Here are a few shots of the Arbor I built for our friends’ wedding at Riverside Park in Salida last year.
“Has the Meat-Starved Lit-trature section o’ the Old Brain got a hankerin’ fur somethin’ nutrifyin’???”
Look at this thick and juicy new non-fiction novel by yours truly. Almost an inch thick, weighing in at about a pound, and as rare as you can get it…this book is a full meal for even the most voracious reader. “The Last American Hitch-Hiker” has about 90,000 words and 21 full-page illustrations…this should keep your eyes and grey matter happy for a while! Thanks again to Allan, Bryce, Meghan, and all the contributors.
“Why, its Brain-Smackin’ Good!!!”
2013, May 16, 4:23pm…I held in my calloused hands an object which was ten years in the making. The moment was super tangible and yet dream-like.
Many people helped me to make this a reality. You may be one of them. Blair Pittman is the man who showed me the ropes. Blair demonstrated to me the independence of creating your own book and publishing it yourself when I was illustrating his “Tales from the Terlingua Porch” back in 2005. He introduced me to his good buddy Allan Kimball, who was creating the PDFs and doing creative layout for Blair. Allan also did the editing on the Porch book, as he has worked on many literary undertakings and had proven himself to be impeccable in such things. I decided to employ Allan’s skills for my book as well, mainly for doing the layout, as I had no experience. I’ve found Allan to be honest and true and quite tolerant of my creative eccentricities.
Ever since I saw Blair’s book, felt the texture of it in my hands, noted the quality of the printing, and realized how well-made the thing was, I knew I had to use the same printer. I remember Blair talking about this guy named Bryce, a printmaker who lived in Wimberley, the same town as Allan. The way Blair made it sound, Bryce was a great guy and took real pride in his work. After working with Bryce on my book, I’m his biggest fan. He really put his heart into the craft, plus our thought-provoking conversations during the making of “The Last American Hitch-Hiker” made it a delightful experience. Recently, I finally got to meet Bryce and see his shop where books come to life. Although I didn’t get to see the machines in action, there were skyscraper stacks of unfolded, uncut pages of my book everywhere and the printing plates for the cover were still in the press…the smell of ink was in the air. Bill Adkisson, a fine photographer friend of Bryce’s documented some of the shop and the printing process, which you can see below. I really appreciate Bill’s eye and so glad that he preserved an important piece of personal history for me. Thanks Bill. The paper itself came from French Paper Company, which is a small, environmentally conscious, American business.
A man named Don established an enterprise called Master Bookbinder many years ago in Austin. Now a lovely woman named Meghan runs it. Don and his son still help out with operations. Their masterful work put the finishing touch on my book. Meghan was willing to do a first batch of my book separately (and quickly!) so that I could pick it up on my way through Austin. Thanks Meghan! I don’t have the photos here from my actual picking-up of the book, but they are special and I will get them on here in the near future.
258 copies are in-transit to Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Minnesota, Chicago, and Colorado…they’re in the back of our truck as we tour the country seeing friends and family. Many of these are going to be delivered to the wonderful people who helped me in the funding of the book. Without financial assistance it would have been two years before the creation of ”The Last American Hitch-Hiker”. I’ll be spending the next couple weeks signing and drawing in copies of the book for those who donated to my project through Kickstarter.com or otherwise. Those fine folks knew that their donations were not a charity, but instead, a chance to participate in this grand adventure. There are many others who contributed to the book in different capacities, such as the people who picked up a total stranger along the roadside, those who raised me to appreciate the results of much hard work, and those who inspired me to cast convention aside and do things my own way.
“I inhabit a place where even the crickets have begun to sound threatening…”
Right now, I’m in the middle of a Bug House…no, not a loony bin, but a house that has lots of bugs in it. Although if you ask Shannon, she’ll swear she has lost her mind.
Cool night breezes enter a wide open doorway, beyond which exists a strange world of spiky-tentacle-waving Land Squid, weakly illuminated the radiance of many suns, some of the sunlight only 4.2 years old, some that took millions of years to reach us here on this tiny sphere. Belief in the existence of life on other planets is encouraged by the encroachment of Aliens into the place where we spend time; inside our living space a single bulb glows, drawing the night creatures in for a fix, and they are about as alien as you could imagine. To my right, on the adobe wall, an awkward praying mantis has been catching all kinds of prey and chewing ‘em up. Huntsman Spiders, Wolf Spiders, and all other types of spiders scurry across the floor or wall…some sit at the end of a silken line, jonesing for that familiar tug…some lurk at the edge of a shadow, patiently waiting for some unlucky angel to come crashing down all drunk and blind from bashing its head into the naked light one too many times. But these are the run-of-the-mill bugs…the strange ones come later…
Insects don’t just come into existence one-here and one-there. When they are born, they have hundreds of siblings, all scrambling over one another to get after whatever their preferred food is, meanwhile oblivious to the fact that they are some other bug’s favorite meal. It’s a recipe for some good old B-Horror Movie Entertainment for yours truly.
There are wicked-looking prehistoric bugs running Hell-Mell all over floors and walls like their asses are on fire…they’re the ones I call SHOCK MONSTERS! (pictured below) They hunt ceaselessly and are also known as “Children of the Desert”, “Sun Spiders”, or “Wind Scorpions” These crazy-creepy critters run around on their eight legs like non-stop-wall-climbing-wind-up-toys. The Shock Monster earned it’s moniker with me not long after I moved here to Terlingua from Montreal ten years ago. I was at my friend Shaggy’s one-room-rock-house in a neighborhood called “248″ because of its section number. We’d made popcorn in a Jiffy Pop on his camp-stove and I was standing at the counter, dousing the crunchy little clouds with melted butter from a cast-iron pan when I felt something crawl up onto my sandal-foot. Remaining calm, I decided to just let it crawl right back off, reason being. I figured if I freaked out I’d be much more likely to get stung by the scorpion or whatever it was that had decided to explore my physical terrain. That’s when it felt like someone clamp jumper-cables onto my foot from a power-line. I shrieked, jumping and looking at the beast on my foot while convulsing/shaking it off…it was a SHOCK MONSTER! After the throbbing gradually subsided over the course of ten minutes, I noticed that no mark was left on my foot whatsoever…I was left completely unharmed…physically.
It isn’t the hairy spiders, the crazy Shock Monsters, or the praying manti that get under my skin. It’s not the flying cockroaches that freak me out either…it’s not them at all. In fact, I find them sort of adorable. Their color is that of dusty gold and they have a clumsy demeanor. What creeps me out is the Bloodsucking Cone-Nose Beetles. Yes, they have big fold-out siphons which they use like an embalming pump in reverse…yes, they creep up on you to feed on your body fluids while you are sleeping…yes, they are as Scary as FUCK. They are real-life Vampires…the un-sexy kind. These whom I hunt down like life-robbing criminals, whereupon I crush their frail bodies until they are dead…and I have no remorse…neither do they about their unscrupulous methods. It’s one of those kill-or-be-sucked-dry-and-left-with-perforated-hickies-and-diabolical-fever situations. This evening, eighteen of the unholy creatures have been slaughtered…one with my bare hands. When its body exploded, clots of blood sprayed across my knuckles, the remains of its last meal, most likely sucked from a sleeping rat. I know this to be true, because when a hungry vampire bug has been smashed flat, only clear juices squirt out, plus neither Shannon nor I have has symptoms, which range from outrageously swollen lumps of flesh to absolute tiredness to raised body temps.
Each day the insanity grows. Sleeplessness. Paranoia. Anger and frustration. Suspicion. Misguided hostility. Outright FEAR. Even if we closed our eyes, the crickets, loud and incessant, would enhance the constant state of freaked-outedness by providing an unforgiving insectile soundtrack. Of course, we can’t close our eyes, because Chimeras might crawl right up our legs. Have you ever known what it’s like to Live in a Nightmare? No??? Well, come and live with us in the month of May in the desert sometime…and bring a cast-iron flyswatter!
I’m proud to have been a part of this Historic fiesta with music being played on both sides of the river. We love our neighbors in Mexico.
While working on the Mud Dome today, I had a terrible thought. “What if, while we are away for the Summer, a swarm of bees decides that this is a huge hive I’ve constructed especially for them?” With a classic hive shape to it, built-in shade from the hot sun, and a dark, windowless interior, how could a bee resist? I began to wonder how I could prevent this from happening. Should I hang Winnie the Pooh posters on the walls? Fill the dome with sand and dig it out when we return? Import some Bee-Eaters? (There really is a bird called the Bee-Eater, and they do eat bees.)
I decided that if the door to the dome were simply left open, it would deter them, as they prefer small openings through which a predator cannot enter. Of course, all this Anthophilastic thought led me to wonder…could I build the perfect beehives out of the very mud which I was pressing betwixt my nimble fingers? Picturing a mud hive out in the desert appeals to me as an artist and lover of that sweet, sweet nectar which my little striped friends produce.
Once I was finished with my second mix for the day, I washed the adobe off my hands and went straight to the internet and searched for Mud Hive. The first thing I found was useful in an architectural sense. Mud houses shaped like beehives have been used for centuries in Turkey and are also the oldest type of house in Scotland and Ireland. Next I found something about mud houses for bees…but they aren’t the shape I thought they’d bee. They are basically long mud cylinders a foot in diameter which are stacked horizontally so that when it’s time, the Keeper can smoke one end of the cylinder, driving the bees to the other end, allowing for the harvesting of honeycombs.
I am seriously considering an attempt at building this type of beehive or something similar…not for commercial production, but to bring in a good batch of pollinators for Shannon’s garden and provide honey for us and wax to use for candles, art, and wall treatment. Plus, I can get one of those funny hats!
My Book is on KiNDLE! So, if you’re into the virtual thing and don’t need to smell the paper, this link is for you! No worries if you don’t have a “Kindle” because you can read this on any computer. There is a small and free program called “Kindle Cloud” which allows you to read this on a PC or a Mac.
Here is the link to my book: THE LAST AMERICAN HITCH-HIKER
My last three weeks have been spent playing with mud. I say “playing”, but this is the hardest work I have done in a long time. Every day except one out of the last twenty-one days I have spent six hours working on this 10′ diameter dome. Yes, it’s built right on the ground. Here in the desert, we don’t have to worry about the freeze and thaw as do people of Northern Climes…thus, you don’t have to “dig a footer” and pour concrete. You can just throw down some mud and begin your shape, which in this case is the indomitable DOME. I have dreamt of building a dome for years, so there is a feeling of accomplishment that goes along with this process.
Being the realist that I am, I’ll not gloss over the fact that this is back-breaking work, mainly because I’ve got a desert-departure deadline. Mud is heavy. Mud is thick. We call it “adobe” here, which makes most people think of bricks, but adobe is just the Spanish word for MUD. My preferred method of building is not to make bricks, cure them for a couple weeks, then begin stacking. I’m more inclined to just take blobs of the stuff and form something like a huge piece of pottery…it’s less formal, more playful, immediate, and easier to make subtle curves…plus, you don’t have to wait for those bricks to dry. I simply drew a circle using a ground-pounded piece of rebar and rope, then dug down into the earth about one foot before I began building a mud ring around that pit…the point of all this is to make a cave that will stay cool during the HOT times here in the Chihuahuan Desert. The forecast calls for it to reach 104 Farenheit on Wednesday. Unfortunately the dome will not be even close to complete by then.
The going is slow, but it makes for what I call ZEN CONSTRUCTION or “Mark-itecture”. As I work, the walls gradually grow taller in four-inch increments. I started in one spot and am spiraling up to what will eventually be the apex of a three-dimensional curve. This shape is stronger and more stable than any other you can find in architecture…older too; domes were probably the shape of the first human abodes ever constructed. Clay and sand exist in every part of the planet; you need no concrete, metal, or wood to build a dome. The cupola shape is self-supporting…you’ll notice that I have no inner-structure to hold it all together, because it’s unnecessary when each part of the wall pushes down and out quite evenly towards the foot. Mud has been the most widely-used material for building homes in the world and the honest truth is this: We need to begin constructing our homes more efficiently. Mud is the answer, even in wet climes >>> all you have to do is build an over-hanging roof and use some kind of good final coating of refined mud mixed with horse manure or lime (no, not the fruit!) on your walls to prevent erosion.
Zen Construction allows time for thought about where the project is going, what you’d like to see happen in the next several inches of your structure, or things that you need to do to create a successful door, window, or ventilation system. It give you time to record your progress and consider the beauty of the thing. Each day after I do The Sunset Mix, I walk around the outside of the dome a couple times, stand in the middle of it and do a 360-degree examination, sit on the edge of it and observe the shape. My feeling is that the eyes (and the brain connected to them, of course) can tell you a lot about how to design something. Other folks might have technical measuring equipment for work like this, but if you really get in touch with the lay of the land and the shapes around you, there’s no need for messing with modern tools. My dome will not be perfect in the sense of inches and millimeters; it will be perfect in the sense of what feels right. The shape is very forgiving…as long as your end result is kind of egg-shaped, you’ll have something that would withstand hurricanes and earthquakes. That’s just one more reason that this is an ideal shape to use, not to mention the fact that roundness gives people a sense of balance and calm. Our lives consist of a series of spherical shapes, so it’s only natural to feel at home with the dome. PHOTOS: DoMe MuD DoMe
To participate in or be a witness to something and then react from the gut about what your senses absorbed. To respond in an honest way to what society produces, even if something ugly that has to come out of your mouth or fingertips to do so. To fly by the seat of your pants, even if you don’t have an official license to do so…and your pants are on fire. Not to care about what others will think of you and not to worry about convention.
Can you tell I just watched a documentary about Hunter S. Thompson?
A Friend just sent me a link to this site, where I found these uplifting words about creativity…
A Global/Tribal Vision
R.L. Johnson – Feb. 18/99
“Animatism” is the creative philosophy of the Animatic Art Movement.
We believe that the universe is in a process of spiritual evolution, moving towards greater and greater states of sentient awareness and unified collective consciousness.
We call this evolutionary process the “creative spiritual force”. We believe that this force or “urge to consciousness” is an integral and impelling aspect of our cosmos and that we can access this force during our creative process.
- We see creative expression as a sacred task.
- We look to the understandings and wisdom of our ancestors for guidance.
- We create artworks and processes to help heal, bridge differences and inspire a more caring and compassionate global community.
Animatism, as an aesthetic and creative philosophy, has its origins in an ancient, shamanic process. We embrace this process as the way to initiate a powerful, multi-disciplinary art movement, capable of enlivening creative expression within all cultures and communities throughout our world.
In our collective tribal past there was a critically important position held by shaman/artists. Their function was to act as intermediaries, on behalf of the community, between the manifest reality and the spiritual reality.
When important events happened in the life of the tribe, such as death, hunger or natural disaster, or when issues affecting the emotional/spiritual well being of the community needed to be resolved, the shaman/artists would begin a journey to the spirit world to seek guidance, insight and inspiration.
They prepared for this journey through prayer, fasting, dancing, drumming, chanting, meditation and other ritualistic processes. When an altered state of conscious was achieved the shaman/artists would become one with the creative spiritual force and their spirit journey would begin.
While on this journey they would focus their attention on observing, recording and manifesting the images and insights they experienced. Shaped from clay, painted in vegetable dyes on hides or cave walls, carved from wood, stone and bone, danced and sung, these offerings then became the focal point for reflection, enlightenment and resolution of tribal issues and concerns.
Many of these images and insights are still with us today, eons after they were first received. They form the foundations of our modern cultural understandings.
- We are Animatic creators.
- We access the same creative spiritual force as our ancestors.
- We create to expand Collective Consciousness.
- We deactivate our ego-based control to access pre-intellectual primal visions.
- We manifest these visionary inspirations.
- We do this for the benefit of our global/tribal community.
We Are One.
Words Borrowed from the Millennium Art Gallery and Art Movement.