a short review I wrote of the book:

I can’t possibly convey how wonderful this book is. Every Deadhead needs to read it.

Phil Lesh is a geek in all the best ways! I have to read this book again with a dictionary on hand so I can learn all the unfamiliar words he uses. And of course, he talks about playing music in terms that I (as a non-musician) simply don’t understand.

But don’t let either of those things deter you. Most of the this book consists of stories about the band, the history of the Grateful Dead and Phil’s place in it.

Did you know that Phil was the last of the original members to join the Grateful Dead? Did you know the first song they played as a band (in a rehearsal) was “I Know You Rider”?

From stories of the Acid Tests in the early 1960s to the loss of Jerry in 1995, this book is essential reading.


What a Long, Strange Shopping Trip It’s Been


I spent the night in my van in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in a small (population less than 10,000) Southwest desert town. I woke before daybreak and bundled up for the long walk from my van to the store’s entrance.

After my visit to the restroom, I wandered through the store, trying to remember what supplies I needed. I took a shortcut through the men’s clothing department on my way to the propane canisters in the sporting good section. I ended up walking next to a wall of t-shirts and slowed down to see what was on display.


There among the shirts featuring SpongeBob and Patrick, the Pink Floyd prism, and a kitten with a bandana around its head (captioned “Hug Life”) was a bright tie-dye with a spiral of Grateful Dead bears.


One might think those Grateful Dead bears are all about dancing and joy and love. If one thought such a thing, one would be only partially right.

Bear (Owsley Stanley) was for a time the Grateful Dead’s sound guy. He was also, for a time, the Grateful Dead’s LSD guy. Yep, Bear was manufacturing lots and lots of delightful acid. (According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owsley_Stanley, Bear

was the first private individual to manufacture mass quantities of LSD.[1][2][3] By his own account, between 1965 and 1967, [Bear] produced no less than 500 grams of LSD, amounting to a little over a million doses at the time.[4])

And according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grateful_Dead,

A series of stylized dancing bears was drawn by Bob Thomas as part of the back cover for the album History of the Grateful Dead, Volume One (Bear’s Choice) (1973). Thomas reported that he based the bears on a lead sort from an unknown font.[103] The bear is a reference to Owsley “Bear” Stanley, who recorded and produced the album. Bear himself wrote, “the bears on the album cover are not really ‘dancing’. I don’t know why people think they are; their positions are quite obviously those of a high-stepping march.”[97]

Those bears–dancing or not–in their most basic sense represent Bear, and Bear represents LSD to lots and lots of folks. That LSD connection might explain the bears’ bright colors and the psychedelic backgrounds often seen behind them. (Whenever I see some little kid on the lot dressed in a tiny t-shirt with one of those bears on it I snicker to myself and wonder if the Deadhead parents–or grandparents–even realized they’ve made their precious darling a walking advertisement for lab produced hallucinogens.)

So there I was in Wal-Mart, faced with tie dye and dancing bears and the Grateful Dead–representations of drug culture, hippie culture, counterculture–all before 7am.


I wanted one of those shirts! Lord, the price was only $7.50. I pawed through the display and found a size XXL. I really wanted one of the shirts. I put the shirt on over my jacket, and it felt a little too tight. I peeled off the shirt, then the jacket, put the tie dye on over my long sleeve t-shirt. I still didn’t like the way it fit. Damn!

I put the shirt back in the stack and went about my life. Even $7.50 is not a bargain if I don’t like the way the shirt fits. But I was sure sad to not be able to sport those bears and tell folks they’d come from Wal-Mart.

I took the photos.

How I Met Mr. Carolina and the Boys


Sometimes I don’t know how much background I need to give in order for a story to make sense. Sometimes I can just start in the middle of everything and tell a story, but sometimes I have to give so much background info that I’m a thousand words in and exhausted by the time I get to the story I want to tell. That’s how I feel about how I met Mr. Carolina and the boys.

It all started with the Grateful Dead. Yes, that’s the place to start.

I was not a Grateful Dead fan when the Grateful Dead actually existed. I guess I’d heard of them in 1987 when “Touch of Grey” hit the charts, and my first true love did put “Sugar Magnolia” on a mix tape when he was trying to woo me in 1992. But I’d gone most of my life not being a Deadhead. Then I met the boyfriend who turned out to be not very nice. I’ll spare you all the gory details, but he was a Deadhead. We listened to the Grateful Dead all the time, and we started seeing a lot of Further, and I became a Deadhead too.

(If you didn’t know, according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furthur_%28band%29

Furthur was a rock band founded in 2009 by former Grateful Dead members Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. The original lineup also included John Kadlecik of the Dark Star Orchestra on lead guitar, Jeff Chimenti of RatDog on keyboards, Jay Lane of RatDog on percussion, and Joe Russo of the Benevento/Russo Duo on drums.[1] Named after the famous touring bus used by Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters in the 1960s, Furthur was an improvisational jam band that performed music primarily from the extensive Grateful Dead songbook, as well as their own original music and that of several other well-known artists. In addition to the original members (with the exception of Jay Lane, who left the band in March 2010 to rejoin his previous band, Primus), the band’s lineup included backup vocalists Sunshine Becker of the a cappella ensemble SoVoSó and Jeff Pehrson of the folk rock bands Box Set and the Fall Risk.)

When I finally extricated myself from the not-very-nice boyfriend, I thought I had lost Furthur and the Grateful Dead too. I thought that part of my life was over, and I’d never hear those songs again.

I got over that silliness in a couple of months.

I realized the music belonged to me as much as it belonged to anyone else. My not-very-nice boyfriend might have introduced me to that music, but he didn’t own it.

I’ll fast-forward through the part of the story where I was homeless and living in a highway rest area (if you want to read about that, you can go here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/06/11/hummingbird/.) I’ll skip the part where two friends from college who’d heard I’d disappeared found me and offered love and support. (That’s a story for another day.) I’ll go straight to the part where I used the money I’d earned selling hemp jewelry combined with money friends had donated to my cause so I could buy a van to live in and work out of. One week after I’d gotten the van registered and licensed, I was off to the big city where Furthur was playing.

I drove all alone for hours to get there. My new-to-me van didn’t have a working radio, so I had no music to distract me from my thoughts. Was this trip the right thing to do? Would the van make it? What if I ran into my ex-boyfriend there? Would I make enough money selling jewelry to even get into one of the three shows Furthur was doing? Would I make any friends?

I didn’t really expect to make any friends. In real life, I’m shy, and it’s not easy for me to make friends. And if you’ve ever been to Shakedown Street

(the parking lot, or large area, outside os [sic] Grateful Dead or Phish shows where everything from drugs, burritos, tie dyes, incense and clothing were sold. Shakedown was the place where one could chill before or after a show and find whatever it is one was looking for. Most known for it’s [sic] open air drug supermarket where cats would have nitrous oxide tanks in the back of cars and sell balloons of nitrous for $5. also [sic] people would walk around uttering “trips trips” or “kind bud, according to http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Shakedown+Street)

or a Rainbow Gathering or a music festival, you know those places are not hotbeds of middle-age, single women.

But I was excited to go, excited to be in the hubub of the parking lot, excited to (hopefully) make it into the show.

The first day on the lot was fun enough. I sold a few things, traded for a few things, gave water to thirsty kids and dogs, and generally hung out. That night I tried to sneak into the outdoor show, but I had no idea what I was doing and ended up surrounded by scratching, jabbing plant matter. As I tried to get out of the mess I was in, a security guy (who was probably young enough to be my kid), heard all the noise I was making and yelled, Get out of the bushes! I yelled back, I’m trying.

After I made it out of the cacti and trees, I sat out in the van until after the show, thinking maybe there would be some hanging out. Of course, the cops ran everyone out of the parking lot after the show, so I drove to the nearest Stuff-Mart and got some sleep.

I returned to the lot early the next day. Not long after I parked, a car full of people pulled in next to the van. More people joined them. Most of the people were young men, although there was an older-than-me woman with them and a man younger than her but older than the rest who seemed to dote on her. They hadn’t been there long when the older man offered me a bottle of water. I took it gratefully.

Several hours later when the late autumn sun was beating down, one of the young men asked me if I wanted some shade. He said they had a tarp and asked if they could stretch it from the car and attach one end to my van. I agreed and helped a little to get the cover in the right place. I didn’t spend much time in the shade, but did have short, pleasant conversations with the various people hanging around.

On Sunday, not long after I arrived in the lot, the folks who’d hung out next to me the day before got there without the car. (I believe they came riding in standing on the running boards of a pickup truck.) I went over to talk with them and we exchanged names. Sweet L admired a copper bracelet I was wearing, and I told him a friend of mine had made it. The dogs of the couple who I later found out spent most their time having whisper fights needed water, so I said we could fill the bowl from my five gallon water jug. One of the young men jumped up to help me. That young man was Mr. Carolina.





Dispatch from the Road


It happened just about the way I thought it would.

On Friday morning (as I was eating breakfast), my boss showed up at the campground and told me that I could leave on Sunday. Basically, I had to work the rest of Friday, then on Saturday, and then I was done. Originally, I was supposed to leave the next Thursday, but I was so ready to go and happy to leave earlier than planned.

The maintenance guys had gotten the yurts completely down and hauled away the day before. My main job in the campground was to ensure the yurts weren’t stolen, so with them gone, the highers-up decided that I could go too.

Also, the gates to the parking lot were to be closed and locked on Sunday. On Monday the Forest Service was to close the trail in order to cut 149 hazard trees. With the trail closed, there was no need to have the parking lot open and no need for a parking lot attendant.

I had the van packed with all of my belongings except my bike by early Sunday afternoon.

On Monday morning, I got up around 5:30, after a restless night of little sleep; I typically don’t sleep well the night before a trip. I loaded the bike into the van and drove off into the dark.

I left the mountain as the night was dying* and met the daylight as I drove along the river.

I saw a fox in the middle of the road, its canine eyes shining in the brightness of my high beams. It didn’t run from the van, but walked briskly down the yellow line. I followed it slowly for several yards, excited to watch it. It was the first fox I’d seen all summer. I didn’t even know foxes live on that mountain, but now I can say confidently that they are there.

Later, once the sun was up, I moved into the desert and passed through a forest of Joshua trees. I wasn’t sure those crazy plants were Joshua trees until hours later when I did a Google image search. It was also hours later when I realized I should have stopped the van and taken photos of them. I was so hellbent on getting out of the desert while it was still somewhat cool, I didn’t even think about stopping.

I made it to the highway exit travel mecca ( with a Pilot truck stop, a Love’s truck stop, a Flying J truck stop, AND a TA truck stop, as well as about twenty-five food and drink options) around noon. I did my laundry at Pilot, then caught up on my email at McDonald’s. I slept in the parking lot of the Flying J, which was fine except for too much light and too much noise. It’s going to take some readjustment to sleep in civilization.

I’m at McDonald’s again, using the free WiFi and electrical outlet to write this dispatch. I was going to try to do without coffee today, but when I realized I was falling asleep while writing, I decided to get some. When the young woman behind the counter asked for 75 cents for my small coffee, I realized she’d given me the senior citizen price. My vanity clashed with my frugality, and I had to decide if I should  tell her I won’t qualify as a senior citizen for at least another 15 years (60 is the senior citizen milestone, right?) or take the discount. Frugality won, and I took the discount with silent dignity.

Shortly, I will get back on the interstate and head to MegaBabylon to visit friends. As I walk through the parking lot, I will probably notice once again how big and wide and open the sky seems here, then remember it’s because there are no trees to frame it.

* I stole the image of dawn as the night dying from Robert Hunter’s lyrics for “Sugar Magnolia.” I was listening to the song as I went down the mountain, and this time when I heard that line, I was hit by Hunter’s brilliance.

Eliphante Part 1


I took this photo of the Eliphante logo on top of one of my collages. Can you see the word “eliphante”?

As I was getting my tent up at NeoTribal The Gathering, folks started setting up on my left. They left a nice big space between my tent and theirs, and the space stayed empty most of the day. Late in the afternoon, it seemed as if people were hanging out between my tent and the next one, maybe doing something interesting, so I popped out to see what was going on.

I met three people who were spreading the word about a place Eliphante. I had never heard of Eliphante, or Cornville, Arizona, where it is located. (Cornville is reached via Interstate 17. It is about 97 miles north of Phoenix and about 20 miles south of Sedona.)

The folks had a book called Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter by Lloyd Kahn. (Find out more about Home Work here http://www.shelterpub.com/_home_work/HW-book.html and here https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/381862.Home_Work?from_search=true.) In Home Work, there were multiple pages dedicated to Eliphante. I looked at the pages and became entranced. I could tell immediately from the photos I saw that Eliphante is a magical place.

(You can go here http://www.shelterpub.com/_home_work/_kahn/_122-123/kahn_122-123.html to see images of and text about Eliphante as they appear in Home Work.)

It turns out that the three people lounging next to me are caretakers at Eliphante. They are artists who live in the  “kaleidoscopic, hand-built, sculptural village” to help maintain and restore what was built there by “the artist Michael Kahn and his wife Leda Livant over a 28 year period beginning in 1979.” (Thanks to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eliphante for basic information.) The folks were at the festival to spread the word about Eliphante and to invite people to the series of events happening there in a couple of weeks. I immediately wanted to go and see the place for myself.

(You can also learn more about Eliphante, see more wonderful photos of the place, and watch a trailer for a documentary called Eliphante: Where Life is Art and Art is Life at http://www.theshelterblog.com/eliphante-michael-kahns-sculptural-village-arizona-desert/. Watch for the goat in the trailer.)

I talked for quiet a while to the two guys who were representing Eliphante. They told me the county won’t give the place a permit to host events there (because of the zoning, I think), so all events are open to members only. Memberships are for a lifetime, and folks get membership cards. (One of the guys whipped out his membership card to show me.) I knew I wanted to be a member even before I visited.

Here’s what the Eliphante website (http://www.eliphante.org/) has to say:

Eliphante is a private residence looked after and cared for by the 501(c)(3) non-profit Eliphante, Ltd. We are volunteer run and member supported, on an invitational basis to organizational members. Together, we are working to preserve and restore the work of the late artist Michael Kahn and his wife Leda Livant.

After the festival, I looked at my schedule of dental and van repair appointments and decided I could make the trip to Eliphante on the Saturday before I started my temp job. I went to the Eliphante website to find out contact info, then sent an email explaining who I was, how I’d heard of the place, and saying when I wanted to visit. Within a couple of days, I got a message from one of the guys I’d met. The message said, “So glad to hear from you. You were a great neighbor at the gathering. You are on the list for Saturday…”

On the day I visited, there was an accident on I -17 that brought traffic to a complete standstill. (I was listening to the Grateful Dead, so I just danced in my seat and didn’t let myself be bothered by the delay.) I got to Eliphante later than I had planned, but still with plenty of time to look around during the period when they were receiving guests members.

The directions I’d been sent were very good, and I only had to stop to consult the map once, when I thought I’d missed a turn. Actually, I hadn’t gone far enough to get to that turn. Once back on track, I found the place easily, although no one in a vehicle could stumble upon the place. There are no signs directing drivers to the property.

Upon arrival, I found the creek still flowing. I didn’t realize there were rocks arranged above the level of the water on which I could have walked across, so I just lifted my skirt and waded through. ( I was glad I was wearing my sturdy, all-terrain Keen sandals).

I can't imagine anyone stumbling upon Eliphante, this photo shows the clever signs reminding members that visits are by appointment only.

I can’t imagine anyone stumbling upon Eliphante, so the clever sign in this photo I took must be a reminder to members.

As soon as I walked up to the outdoor kitchen, a little kid (probably about four years old) introduced himself and his brother. Then I saw one of the fellows I’d met at NeoTribal. We were happy to see each other, and he took me to sign the disclaimer that said I wouldn’t hold Eliphante liable if I got hurt or died while I was there. I like the way they got it right out there that anything could happen, and I was responsible for my own damn self.


This is a photo I took of the Winter Palace, the first home of Michael Kahn, and his wife Leda Livant Kahn. They built it when they first moved to the Cornville area. This is a side view. The entrance is under the awning. The space is a gallery of sorts, as it houses items for sale made by artists associated with Eliphante. The one-room building is very tiny, and I told my guide that I can imagine living in such a small space alone, but not with another person, even another person I loved very much.

After I signed the liability waiver, I was on my own to walk around and look around and poke around. I put my camera in my pocket and went exploring.

The first building I explored was the Hippadome.

I took this photo of the front entrance of the Hippadome.

I took this photo of the front entrance of the Hippadome.

When I walked in, there were several people sitting around in the main room of the dwelling. I was greeted by Leda Livant Kahn herself. Wow! What a wonderful person. She told me later that she was born in 1925, and met Michael Kahn in 1979, at which time she left her husband of 24 years and her nearly adult children. (One child was a freshman in college and the other was a senior in high school.) She was 54 when she started the new chapter of her life with Michael Kahn, which definitely gives me hope for my later years.

The folks in the Hippadome were preparing to leave when I arrived, so I soon had the place to myself. I explored the many little nooks and crannies and took several photos.

Can you find the ceiling fan in this photo I took? The walls and ceiling of the main room were covered in some sort of metallic paper (I think) and then painted in bright colors. In the middle of the floor, under the floor covering was some sort of soft, comfy material.

Can you find the ceiling fan in this photo I took? The walls and ceiling of the main room were covered in some sort of metallic paper (I think) and then painted in bright colors. The ceiling fan was painted to match.

This is the sink area in the kitchen. The doors to the cabinets under the sink are made of wood with cut out designs.

This is the sink area in the kitchen. The doors to the cabinets under the sink are made of wood.

 This is a bar between the kitchen and a sort of nook area leading up to the common room/living area. The bar is made from ultra smooth wood that almost gleams in the light. Notice the floor in the kitchen area. Notice the mosaic wall next to the bar. I took this photo.

This is a bar between the kitchen and a sort of nook area leading up to the common room/living area. The bar is made from ultra smooth wood that almost gleams in the light. Notice the floor in the kitchen area. Notice the mosaic wall next to the bar.

The next two photos were taken by me and are details of the mosaic on the wall next to the wooden bar.

IMG_2477        IMG_2479

This photo (taken by me) is of an agate slice set in the counter top of the bar.

This photo is of an agate slice set in the counter top of the bar.

This was a nook in the wall with a "stained glass" windowing letting in light.

This was a nook in the wall with a “stained glass” window letting in light.

Ladder. Tiny door. Sleeping (?) loft.

The Hippadome has a second room, with a ladder and what I think is a sleeping loft. On the ground floor of this room were two desks, so maybe it was a work room too. On the second level, just beyond the ladder, there is a small door leading outside. I climbed the ladder up to the loft. That was a precarious endeavor. I thought better of it, but I really wanted to go through that small door, so I heaved myself up at the top. I should have taken my backpack off. I’m glad I didn’t fall.

I took this photo from the loft room, looking back into the common/living room. The blue area in the middle of the floor is a cushy soft napping area. Some sort of bedding material has been set into the floor, at the same level as the stones, so there is a comfortable place to lie down. Notice that the walls under the windows are made of carefully stacked stones.

I took this photo from the loft room, looking back into the common/living room. The blue area in the middle of the floor is a cushy soft napping area. Some sort of bedding material has been set into the floor, at the same level as the stones, so there is a comfortable place to lie down. Notice that the walls under the windows are made of carefully stacked stones.

When I tried to go through the small door, I realized two things.

#1 Eliphante should add to the liability waiver that the institution has no responsibility if a person gets stuck trying to go through a door too small for his/her body. (Yes, I almost got stuck. Again, I should have taken my backpack off. Later Leda told me the door I went through had been the dog’s door.)

This is the tiny door in which I almost got stuck. I took this photo before I tried to cross through the portal.

This is the tiny door in which I almost got stuck. I took this photo before I tried to cross through the portal.

This is what the tiny door looks like on the outside. I took this photo after I extricated myself from the confines of the opening.

This is what the tiny door looks like on the outside. I took this photo after I extricated myself from the confines of the opening. Notice the mosaic to the left of the door.

#2 The Hippadome is built into a hill, because when I stepped through that door, I was standing on the ground.

This was hanging on the wall, in the shadows in the loft room. I had to take this photo with the flash.

This was hanging on the wall, in the shadows in the loft room. I had to take this photo with the flash.

This is one part of the mosaic that covers one wall of the Hippadome. I took this photo.

This is one part of the mosaic that covers one of the exterior walls of the Hippadome.  It is to the left of the tiny door leading from the loft room to the outdoors. Can you see my fingers and camera in the mirrors? The pink on the lower right is not pink tiles, but the reflection of my pink skirt in bits of mirror.

To be continued at http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/08/24/eliphante-part-2/.

All photos in this post were taken by me.



I wear a rattlesnake skin on my floppy raffia sunhat. My friend Lucky gave it to me. One day Lucking was talking about a rattlesnake that had moved into this homestead. The snake wouldn’t leave, and Lucky didn’t feel safe letting it stay, so Lucky shot and killed it. He ate the meat and used some of the skin to make cigarette lighter cases for friends. I told him how cool I thought it was that he’d used as much of the snake as possible.

The next time I saw him, he gave me a strip of the skin, and I put it on my hat.

I think the rattlesnake skin on my hat shows I’m tough, says Don’t Fuck With Me. I’m not sure if it’s more important to convey that message to other people or if it’s more important to remind myself.


I took this photo of the snakeskin on my hat. The Grateful Dead dancing bear pin is the one referred to at the end of the post We Feel for Your Situation (www.rubbertrampartist.com/2015/02/05/we-feel-for-your-situation/).