I became a political activist in 2016 when my beloved country lost its mind and elected Don the Con as President. Since then, I’ve engaged in all manner of ways to get citizens to register and go to the polls. This past cycle seemed particularly critical as a myriad of election deniers were running for high office, including secretary of state and it seemed like our Democracy was in serious jeopardy.
In my experience, taking action is powerful. And it sure beats sitting around worrying! So, I joined my illustrious phone banks and called Arizona voters.
There are usually several minutes between the time someone hangs up and another answers; I tend to be jumpy and the adrenaline flows so, I doodle. They are pretty much stream of consciousness and include quotes from the folks I call. The one about Goth Girls I did afterward because it was so completely random and therefore, my favorite call of the weekend.
It’s Tuesday and I’m still lit up from spending Friday and Saturday at San Francisco’s biggest music party, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free festival hosted by the late, great Warren Hellman estate.
We love this wonderful free festival in Golden Gate Park. I’m always impressed with how well organized it is, from the stages to the graphics to the mobile app; it’s top notch. Over the years, we’ve developed a drill—arrive early while it’s still uncrowded and comprised almost exclusively of old futs like us. I always feel buoyant then as I anticipate the promise of the day’s events.
Friday’s lineup mostly featured bands that were new to us but I’d prepped by previewing them online. Jake Blount’s group played at the friendliest locale, the Bandwagon: an RV outfitted to serve as a stage. The group was smokin’ hot and I experienced the first of many perfect moments as someone blew bubbles through the audience, shrouded in fog.
Saturday started with another perfect moment as we arrived; Jerry Harrison’s roadies performed their sound check by playing one of the songs from Remain in Light. They executed the piece extremely well and before I knew it, I was dancing at the foot of that stage.
I further entertained myself by sketching some of the characters and styles at the festival. This guy with the eyebrows…
Other perfect moments
Randomly running into friends
Talking with the dad of Drive-by Truckers’ bassist from Alabama, who was happy to remark that the festival was so “wholesome.” Indeed, babies, toddlers and dogs roamed freely. This year seemed to be devoid of assholes and drunks.
Traveling light with our backrests to discover new acts; being delighted by Rayne Gellert and Kieran Kane who were great and funny and gob smacked by the appreciation of the audience.
Hearing Elvis Costello clear as a bell from way up the top of the ridge, above the din of concert-going talkers (the many conversations)
A little girl’s unicorn bubble machine showering me in hundreds of small bubbles
And THE highlight dancing madly with those young San Francisco pixies and leprechauns to the electrifying music of Talking Heads and the Remain in Light album, played by Jerry, Adrian Belew and their funky African rhythm band.
We’ll be back again next year. Thank you, Warren Hellman and family for throwing us this kick-ass party each year. You bring so much joy to the City that you loved. XOXOXO
My previous post was from the first couple days of our six week sojourn in Hawaii. Here are more photos and sketches. Our first stop: the Big Island.
We stayed on the Hilo side of the Island. One night, thunder boomed and the rain came down in buckets. Otherwise, we were blessed with fine weather.
I was determined to body board at Honoli’i but terrified at the same time. After a couple of days, I became more comfortable there and caught some sweet rides.
The walk around Honoli’i included waterfalls, bridges and some beautiful flowers.
We drove up to Volcanoes to see the latest lava flow. This included a short hike with chairs and a picnic at sunset. There was a bit of a crowd but it wasn’t hard to see the fountaining lava.
I don’t know exactly how I managed it, but I lost a slipper/flip flop, fin sock and water shoe all within one 24 hour period.
It’s a talent, I know.
Suzanne hosted a holiday party and invited her hui of kids and parents from their school in Hilo.
Bananagrams were a big hit!
Our last Big Island day, we lolled around in the tide pools near South Point, waves pounding the rocky shore. We had such a nice time there, we stayed a bit too long and had to board our plane without the luxury of showering beforehand.
We spent the next month in Kailua and Waikiki. I had thought that December and January would be cool and rainy. To my surprise and delight, this year it was neither (with the exception of a few days around New Year’s). We were more social than we’d been for the last two years; catching up with old friends, hiking, mostly enjoying meals together outdoors.
I discovered a SWEET, flat walkway about a block from our Home Exchange. The Kawainui Marsh trail goes along the wetlands and provides an unobstructed view of the Koolaus, Olomana and the hills between Kailua and Kaneohe.
On a previous trip to Oahu, parked at a trailhead, our rental car was broken into, the window smashed and our gear in the trunk stolen. I didn’t want to risk that again so we parked in easier access/less obvious spots. I had no argument paying $10 to park at a golf course to get access to the Old Pali Road trail.
We spent New Year’s Eve in Wahiawa with our friends the Osorios. The pouring rain didn’t put a damper on the fireworks, which we watched from their covered lanai.
For the first time in years, we stayed up until midnight!
The Pu’uma’eli’eli hike isn’t difficult, it’s just a steep, gunky, muddy trail which made it hard after all.
The view at the top is worth it, though. We hit the peak on a glassy day.
Waikiki has changed radically in the last 20 years from an Asian flavored honky tonk city to a mini Rodeo Drive, with stores like Louis Vuitton and Harry Winston.
I prefer the Kapiolani Park side for its proximity to restaurants and markets on Kapahulu, the less crowded beaches, little waves at the wall and even some snorkeling. Mitch saw an octopus right there where everyone was walking all over the reef.
What to do after a day at the beach? sketch the scene from our condo. I loved our (obstructed) view of Diamond Head and Kaimuki, especially in the late afternoon sunlight.
The northwest end of Oahu is Ka’ena Point. You can get there by hiking from the West/Makaha side of the Island or from the North Shore.
As we drove up toward the coast, I could clearly see waves breaking from miles away–they were humongous that day. We met our friends Azeema and Kuhio at the northern trailhead. It was clear and we started out at 7:30 am to beat the heat. By the time we reached the tip, the sun had risen above the mountains and it was HOT. We had our lunches in the shade of some rocks. The hike out was kind of brutal but worth it!
Our last week was what we’d dubbed the “wild card” because we hadn’t made any reservations for that time. I had been hesitant to commit to Kaua’i because it’s always so wet in the winter.
But not this time.
We stayed with our friend Tracey in Wailua and enjoyed a week of sweet visits with good friends and spectacular weather!
One day, we tripped up to Koke’e. I can’t remember the last time that I was there in the bright sunshine. Wow!
When I lived on Kaua’i, I would hike to Kalalau whenever I had a three day weekend. I came to know the place and the trail well and I still love and dream of it (though I haven’t been down there for ~15 years). It was such a pleasure to hike the rim and get fantastic views of the valley.
A quick stop at Anahola Granola headquarters in Hanapepe. This photo sent as an Aloha to the founder, our friend Becky who is healing from a badly broken leg.
Louise said that her halau’s weekly get-togethers kept her sane over the last two years of Covid. We were honored to join them for some songs. Mitch played along with his guitar. I sketched.
Our last day was also glorious. We snorkeled at Anini Beach with my old friend Robin, who runs Reef Guardians.
And we ended up at Hanalei Bay, which never ceases to astound me with its expansive glory.
I just finished listening to the book Moloka’i by Alan Brennert. The story follows the life of a Hawaiian woman who contracts leprosy at age 6. It illustrates the upheaval to her life and her family along with radical changes occurring in Hawaii from the late nineteenth to mid-twentieth centuries.
I know much of the islands’ history and was pleased to hear it described from a sympathetic perspective, particularly:
The way that missionaries and foreigners treated the Hawaiian people with condescension, while attempting to annihilate their culture and language
How leprosy (among other diseases) decimated the native community and tore apart families
The banishment of leprosy victims to the remote peninsula of Kalaupapa on Moloka’i
The death of King Kalakaua
The illegal overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy by a bunch of American businessmen (after the January 6 insurrection, this became very real to me) and Queen Liliuokalani’s subsequent imprisonment
The bombing of Pearl Harbor
The Mainland imprisonment of Japanese Americans
The emergence of many technologies like air travel and motion pictures
Other memorable details include fictional interactions with Father Damien. Damien is historically written as a hero: someone who came to lawless Kalaupapa and imposed order and civilization. In the book, he’s a religious zealot (one of those “my way (salvation) or the highway (Hell)” guys) and I realize that he was; he may have brought some needed management but I can no longer think of him as a factor only for good.
The victims were all treated like criminals—shunned by their families and society, banished and basically imprisoned. Many died so fast that their graves remain unmarked. The Christians on the peninsula were heavy-handed in the way they treated the patients, e.g. in the book, they don’t allow the girl to live with her only family in the settlement, her Uncle and his lover (also patients), because they “feared for her safety” being out in the community. Instead she’s forced to live with the nuns and is raised by them.
But I digress. Listening to the book brought back flashes of my own visit in 1990. I had joined a weekend Sierra Club service trip to help clear some of the many unmarked graves. We flew from Honolulu to Kaunakakai and then in a puddle jumper to that apron of land bordered by dramatic, vertical pali (ridges) and the Pacific ocean itself. Were it not for its terrible past, the place might be considered a remote paradise. Kalaupapa is now a national historical site.
It was like the town that time forgot, with cars from the 40’s and 50’s, dirt roads, limited electricity and only a few residents. When the cure for Hansen’s disease was finally discovered, some patients at the settlement decided to stay in the community rather than live out in the world with their disfigurement and the stigma attached to it. We stayed in the Parks Service bunk house and ate our meals as picnics or in the main house. It was strikingly beautiful and HOT as there are many harsh, open areas. The work was hard but satisfying and during our break, we explored the coast.
By Sunday afternoon, the fog had rolled in and stubbornly refused to leave, meaning that our flight out was canceled and we were staying another night. I was secretly thrilled, but my manager at Hawaiian Graphics was less so—when I called to say I wasn’t able to report to work the following day, she was pretty cranky about it (I think she was jealous).
That chilly evening, Kalaupapa was enveloped in mist and a spirit of bygone days. As we dined in the main house among the aged furnishings and décor, a show playing old jazz from Honolulu sputtered through the radio, the sound waves remarkably crossing the 26-mile Ka’iwi channel between the islands, adding to the mystery of the night. This is what I remember most about that trip to Kalaupapa—the feeling of a time warp in a place that time forgot.
It’s been a cornucopia of art journaling workshops lately. The wonderful Estè MacLeod supplied the info about an incredible opportunity—something called Sketchbook Revival, which offers free art journaling classes by one or two different teachers each day. It’s so rich with fabulous techniques for thinking, not thinking, mark making, collage, rubber stamping, book creation and just playing. Here are a few that I did with that group. #sketchrevival #artjournaling
At the same time, I attended a class at Congregation Beth Sholom in SF—Art Journaling for the Jewish Soul with Debbie Bamberger. I learned so much and enjoyed playing. It’s hard for me to use these new techniques, I had to loosen up and push things. I just let things happen and many of the pieces didn’t work but that was the point for me. To just keep going. It’s exciting! #bethsholomsf
Adding to this post: I finally dug into the rubber stamping project. I’ve been chomping at the bit to get to this but hadn’t had time. SO MUCH FUN! I loved the materials as well as the art itself. I used watercolor because I haven’t been able to get the ink pads yet but that’ll come. I’m sure this won’t be my last project with these. Thank you, Sarah Matthews!
Here’s another piece I did from Sketchbook Revival. Night and Day with Helen Hallows. This was a fun exercise with painting, drawing, collage and even a little rubber stamping. Branching out!
Through the fires of this year, we’ve occasionally considered moving from the Golden State. However, our trip to the coast reminded me how incredibly beautiful it is here in California.
The weather was glorious and clear. We saw whale spouts out in the water, shooting stars in the clear night sky and ate fabulous food.
We were treated to a tour of the Mendocino Stone Zone, a place where host Peter Mullins brings in stonemasons from Scotland, Ireland, France and New England to create art within his property in the hills. Peter is a font of knowledge about stone and informed us of a seam of basalt in Windsor, not far from where we live.
We stayed at Roseman Creek Ranch, which provided a fantastic, huge kitchen. We paid a little extra for the big wood oven to be fired up so we could make pizza and other yummies. What a treat it all was!
I’ve been captivated by a neighbor’s garden where king protea are blooming. Whenever I pass by, I am drawn to the flowers like a bee to honey and I just gape at them. This has brought me to paint them, of course. Here’s the series I completed.
Most of these were created with potato and carrots to stamp shapes in watercolor, with brush embellishments. I got really into the stamping technique.
When I can’t go out, I go in. And usually, that means making art.
I discovered the fabulous Esté MacLeod on Instagram and she quickly became my favorite artist on the platform. She starts with letters or numbers and turns them into beautiful paintings. When I saw that she was offering a free course on playing with shape and color, I was all over it.
The first part was to draw numbers 1 – 9 and turn those digits into leaves, real or imagined.
When I tried to think of ways to do this, I got stuck. But when I just let my pen move and got my head out of it, I ended up with some interesting patterns and shapes.
The next step was to put them into more plant-like formations and paint them with watercolor. She encouraged the class to use a dip pen with the watercolor applied by using a brush as well as brush painting. I’d never used this method before and was delighted by the effect.
The next step was to employ potato, carrot, toilet paper roll and other items found in the house, to create flower shapes and then embellish them. Once again, I had trouble because at first they all turned out looking the same and I kept thinking about how I could do it. But when I tried not to think and just moved my hand to draw and paint lines, curves and shapes, the results surprised and delighted me.
Mitch said to me, “My left eye is cloudy—as if my glasses are dirty but I’m not wearing glasses.”
We were boarding a flight to San Juan, P.R., our destination alternative to a Hurricane soaked Big Island. Thus began a four-month ophthalmic odyssey involving around a dozen eye and retina appointments, two nasty procedures, two surgeries and the terror of temporary blindness. It’s been a tough year for my sweetie.
We got to know most of the doctors at the UCSF Ophthalmology department. With nothing to do but worry, I kept myself busy during the appointments by sketching.
Recovering from retina surgery is an ordeal. The patient has to keep his face down/parallel to the floor 90% of the time for four days. We rented a massage chair thing and apparatus for sleeping as well.
The planets were aligned against us, as two weeks following the left eye surgery, the right eye retina tore as well. What are the odds? This took us…
The ordeal—two torn retinas at the same time: blind man’s bluff for 4 months. The sketches are all from eye #2. And it doesn’t include the appointments in Puerto Rico.
Thanks to the incredible Ophthalmology staff at UCSF for restoring Mitch’s sight! Now for a new prescription…