Dec 24, 2012

Planning Mountain

A lot has happened since the last entry I posted from Venice. We often put off packing so we could hang out with as many of our wonderful friends and neighbors as we could before we left, we ate at several restaurants we still hadn’t made it to, and met a bunch of amazing new people that were right under our noses the whole time. When you’re in transition its funny how things like that get amplified. In our last couple of weeks in town I met two famous musicians that I'm inspired by. I met Henry Rollins. I listen to his radio show on KCRW while I’m painting, and its one of those LA things that I can bring with me out here via the interweb. It was really a pleasure to meet him in person. I got to thank him for his dedication to sharing his extensive personal music collection in such an entertaining and educating way. I’m grateful to have the memory of our meeting and to be able to think of it while listening to his live show here in the studio at the end of the trail. Jana and I also met Adam Horovitz (Ad-Rock) through our friend Sunny Bak. The Beastie Boys music has been influential and inspiring to both Jana and I and I always wondered if we’d get to meet any of the Beasties one day. Sunny used to photograph the Beastie Boys back in the day in Brooklyn. Her photo studio was where the Fight for Your Right to Party music video was shot. LA is like that; Venice especially, there are awesome talented people around every corner, some just happen to be celebrities.

Sidebar: As I sit here on the top floor bedroom of the ranch house the wind is starting to pick up big time. It can get up to 80 mph. I have to go check on the wood burning stove to make sure its rockin’ otherwise the wind will blow the smoke back down the pipes and smoke us out. …And as you may imagine, it’s cold outside!

The trip moving all of our stuff was pretty straightforward and uneventful. We did a ton of planning to make it as easy as possible. We hired local movers to load and unload the truck and it was the best money we spent. A synchronicity occurred with the moving help. One of the local Venice movers was a massage therapist and one of the local Flagstaff movers was also a massage therapist. Jana just graduated massage school and is planning to get her business started here. I’d like to see it as a sign that it will work out the way she wants it to. It was actually really fun driving the big truck and communicating via walkie-talkie with Jana while she drove my Mini Cooper that she had full of half of her plants, the fish, (tank bubbler was plugged in to the cigarette lighter) and Patrick the 17-year-old water turtle was in a box of towels.

It looks like the little mini is pulling the whole caravan.
Once we got to the Ranch there were a few little things we had to learn quickly. The first lesson came from the wind and we did indeed get smoked out in the morning after the fire died down in the back room. The trick is that you have to have the fire blasting to keep the wind from pushing down the pipe. Smoke came billowing through the front of the stove and I had to go outside find a big clay pot, transfer the smoking logs from the stove to the pot and set the thing smoldering outside.

View of the road leading to our new home.
We’ve had some issues with the power. The original solar batteries had to be replaced. The owners are really busy with the school since it’s the holidays and they still managed to get us a new set of 4 batteries to replace the old ones. Much love and gratitude to them for getting them installed so quickly! Soon there will be a total of 8 but for now we really have to watch our power use. Even turning on the 10 amp Satellite internet modem sucks a lot of our power and we need to conserve it just to have lights on in the evening.

The new batteries inspired a happy dance. Prior to these beauties
showing up we had to heat up water on the propane stove and blow air into the fishtanks to keep the fish alive.
One of the first chores I picked to do was to chop out the 5" thick ice and scoop
out all of the water from the wood burning hot tub. 
The reason we moved on the 18th instead of waiting for after the Holidays was because we were invited to participate in a Sweat Lodge ceremony here at the ranch on December 21st. I had never done one before and so I didn’t know exactly what the significance was going to be or what the ceremony itself was going to be about. I just knew it was going to be hot in there and cold outside and I was planning for the physical aspects of it more than anything. As it turns out one of the main themes of this ceremony is about planning for the future. The facilitator called the sweat lodge a “Planning Mountain” and emphasized that our group of 8 people and our prayers could make a difference and influence a positive change in the world. During the ceremony we showed our gratitude to Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants, we made statements about our current condition, and prayers asking for help and guidance for humanity to change some of its ways in order to create a better more sustainable world to live in. We literally planned and wished for a brighter future for the Earth, Nature, Human kind, and for our own personal journeys. The 21st has been hyped up as the end of the world. We did our small part to manifest a new beginning. What an auspicious way to begin this next adventure!

The Sweat Lodge the day after with the canvas it was wrapped in taken down. James Turrell's cows knocked over the traditional structure they used to use they had a new frame built made of metal. You can see the Grandfathers (stones in the central ring) and the mats we sat on drying out. The mats we brought were used at the Venice pad to wipe beach sand off of our feet before we got into bed.

Merry Christmas and a prosperous and abundant New Year to all from Bill, Jana, and Patrick. "All my relations".

Dec 13, 2012

Dear anonymous tagger, I do believe I shall take you up on your request.

Venice Beach

—Long Beach 2003-2008 was a blur.
—Hollywood 2008-2010 was beautifully absurd.
—Venice Beach 2010-2012 was therapy.

The other night I was at the Largo listening to Henry Rollins doing his spoken word thing. He mentioned a quote about Los Angeles as being "No man's city".  I can't remember the name of the quotee. I could probably email Henry. He actually answers all of his email, but I don't think it really matters who said it. The meaning holds true to me. So much goes on here. Everyone has a hustle. Most of my friends and I are living our dreams. Its hard to get time with folks sometimes, even just to have drinks. To paraphrase Henry, (A guy that is on tour or exploring some remote country most of the year) he basically said, "This city is one of those places where you can be gone for an extended time and no one knows that you left. When you're gone you dont really miss LA, and it doesn't miss you either". As far as the city is concerned your just busy working on a project somewhere and one day you will just reappear at The Townhouse or Daikokuya. It knows you will be back. I'm so used to working on the East Coast or traveling that it feels as if I'm not really leaving. I will be back often to visit friends, go to art openings and shows—hopefully to be in a few—and stay connected. The odds are pretty good that I will probably see my LA friends more now that I'll be living 6 hours away and some will even ask, "You still in Venice? Lets hang out maybe next week sometime."

Laterz Southern California. It has been a dream, an extended vacation...surreal.

Dec 3, 2012

Tiger cry

Venice Beach. A dream. 
I’m in an apartment I’ve never seen in this life before. I share it with a few artists and it is also our art studio. It feels like New York even though it is superbly clean. I must be doing well to afford it. I’m sitting on a large freshly made bed in the apartment/studio and I get a phone call from a woman in her mid-fifties that I’ve never seen or met before. She’s a little chubby, has short hair, green eyes, and is very well dressed. I know this because even though we are chatting on the phone she is also at the edge of my bed staring directly into my eyes as we talk. I could describe her in a police line up she was so vivid and clear even though I have never seen this woman before in consensual reality.

She tells me that she’s seen my artwork online and called to buy some of my paintings for herself and for her business. 

The signal becomes patchy and she is hard to hear and understand even though I can still see her clearly. I’m trying hard to retain what she is saying and look around to find pen and paper. I can’t find them but I’m totally calm and figure that I will be able to put something together for her from the information I have.

Next I find myself on the city street still on the phone with the lady. It is definitely New York. Not far away from where I stand is a subway entrance and across the street is a scrawny scared looking tiger. The tiger is sad and crying out into the air with a deep guttural howl. Steam is jetting out of her maw. Her rib cage expands and contracts to the beat. I figure she must have escaped from somewhere, maybe a zoo, and she is lost.

I tell the lady on the phone, “Holy shit, there is a tiger on the street!”  I am totally alert and aware that this tiger could easily kill me if she wants to. Still on the phone, I start walking toward the tiger. “I have dreams like this,” I say into the phone. I could care less about the potential sale and I hang up on her and start to run at the tiger. When I get close to the tiger she bolts towards the subway entrance. The entrance has a large closed metal door that I know is locked. The tiger slams herself headfirst at the small space under the metal door making a loud clanging scrambling sound as she awkwardly squeezes herself through it. Her body twists and contorts like a cartoon character and her tail sucks under the door flapping like spaghetti being slurped up. It is the last I see of her.

I have to head back to the studio to warn my friends not to take the subway!

I make it halfway down a dirty alley and an adolescent lion is sitting like a dog with his butt against the wall of a building panting as if he had been running or playing and is now taking a short break. His eyes lock onto mine his jaws are open, his tongue is moving in and out of his mouth and his head bobs back and forth as he pants. I can’t tell if he wants to eat me or play. He has jerky movements like a young animal or a toddler that is still learning how to work its body. He has beautiful green eyes like the woman on the phone. I know it’s too late to run away so I run toward him. I know it’s the wrong thing to do. Running will trigger his instinct to chase and take me down. I do it anyway. I had a “thing” in my hand. It could be a piece of wood or garbage, it doesn’t really matter, maybe it was my phone. I toss it in the direction of the lion like it’s a toy to distract him. I come up on the lion in a full run. We merge into each other and begin to run as one entity towards the studio.

I woke up feeling excited and exhilarated. My personal interpretation of this dream is much more involved but this is the gist: The tiger to me represents elusiveness, and efficiency as a solo hunter. The subway represents transition. The lion hunts in a pride and is very social and even playful. The lion—for me—is also a symbol of courage. I have been the tiger most of my life. I am very independent and have been on a solo journey to re-remember my identity and connect with my higher self and it has been rewarding. I feel grateful to have made it this far in what I consider to be a fulfilling successful life full of surprises and absurdity. I still have a long way to go, and learning is an endless process, but I have recently found my stride and my voice. Even though I am sad to move on from the tiger’s ways it is time to share what I have been hunting for all these years and continue to hunt with my friends, family, and the community as the courageous lion. 

Nov 28, 2012

Approval from Mother Ocean

Venice Beach

I’ve been going for a run on the beach almost every other day for the past few years here in Venice. Today was one of the top five beach days I’ve had here in terms of weather, stillness of the ocean, and notably obvious synchronicities.

I have to set the stage. Remember this is November at 10am. The sun was out and it was warm with subdued light and it’s actually supposed to rain. I was wearing only swim trunks and I was comfortable if not warm. The beach was freshly graded meaning there are no footprints or trash on the fluffy part and it’s really neat to walk on. The water was gently lapping the sand. It’s usually a washing machine out there. I only saw a few people and everyone was unusually smiley. The air was still with a slight breeze. Just perfect.

I get a sharp sentimental pang.  I’m moving away from this? It may be a long time before I have another opportunity to play near the ocean everyday I if want.

I remind myself to shake it off, because moving to the ranch in Northern AZ is a no brainer. I can hardly sleep from the excitement of it. 

Ok, back to the moment. I walk past the lifeguard tower and onto the harder packed wet sand to begin my run. I take a few steps toward the pier and a mini wave rushes up the beach and deposits a tumbleweed directly in my path. Of all the times I’ve been out there I have never ever noticed a tumbleweed.

I look around to see if anybody else is seeing this and go up to inspect it and sure enough it’s a tumbleweed. I just start laughing.

Tumbleweeds abound at the ranch. Digging up tumbleweeds and burning them will be one of my major chores out there.

It was as if the ocean was saying, “You are going to leave all this for tumbleweeds?”

I go on my run. The ocean and the ocean birds and other critters are putting on their best show. I'm amazed at how little trash there is. They dont grade where the ocean meets the sand. There has been an upsetting amount of trash on the beach lately due to the extreme high and low tides of the season. I reach the breakwater where I usually stop and touch a certain rock with my foot to say that I made it and catch my breath. As I turn around a much older and very voluptuous woman is fast paced walking towards me. She has her exercise jacket pulled up above her breasts to cool off exposing large swinging bosoms and a wiggly belly. The undershirt she is wearing is the color of her skin and completely see through. I will leave it to your imagination as to what my first thought might have been. The little voice in my head said, “Mother”. I am thinking of the archetypal mother—Not necessarily my mother, but mother in the general sense. I started to run past her and back towards the pier analyzing and wondering about my experiences with the tumbleweed, the Mother, and my connection with the ocean. 

As I get about half way I notice that the waves are getting bigger as the tide is coming in giving the ocean the endlessly chaotic vibe that I’m used to. Just like that! A big wave pops up out of nowhere and rushes up the leg of my trunks depositing a pristine white baby bottle full of milk directly at my feet. I see what’s going on. I stop to acknowledge the ocean and offer my gratitude and thanks for her protection while Jana and I have been living and playing here at her beach. 

From where I am stopped gazing out to the horizon I see another sight I had yet to see on this stretch of the beach. Out on the water and really close are dozens of California Sea lions porpoising and frolicking in the water. It looked really playful as if they were doing it for the shear joy of it all. Most likely, considering the amount of sea birds around them they were probably hunting fish, but it was still quite a timeless and beautiful performance to behold. Every single time I have gone out to the ocean it has been dynamic and awe inspiring in some way, and on days like today—a learning experience. Thank you Mother Ocean.

Structure fire for AZ DECOM 2010 at the ranch.
The effigy was filled with tumbleweeds.
Notice the huge pile of tumbleweeds on the right.

Nov 19, 2012

No, it's not a compound or a cult. It's for the art!

The time is always NOW unless the time is GO!
—Robert Moss

Venice Beach, CA
It’s a new era! Beginning on December 18th 2012 Jana and I have been invited to live off grid on a 80+ acre solar powered ranch in an area 30 miles Northeast of Flagstaff, AZ. The ranch has been used for everything from a Burning Man Decompression site, a host to Tibetan monks, Hawaiian shamans, Djs, spiritual retreaters, sweat lodge meetings, woman's retreats, and other gatherings related to expanding human consciousness. 

Seems like a good time to start a blog...

Our friends that own the ranch founded a school called the STAR school about 12 yrs ago and it is the only off grid solar powered charter school in the country. It is a school for K-8 graders that focuses on the public school curriculum as well as Navajo culture and traditions, peacemaking and off grid sustainability. STAR School is expanding, winning awards and grants, and taking up most their time so they moved into another solar powered house closer to the school. They realized that they needed someone "exactly like us" to live on and and take care of the ranch. Again, it's just going to be us two living there and we will host work parties and events (not a cult). Our immediate goals—aside from making it our home—are to revitalize and continue the owner's vision for the ranch and discover new ways to facilitate creative events, concepts and happenings in accordance with its mission.

A few months ago at a Burning Man related event on the property I really felt a strong connection with the land and all of our friends that live up there. One day while I was out walking with one of the dogs crunching over black volcanic gravel and small scrub brush I wondered if I could rent out the ranch house and art studio to use it as my own "artist in residency" space. It seemed like a good time to get away from the hustle of LA for a bit.  I never had the chance to ask them.

The owners had us in mind at the same time I had them in mind—for the same thing! It is time for a new rugged adventure in Northern Arizona.

At the ranch there are 2 houses on the property as well as a barn, a hogan, an amphitheater, a sweat lodge, a straw bale structure called the Gnome dome and a lot of vast open space. We will be surrounded by breath taking views of the painted desert and mesas on the Navajo reservation. Our closest neighbor is  James Turrell's Roden Crater project. There is an unobstructed show of a gizzillion stars at night. There is more space outside to build giant art and gather folks to do it than you can shake a tumble weed at. I have missed sharing my life with dogs and there are two ranch dogs—Daisy and Duke that love to go on long hikes with us. There is even a crazy studio kitty named Jack that lives in the straw bale structure that sometimes "hugs" peoples legs.

We have much appreciation and gratitude for the opportunity to be able to uproot and start a new chapter in our lives. Not many people have this kind of flexibility and I would like to thank our friends and family that have shown Jana and I support in all of our wacky endeavors over the years. On that note I am also very fortunate to have Jana in my life as my partner in mischief and magic. Thanks Jana, I love you.

I intend to start this blog sharing my experiences while living off grid out in the Northern Arizona tundra. There will be stories and observations from my travel adventures, art events, museum projects, and "spiritual" explorations. ...and of course highlighting the general absurdity of it all as I go. 

I will book end this first entry with yet another one of my favorite quotes:  

There are times when we can feel destiny close around us like a fist around a doorknob. Sure, we can resist. But a knob that won’t turn, a door that sticks and never budges, is a nuisance to the gods. The gods may kick in the jamb. Worse, they may walk away in disgust, leaving us to hang dumbly from our tight hinges, deprived of any other chance in life to swing open into unnecessary risk and thus into enchantment. —Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates.

Satellite view of the ranch. The house is at the top with the blue
roof. Below that is a straw bale structure built around a bus that will 
be the art studio.  Across the road is the barn and the hippie bus. 
Further below is the Alex Grey Dome and the Gnome Dome. All the 
way at the bottom at the end of the road is a traditional Navajo hogan.