Monthly Archives: August 2015

Another Book Review: Metro Girl

Standard

I thought it would be fun to share another book review today. I wrote this review in September of 2014. The book being reviewed is Metro Girl by Janet Evanovich

Metro Girl (Alex Barnaby Series #1)
Why did I waste my time reading this book?

I picked it up from a free shelf in a laundromat, thinking I would give it away on BookMooch. Then I gave it to a friend I thought would enjoy reading it (she did), but she gave it back to me when she was done. So I started reading it, and even though I didn’t really like it, I had a really difficult time putting it down. There was no way I wasn’t going to find out what happened in the end. I guess in that sense, Janet Evanovich did her job well. An author must be a success if readers can’t put her book down.

The protagonist is a woman, which is cool, but she goes by a traditionally male name. (Why do female characters named Jennifer or Heather or Amy so rarely kick ass?) She also has the traditionally male skill of being mechanically inclined. On the one hand, it’s cool that Evanovich recognizes that it is possible for women to be mechanically inclined too, but in this book it feels like a gimmick, a plot device, as if she’s shoving down the reader’s  throat the fact that the main character is pretty, blond, feminine, and WOW, can repair an engine.

The reader gets a lot of information about what the protagonist looks like. Evanovich goes so far as to describe the character’s hairstyle. I didn’t find that information advanced the plot in any way. Nor did I need to know what the character was wearing or the length of her legs. I only needed to read one description to understand that the character is pretty and feminine and men want to fuck her.

And oh, how so very much does her romantic foil want to fuck her! He tells her over and over again, by innuendo and straight up proclamation. He kisses her uninvited and can’t keep his hands off her. She’s desirable. I get it! Of course, the protagonist doesn’t like this guy at first, but by the end of the book, after he saves her ass more than a couple of times, she is gaga over him and is ready and willing to put out. However, for all the flirting and innuendo and sexy talk, there’s no sex scene payoff. In the epilogue, it’s strongly hinted at (wink! wink!) that the deed has been done, but the reader doesn’t get the satisfaction of witnessing the event.

In reality, this book is as much a romance novel as a mystery. The reader is supposed to identify with the protagonist. I was supposed to want to be her. (Well, I would like to be more mechanically inclined, but as for everything else about this woman…give me a break!) As for how she looks, that’s so much fluff, filler to add some pages, to flesh out what in reality could be told in a couple hundred pages, instead of 374.

And I won’t even get started on the coincidences involved that make the plot possible. On more than one occasion, all I could think was, Really?

So I couldn’t stop reading this book, but when I finished it, I kind of felt dirty for having wasted my time and brain cells on this cotton candy of the mind.

And now the cover has separated from the book’s spine, so I can’t even give it away on BookMooch. I guess it will have to go back on the laundromat shelf.

Questions

Standard

At my jobs as a camp host and parking lot attendant, I am asked a lot of questions. After over three months, I’ve heard some questions so many times, they no longer surprise me.

Here’s a list of questions I am asked repeatedly (and my most common answers).

Where is the General Sherman tree? (In the Giant Forest in the Sequoia National Park)

What’s in that big tank on your campsite? (Water) Can I have some of it? (No)

Where are the rock slides? (I have no idea)

Is there a river or stream up here where we can get wet and cool off? (No)

How long is the trail? (About a mile and a quarter)

How long does it take to walk the trail? (That depends on how many trees you hug)

What’s the elevation here? (About 6400 feet)

How do I get to [L.A., San Francisco, the Sequoia National Park, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Palm Springs]? (Answers vary)

Where is a water fountain/faucet/spigot where I can fill my water bottle/wash my hands/get water for my dog? (Not here)

Is there a place around here to go on a hike? (I have a map you can look at)

Do you take credit/debit cards? (No because there are no phone lines or internet access here)

Where’s the nearest ATM? (8 miles that way)

Where is Crystal Cave? (In the Sequoia National Park)

Can my dog go on the trail? (Yes, on a leash)

Where’s the closest place to get food? (11 miles that way, but it’s not very good and the people who work there aren’t very friendly)

Is there a coffee shop around here? (The restaurant 11 miles away sells coffee…if you mean a Starbucks, no)

Are there picnic tables here? (Yes, there are five picnic tables in the day use area)

Can we have a barbecue here? (Only on a gas grill, if you have a permit)

Which tree here is the oldest/biggest/tallest? (I don’t know)

Where is the nearest campground? (200 yards that way)

Is there a gift shop here? (No)

Where can I buy gas? (25 miles that way, 40 miles that way, or 40 miles the other way)

Are there bears here? (Yes, but they are timid because they are hunted here…you’re more likely to see a rattlesnake here)

Where’s the restroom? (In the little building in the middle of the parking lot)

Some questions take me by surprise.

One day a young Asian woman with a fairly strong accent asked me if we had a resting room. I thought she meant restroom (toilet, WC, el baño), so I told her it was in the little building in the middle of the parking lot. She was clearly exasperated and said not a restroom, a resting room. I was perplexed and just looked at her. She explained she wanted to leave her mother, an elderly woman using a cane, in a resting room with chairs and shade. I guess she wanted a waiting room. I told her there was no resting room in the parking lot, and she clearly expressed additional exasperation. I didn’t even try to explain to her that the only rooms in the area are the two with the toilets and a tiny one for storage.

Another time, a family asked me how to get to the Big Chief. I knitted my brow and shook my head. (I do something with my mouth too, when I don’t know the answer, but I don’t know how to explain the expression.) I told them I’d never heard of it. They said it is the 7th largest giant sequoia, and it’s supposed to be in the area. I still had no information about its location to offer.

(According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_largest_giant_sequoias, there is a Chief Sequoyah tree located in the Giant Forest Grove of the Sequoia National Park. It is listed as the 26th largest tree with a height of 228.2 feet (69.6 m), a circumference of 90.4 feet (27.6 m), and a diameter of 28.8 feet (8.8 m). There’s also Red Chief in Long Meadow Grove. Wikipedia lists it as the 41st largest tree with a height of 245.0 feet (74.7 m), a circumference of 80.6 feet (24.6 m), and a diameter of 25.7 feet (7.8 m). Maybe the family was looking for one of these trees.)

One Thursday was the day of weird questions.

It started when two young women and their two fluffy little dogs exited the trail. They walked right up to me, and one of the women asked, Can you suggest a good hike for dogs? I was momentarily at a loss, then said, I don’t really hike, and I don’t have a dog, so I don’t know a good hike for dogs. The woman thanked me, and they all walked away. (Perhaps I should have offered use of my map, and the women and dogs could have consulted it and discussed their options.)

Later that day, I did pull out my map for a family to look at. The man asked me about the Pinnacle Trail. I said I’d never heard of it. He allowed that he possibly had the name wrong. I offered the map to him. He found the trail for which he was looking (the name of which has two syllables and does not begin with the letter “P”). They had a bunch of questions about the trail. I told them I’d never hiked it and could only say what I’d heard about it from other people. They kept asking me questions, and I kept saying I don’t know. Finally the oldest kid said, Are there big trees on the hike? I said, I don’t know; I’ve never been there, and I was done with them. Sometimes people insist I answer their questions, even after I’ve told them I can’t.

That afternoon I was patrolling at the nearby campground, and two men flagged me down to ask about the yurts. After I answered their questions ($75 a night, sleeps five, no cooking inside, bring your own bedding), they wanted to know about the closest rivers. I told them about the two rivers in the vicinity, and one guy asked me if the fishing were good. I said, I don’t know. I don’t fish. It seems to me he should have first asked me if I’d fished either river recently.

The strangest (or at least most strangely phrased) question of the day happened back at my campground. I was checking in two young Asian men (brothers). I pointed out my van and told them to let me know if they had any questions or problems. The one doing the talking asked if I stayed in the campground, and I said yes. The he asked, If someone arrives late at night, will you be here to assist them? I told him I would be here if someone arrived late, but when people arrive after dark, I stay in my van and check them in the next morning. I wondered what kind of assistance he had in mind. There are definitely certain kinds of assistance I will not provide!

Apparently I Look Like a Psychic

Standard

 

Crystal ball in handsTourists say a lot of thing that aren’t very sensible. Sometimes it seems like when their bodies go on vacation, their brains decide to take a vacation of their own. Perhaps the people who seem like idiots to me are actually very competent in their daily lives and only seem clueless when our paths cross.

One variation of tourist cluelessness is associated with the way we came. People ask me Should we go back to way we came? or Is the way we came the best way to go back? Apparently I look like a psychic, because I’m supposed to know where they came from and the route they took.

Perhaps people don’t realize there are three ways to get to where I work, but they obviously think there is more than one route, since they are asking me about their travel options.

The first time a woman asked me if they should go back the way we came, I was trying to figure out how to answer the question when her (I presume) husband barked at her in my silence She doesn’t know how we got here! So true!

I really do try to be polite to people. When they ask questions involving the way we came without giving me any additional information, I try to keep it light and say with a small smile I don’t know. How did you get here? But inside I’m grimacing and shaking my head.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/crystal-ball-in-hands-6101/.

The Firefighter and the Dog

Standard

I don’t what official company policy is, but I don’t ask firefighters to pay to park their firetrucks in the parking lot. It seems wrong for me to hassle them for five bucks when they could be called away at any moment to risk their lives to protect people and trees.

On a Sunday afternoon when my shift was almost over, three Forest Service firetrucks pulled in, and I waved them through. Moments later, a county firetruck pulled in, and I thought What the hell, and waved it through too. I’m not going to play firefighter favoritism. Either all firetrucks get in for free or none do. That day it looked like I was going with all.

I’d seen this county firefighter before, but it had been weeks, maybe month, and I don’t think we’d done more than exchange hellos in the past.

I hadn’t even been thinking about the firefighter until a car exiting the parking lot stopped and the driver leaned his head out of the open window. He said, firefighter…something something…let dog out…something…dog ran away…firefighter chasing dog…something something…

I looked at the driver and wondered what in the hell he was talking about, but I just said ok. (I’m trying to learn not to jump up and volunteer to be part of other people’s dramas.)

Some minutes passed, when who should stroll up but the county firefighter with a medium-size dog on a long, green leash. He looped the leash over the iron ranger and told me Fido (not his real name, as far as I know) was going to stay right there. I protested that I’d be off work in thirty minutes and said Fido was not leaving with me. I told the firefighter I live in my van and cannot have a dog. I was a little bit panicked. I can barely take care of myself. No way can I be responsible for a dog.

The firefighter told me the dog’s people were on the trail, and he wouldn’t try to leave the dog with me. He said he wanted to move his firetruck into one of the spots my co-worker and I try to reserve for people with disabilities. I told him fine. Who am I to go against a firefighter in the midst of an official dog rescue?

As he was moving the firetruck, three little Latina girls came up to visit the dog. I told them I didn’t know the dog and didn’t know if it would bite. Really, this dog was super mellow. He seemed to have no plans or desire to bite anybody.

The word had already spread through the parking lot that the dog had been left in the truck by its people. The little girls thought it was really mean of the people to leave such a nice dog in the hot truck. When their dad walked up, the girls told him about Fido’s plight, and they all solemnly agreed they would never leave their dog alone in a hot car.

After the firefighter parked his truck, he filled me in on what had happened. He’d come along and some “concerned citizens” had alerted him to the dog left in the hot camper shell on the back of a pickup. He opened something (I didn’t exactly understand his gestures of explanation), and Fido jumped out and took off running. So the firefighter had to chase Fido down and get him on the leash. (I’m sorry I missed seeing that part of the show.)

The dumb thing about leaving the dog in the hot camper with no water—where he could have died—is that dogs on leashes are allowed on the trail. I don’t know if the long green leash was Fido’s or if it belonged to the firefighter. Maybe Fido’s people had left him behind because they didn’t have a leash for him. (I’ve seen a surprising number of people this summer who have a dog in their vehicle, but no leash for it.) Fido couldn’t have been left behind because he was a nuisance; during the half hour he sat with me, he did not bark once, and he never strained against the leash. Mostly he just lay quietly and looked around.

After he got Fido’s people’s license plate number, the firefighter stood around to see if Fido’s people would show. He said no way was animal control going to come all the way out there, and he said he couldn’t give the people a ticket for leaving Fido in the heat. (I guess writing animal cruelty tickets is out of his jurisdiction.) He did say he was going to ask the sheriff to send the people a ticket through the mail. He also said he wasn’t one to yell, but he was getting more upset at Fido’s people the longer they were gone.

Then the firefighter said he and Fido were going to walk the trail and try to find the dog’s people. Soon after they left, my shift ended. As I was packing my chair and my backpack, a big, blue pickup truck with a camper on the back stopped near where I was standing and the driver (who was firmly middle-age and old enough to know better than to leave an animal in an enclosed space on a hot day) said he’d heard a fireman had his dog. I told the man that the firefighter was looking for him and had walked off with the dog in hopes of finding him.

The man in the blue truck drove off, but was back when I returned from putting my co-worker’s bucket in the storage room. He said he’d gone to the campground next door, but the firefighter and the dog weren’t there. I pointed to the firetruck and told Fido’s man that the firefighter would be back eventually.

Eventually? he asked, as if he just couldn’t believe how he was being inconvenienced.

The man was pacing at the front of the parking lot. I got in my van and made the loop to exit. As I pulled out onto the highway, I saw Fido and the firefighter walking toward Fido’s man.

Now I have a little crush on the firefighter. I don’t much about him other than his name, his profession, and that he likes dogs, but I keep making up little stores about him in my mind. (Hmmmmm, I think little stories like that are called “fantasies.”)

I’d never realized rescuing a dog could make a man so seem sexy.

Feces on the Floor

Standard

The day started like a normal Wednesday.

I’d slept really well, after hardly sleeping Sunday and Monday nights. I woke up around 6:15. Even after two days off, I wasn’t raring to go, but I rolled out of bed and put on my uniform. After sweeping the restrooms, I cooked and ate my breakfast. Then it was time to get the company truck and go on patrol.

On Wednesdays, the hosts at the two other campgrounds on the mountain have the day off. I have to drive to both campgrounds, make sure the garbage cans aren’t overflowing, check-in any campers who have recently arrived, and put toilet paper in the restrooms if necessary. I also have to drive through the group campground to make sure no one is squatting there. And, because my co-worker at the parking lot also has the day off on Wednesdays, I have to clean the two restrooms there.

On this particular Wednesday, I first went to the closer campground, planning to go to the farther one late in the afternoon, after I’d put in my time at the parking lot. After picking up the trash and talking to some campers, I got in the company truck (a Ford Ranger, which is like driving a sports car to me after lumbering along in my van) and did my rounds through the (empty) group campground. Then I headed to the parking lot to pick up the trash and clean the restrooms.

Both trash cans in front of the restrooms were full, so I pulled out the bags and replaced them with new ones. Then I psyched myself up to clean the restrooms.

The restrooms in the parking lot get a lot of use. My co-worker jokes that if the trees are the most popular attraction, the restrooms are the second most popular attraction. Because the restrooms get so much use, they tend to be dirty and smell terrible. Also, people throw a lot of toilet paper on the floor. I’m grossed out when I have to pick up toilet paper, and I don’t know where all it’s been. (I might feel more grossed out if I knew exactly where the toilet paper has been.)

I opened the door of the restroom on the left and was greeted by the sight of a pile of feces on the floor eight inches from the toilet. Who does such a thing?

I can only imagine two scenarios. The first is a human being walked into the restroom, closed and locked the door, pulled down his/her pants, and shat on the floor. The second is a person allowed his/her dog to enter the restroom and defecate on the floor.

Who does that?!?!?

I’ve tried to think of a reason why it might seem acceptable to shit (or allow one’s dog to shit) on the floor of a public restroom. I’ve got nothing.

To put it delicately, as opposed to situations where I’ve discovered feces on the toilet seat and on the restroom wall, it did not appear that the person who shat on the floor had experienced an emergency situation. This floor shitting appeared to be a deliberate act.

And if a person somehow thought it was ok to let his/her dog defecate on the restroom floor, the human should have picked it up.

The reason why didn’t really matter, as I had to clean it up regardless of the circumstances that put it there. I rolled up my sleeves, took off my ring, and steeled myself to do what had to be done. I grabbed a thick wad of toilet paper and removed the fecal matter from the floor. The good news was that it had been sitting there a while and was firm–and to be a bit graphic here–crusty. More good news was that I didn’t notice any smell.

After I picked up the feces, I sprayed everything down with a chemical cleaner we use called TNT. It’s supposed to kill germs, so I sprayed it all over the floor and all over the inside and outside of the toilet. Then I used water from the tank in the back of the truck to give everything a thorough rinse. There was some fecal crust adhered to the floor, so I had to grab a stiff bristle brush from the truck and use it to scrub away the crust. I was grateful for the brush’s long handle.

Finally my work there was done, and picking up the toilet paper from the floor of the second restroom didn’t seem so gross.

I’ve had many shit jobs in my time, but this job (that I actually like) has required me to deal with the most literal shit.

The Quietude of Nature

Standard
qui·e·tude
ˈkwīəˌt(y)o͞od/
noun
noun: quietude
  1. a state of stillness, calmness, and quiet in a person or place.

It had been another busy Saturday in the parking lot. Not only had there been many people parking their cars with us, half of the people were cranky, and it seemed like the rest were needy. Either someone was trying to pick a fight or s/he had a million questions and practically wanted us to hold his/her hand through the entire parking process. It was exhausting. The weather wasn’t helping either. The sky was overcast, and we could feel the expectation of rain in the air, as if nature were holding her breath, letting the tension mount before releasing the wet. Maybe it was barometric pressure or negative ions, but the tourists had been acting weird (and annoying!) all afternoon.

My workday was drawing to a close, and I was seeing the light (in the form of dinner and peace) at the end of the tunnel, when I heard the constant mechanical buzz of a small engine coming from the road behind me and to my left. I turned around and saw a grown man and two teenage boys with a remote-controlled toy vehicle rolling at their feet. I didn’t notice which one of them had the controller and was “driving” the thing, but I noticed it was pretty big for a toy and had fat wheels.

I looked at the adult and said incredulously Are you bringing that on the trail?

He answered in a voice I’d expect to hear from a cartoon buffoon: not very bright. Uhhhhh, yeah.

Isn’t that kind of obnoxious? I asked.

He looked at me blankly. He had no idea why people walking in nature and looking at trees might find his noisy toy  obnoxious.

What about the quietude of nature? I pleaded.

The blank look never left his face. It’s battery powered, he said. There’s no gas.

Apparently he thought “quietude” was somehow related to pollution. Apparently he’d never considered pollution of the noise variety.

I can’t stop you from bringing it on the trail, I told him, but I think it’s obnoxious.

Well I think it’s pretty cool, he said in the same tone as schoolchildren say I’m rubber and you’re glue…

As the toy vehicle rolled and hummed across the street to the trail, I imagined it bumping someone’s abuela (grandmother) in the ankle; scaring dogs and making them bark; getting tangled in a Boy Scout leader’s feet; and startling birds and squirrels and causing them to leave the area, all the while destroying the quietude of nature with its irritating buzzing noise.

Eliphante Part 2

Standard

IMG_2544

The artist Michael Kahn spent 30 years of his life creating, while painting and residing at, the three acres known as Eliphante. The buildings and structures at Eliphante, while expressions of creativity and artistry, were also Michael’s solutions to the practical needs for work space, studio’s [sic], shelter and housing for himself and his wife Leda. Michael lived there until his death in 2007. Leda remained there until 2009, and now lives in Cottonwood AZ. (from http://www.eliphante.org/)

This post is Part 2 of the story of the afternoon I spent at Eliphante.

As I walked the grounds of Eliphante, an old delivery truck that had been turned into a storage shed caught my attention.

IMG_2500

Old delivery truck turned into a storage shed. Notice the signature Michael Kahn bright color paint job on the truck’s side and hood.

IMG_2501

I like the way it looks as if the truck may be turning to stone…or maybe the stones are turning into a truck.

One can walk out of the driver’s side of the truck and enter another storage area with a roof over it.

IMG_2505      IMG_2507

At Eliphante, even the containers holding fasteners looked like art to me.

As I was taking photos in this storage area, I ran into the other guy I’d met at NeoTribal The Gathering. He looked to me like a young Timothy Olyphant (http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0648249/) and made my heart beat faster. Although he seemed glad to see me, we only spoke briefly before he drifted off to do other things. Ah well, he was too young for me anyway.

In many buildings on the grounds, bits of colored glass and whole glass bottles were used to allow light into rooms, but still afford privacy. Here are some examples of such use of glass:

IMG_2510

As sunlight shines through the glass, colors play upon the opposite wall.

IMG_2509     IMG_2512

The above photos show an inside and outside view of colored glass and bottles used as tiny windows that allow light into the room. I think the wall is made of cob or some other type of dried mud and straw construction material.

IMG_2513

Corner wall made from cob (or similar building material) and glass bottles.

IMG_2516

Unfortunately, the solar bath house was not open for bathing.

Pipedreams, “the labyrinthine art gallery” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/garden/31elephante.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0) was amazing. It is composed of several rooms leading into another, each room filled with color and art.

Mosaics of glass, tile, stone, and mirrors covered some of the interior walls of Pipedreams .

IMG_2520

IMG_2528     IMG_2534

IMG_2535     IMG_2523

In some places light passed through colored glass set in the ceiling or walls, adding moving bits of color to the floor or opposite walls.

IMG_2522     IMG_2521

I sat on the floor a long time and watched the infinitesimal changes in the patterns of colored light. The light shimmered and moved, and the entire vibe was incredibly psychedelic. As I moved through the space, I wondered how much LSD (or other hallucinogens) Michael Kahn had taken in his lifetime, or if he were just one of those people who naturally experiences life as one continual psychedelic trip.

IMG_2532

This keyboard was tucked in an alcove in Pipedreams. Notice the Michael Kahn signature cacophony of colors on the wall all around it. (How could anyone NOT notice those colors?)

The main room of Pipedreams reminded me of a chapel somehow. It was filled with wood (driftwood? branches?) that curved and flowed. I imagined ceremonies being held here.

IMG_2531

The main room in what felt like the center of Pipedreams. The other rooms flowed in and out of this one.

IMG_2538

This photo shows an alcove in Pipedreams which houses a large piece of art. Notice the vaginal qualities of the portal.

There were art installations in many places on the grounds of Eliphante. Some were functional (like the glass bottles imbedded in walls and the very buildings themselves), but many pieces were art for art’s sake. One of my favorites was this assemblage of wood, stones, and mirrors.

IMG_2541

I particularly like the shape of this creation and the juxtaposition of the natural and human-made elements.

The last major building on the property was the one that gave the whole place its name. According to http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/garden/31elephante.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, this building is called Eliphante because of its “long, trunklike entrance made of rock and an irregularly mounded roof. ‘Aaah, Ella-fahn-tay,’ a friend joked soon after it was built, giving it a playful faux-French pronunciation.”

Unfortunately, Eliphante was closed for restoration during my visit, and I couldn’t venture inside.

IMG_2543

Well, yes, I can see how this building could look like an elephant (especially if viewed through a psychedelic lens).

I was able to take some photos of the exterior of Eliphante.

IMG_2545     IMG_2546

The two photos above are views of some of Eliphante’s “stained glass.”

IMG_2548

Another view of the Eliphante trunk.

IMG_2565

This is probably my favorite installation at Eliphante. I like that it’s functional and can actually help a person get where she wants to go. I also like that it’s making use of old, rusted saws that look cool but aren’t being used for their original purpose. I’m impressed by the person who looked at a bunch of rusty saws and had the idea to turn them into signs.

IMG_2568

Hmmmm….Someone saw a rock on the trail and decided to paint it to look like an Amanita muscaria mushroom…

I exited Eliphante through this passageway to the trail to the parking area.

IMG_2553

IMG_2555     IMG_2563

Eliphante is my kind of place. I really dig so many of the aspects that make it magical: bright colors, collages and mosaics, assemblages, functional art, art not just as a lifestyle but as a way of life. I love the way art is integrated in nearly every aspect of life at Eliphante. I feel really blessed to have found this place (and the kind people who care for and maintain it) and to have been able to spend an afternoon exploring it. Of course, I am now a life member of the Eliphante community, and I plan to visit again.

I took all the photos included in this post.

Eliphante Part 1

Standard
IMG_2580

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.

IMG_2498

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.

Give the Best You’ve Got: A Lesson in Giving from NeoTribal The Gathering

Standard

As NeoTribal The Gathering was winding down, I thought I should give some little thank you gift to Ms. Reiki in appreciation for all the work she’d put into making the festival happen. I grabbed one of my bigger chunks of rose quartz and walked towards her camp.

I’d picked up a nice piece of rose quartz, but it wasn’t a fantastic piece of rose quartz. I still had several pieces from the 1/3 full bucket of South Dakota rose quartz I’d gotten for a good price at a Colorado gem and mineral show. I’d sold and given away a lot of those stones and had more than made my money back. Giving a piece of what I had left was not a sacrifice.

I went up to Ms. Reiki and said a few little words: Thank you. Blah blah. Appreciate. Blah blah. For you, and gave her the stone. She was excited and thanked me, reached onto her table and picked up a piece of rose quartz larger and cooler than the one I’d just given her. She handed the stone to me and said it was for me! She said she knew it was time to pass it on, and she wanted me to have it!

I was touched. And dumbstruck. And I felt like an asshole.

I’d given her something nice, but basically extra, and she turned around and bestowed upon me something really special and beautiful. I knew I should have given her something better, but it was too late. If I came back to her with a nicer gift, it would have looked as if I were trying to show her up.

This is the piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me. (Photo by me)

This is the piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me. (Photo by me)

It wasn’t too long, though, before I got to give my best.

I’d packed up all my merchandise, taken down my tent, and hauled everything except my big tub of rocks to my van. That tub of rocks is heavy! I knew it would take me forever to carry it to the van alone, and I’d probably hurt myself in the process. I thought earlier that I’d offer one of the guys who’d been hanging out in the grass next to my area a $5 ammonite to help me move the rocks, but by the time I was ready to make my offer, they’d wandered off.

I looked around and saw a young fellow I’d sold a couple of stones to earlier in the weekend. He’d bought a piece of malachite from Bisbee and another green/blue shiny rock I’d never heard of before from Mexico. He’s fastened them to his hood (like the hood of a cape or cloak, but without the robe part). He came back to my both to show me how it looked when he had finished the project. It had turned out really cool, and he seemed like a nice guy.

I asked him if he’d help me carry my box of rocks, didn’t mention any kind of exchange or payment, and he said yes. We hauled the box up to the van, and in the moment before he turned to leave, I reached into the rock box and pulled out one of my biggest, nicest, iridescent ammonites. I handed it to him, told him it was for him, and thanked him for his help.

He freaked out! He was so pleased with the ammonite. He threw his arms around me, thanked me, then bounded off to show it to his friend.

I think maybe I got it right that time.

The piece of rose quartz that Ms. Reiki gave me is the one I passed on to the woman who’d recently had open heart surgery. I wrote about the woman and the rock here: http://www.rubbertrampartist.com/?s=i+know+you+understand.

Acceptance

Standard

I actually wrote yesterday’s post before I read What It Looks Like by Marta Maranda. In that book, I read a few lines Maranda wrote about acceptance which much better express what I was getting at when I wrote

I get accepting oneself as one is. I get forgiving oneself for what one has done in the past. But releasing ALL concepts that one should be ANYTHING but what one is? That seems like a little much.

This is what Maranda says about acceptance:

…acceptance is not an opportunity to be dismissive. It does not mean you escape responsibility for your actions. And it is not a justification for future inaction, or a way to disregard the lesson that must be learned. (p. 334)

So, yes, we should accept ourselves and each other as we are, but that doesn’t mean we should quit trying to be better people.

I accept that I’ve made mistakes in the past and realize I can’t change what I’ve already done. However, I can change what I do in the future. It’s not enough simply to hope I don’t make the same mistakes again. I’m gonna have to work at it.