Return home to California

I tried to make it through Arizona spending as little of my $$ as possible in protest of the state’s new anti immigrant law.  It seems like it will hurt more US citizens than curb immigration. My experience is that repression just doesn’t work.  It will always backfire in the end.

Then I tippie-footed my way across the burning roads of the California desert, hoping that my tires wouldn’t melt.

What I was really looking forward to was my visit to Hiromi Paper in Santa Monica to buy Japanese paper for digital printing. I’ve always been a greedhead for fine handmade paper, and at Hiromi’s I was in heaven. So much so that I forgot to take a picture for you. It’s a compact store filled with wonderfulness with which to fill your eyes.

Anyway I ran up a largish bill for paper and bookbinder’s cloth for a new artist book in progress (one that uses the quartet of images that poured out after the Blue Mountain Center residency).

As if that weren’t enough I discovered that Hiromi Paper is located in an arts center called Bergamot Station, a complex of galleries, studios, and art related stores.

In a gallery called Latin American Masters I saw some Rufino Tamayo graphic images that grabbed the back of my neck and shook me like a puppy. They are figurative works that look like their original home was Chaco Canyon.  Highly textured, limited palette, abstracted human forms — definitely worth experiencing if you are anywhere in the area.

In the same gallery, some contemporary artists among whom I discovered

Deer People
"Deer People" by Jose Bedia, Acrylic on Canvas, 72" x 100"

Definitely worth a visit.

bronze sculpture
"Jug. Pressing & squeezing" by Andrew Lord, 1994, 29 x 25 x 19", Courtesy of the artist and Donald Young Gallery, Chicago

In the Santa Monica: Museum: of Art (also in Bergamot Station) there is a show of Andrew Lord titled “between my hands to water falling, select works from 1990 to 2010”.  Lord has used parts of his body to “transfer sensation into physical form” using clay mostly.  I was attracted to the work that revealed the physical effect of the hand on the material.  His use of glazes and gold leafing obscured that for me.  But in a bronze piece called “Jug Pressing & squeezing” I was suddenly and forcefully reminded of the handprints in mud of humans who made their homes in the cave shelters of Walnut Canyon, in  Arizona, hundreds of years ago.  This sculpture was moving and real.

If you plan on visiting Bergamot Station, allow a lot of time.  I had to move on.

Next stop: Morro Bay to pick up a mandolin for Mr. Rioso.

Things I like about Morro Bay:

Coalesce Bookstore, 845 Main Street, (805) 772 2880.  New and used books and a beautiful wedding chapel/garden.  I can always find good used art books there.  If you are in the area, see if Linna has any performances scheduled.  For example: PEPPINO D’AGOSTINO will be there August 20

Montana de Oro State Park

Morro Bay State Park

Walking on the beach at Morro Bay.  Watching life as it insists on persisting as it has for thousands of years.

Morro bay surf
Morro Bay

Still, it is time to go home.  Heading north and watching the speedometer.


The Landlord

This was before Oola’s time so she cannot tell the tale.  Mr. Rioso and I used to live in Morro Bay, in a hippy hut on the bluff above the embarcadero.  I had built two walls-with-doors on a lean-to garage on the side of the tiny house so I could have a studio, where I could gaze on Morro Rock and watch the pelicans dive for dinner.

During this road trip Mr. Rioso and I decided on an evening walk in our old neighborhood where we happened to meet the current occupant of  the “fancy” house on the lot where we used to live.  She knew of the previous occupant as the “Sea Captain”.  So we began to regale her with tenant’s tales.

Mr. Kennon was the landlord. And actually he had been a pharmacist in the Navy during WW2.  He died in the late 1980’s but until then he had been a distinctive segment of the local color in Morro Bay.  We were still youngish then, so Mr. Kennon seemed ancient.  It seems in retrospect that  he always had a soggy half-burnt cigar hanging out of his mouth. And he had no qualms as to where he left his brownish spits.

Mr. Kennon had a small boat which he kept in the yard of the “fancy” house. This vessel was inhabited by an oversized, carnival-prize, stuffed bear.   Mr. Kennon could no longer cruise in his boat, because he had had a stroke when out in the bay, and crashed.  He also had a pickup truck. We found that Mr. Kennon knew two speeds: stop and full-on-fast-forward.

He would drive this truck to the Old Peoples’ Home where he would entertain the “old folk” with his piano playing.  He had been good at it somewhere in his history, but when we knew him, he was rhythmically challenged.  This did not bother us when we heard him practicing in the basement of the “fancy” house, because the spirit was good.  Mr. Rioso says that he hopes people will think he is charming when his sense of rhythm slips.

I keep using the term “fancy” house for the building in which he dwelled. Mr. Kennon built this house out of a recycled gas station.  On the lot he also built a small garage with a residence above and our hut.  The “fancy” house still has a second floor balcony where Mr. Kennon used to feed chocolate cake to Knuckles, a stump footed seagull.

When Mr. Rioso and I first looked at the house, on the wall of the front room was a huge grease stain slightly above floor level.  I had recently seen an artist book which had greatly impressed me, about the death of the book artist’s father.  The poor man had died alone in his apartment and was discovered more that a week later.  A picture in the book showed the great stain the father’s decomposing body had left on that wall.

Needless to say the stain on our wall made a great impression on me.  I painted that wall many times, but the stain kept making its statement. There was no way to cover it up.  A physical ghost, it kept coming back.  We made our peace with it.

As the rent was minimal, we could make no complaints as to the condition of our house.  In the kitchen the linoleum was so worn that we could see through to the ground.  The lot was clotted with menacing, overcrowded pine trees.  Mr. Kennon festooned them with with plastic grapes and flowers, and a statue of the Virgin Mary, which glowed in the cul-de-sac at night.

When we moved in, the leakage in the shower was so bad that a wall of brown slugs had taken up residence inside the sheet rock next to the bath tub.  They were so thick and so many that in aggregation they made the sound of congestion in a sick baby’s lungs.

Mr. Rioso used a large palette knife to scoop them into a shopping bag.  I ran out the front door and threw up.  Do you know that slug slime never washes off human hands?  Mr. Rioso thinks his Super Poly Grip is made of slug snot.  Among those in the know, Mr. Rioso retains the nickname Sluggo.

The water heater failed.  Mr. Kennon, attentive landlord that he was, installed a new one.  As for the old one, he dug a pit in the sandy dirt and lowered the metal carcass into it.  To our quizzical looks, he explained that “it will go away”.  I have no doubt that it rusts there to this day.

Mr. Kennon carried on a stately courtship with Nadine.  She was a lovely lady who fascinated me because she had been a photography student in the San Francisco Art Institute in the fourties — at the height of the Abstract Expressionist movement on the West Coast.  She had met and studied with some of the luminaries of that time.

So every evening Mr. Kennon would dress up in one of the many plaid polyester suits that he purchased from the second hand store, a subsidiary of the old person’s home.  He would walk the mile or so to Nadine’s house, which is still there and looks like something out of a woodsy fairytale.  He escorted Nadine to the “fancy” house where they remained for an hour or so.  And he then escorted her back home, a happy man.

He was sometimes a gruff man, who could never remember Mr. Rioso’s name and always spoke of my partner as “the boy”.  But he was also a wise man who easily earned our affection.  When he was diagnosed with stomach cancer, he explained to Mr. Rioso that he could not complain, that he had had a long and satisfying life.  Nadine nursed him until he died in the “fancy” house looking out over his beloved Morro Bay.