Returning to Hawaii 14 years later, Violet and I took a boat trip - time was short and the hike itself is long - around the north-western side up along Kalalau where I spent a month camping, being, and letting go 14 years ago in 2000 when I was 24. I'm a different person now yet, not so much as changed. Back then I'd hiked the Kalalau trail at least 8 times - once in only 3 hours. Had nearly had my neck crushed by the ocean, had been poisoned by the water, eaten a goat killed by a fellow camper and roasted over the fire, and then had retreated away from that larger transient community on that gorgeous beach. In a little hidden spot tucked away from everyone I lived in a tent alongside a river up in the valley. I dug a fire pit and had a sweet pool to swim in. I hiked, painted, got lost, found, sat, did yoga, grew my beard, mused and pondered and let myself disappear into the landscape.
"What made you come out?" asked Violet while we watched the sun cast sharp angles over the jagged edges of the cliffs.
Observations, Experiences, and The Great Convergence in Egypt
Dec. 13 – 25, 2012
“We must be some kind of important,” I said quietly to Violet as the six tour buses of revelers traveled quietly down the twisting desert road away from the Giza plateau and the Great Pyramids and a party so unbelievably perfect that the bus is actually quiet and now here we were led by Egyptian police on motorcycles with lights flashing whisked down down down through the sand and back into the city and decrepit neighborhoods and little fires on the sides of the road, old man looking up and taking note and not a traffic light to be stopped at, straight on through back to the safe bubble of the hotel, six busloads of tired mind blown ecstatic alive and wild people.
We've been in Egypt for four days and its been incredible. We arrived into Cairo airport several days ago. An opinionated cab driver navigated us around the outskirts of Cairo and into the noisy evening traffic of giza to the train station where we boarded an overnight train to luxor. The trains aren't fancy but the bed was nice after the many hours of sitting on the plane.
For whatever reason the train arrived three hours late even though it left on time. From the train station we were picked up by our hotel and brought to the lovely nefertiti hotel. Its a smaller place located across from the temple of luxor and the avenue of the sphinx. It's run by younger well educated men with a penchant for laughter. I appreciate the shared opinions and ideas as we sit in the al-sahaby restaurant whose tables line the tiles alleyway and smoke shisha (flavored tobacco) from hookahs and drink strong Egyptian coffee and talk and laugh. O the revolution! It could do so much! And they - the more educated populace - certainly don't want to be ruled by fundamentalists.... Its obvious that is the road towards becoming like Iran.
This past summer I painted a bus. It wasn't just any bus... it was a pretty wild thing - still is. With a kicking sound system, velvet upholstery, embroidery, and multiple levels to it, it's got some character. I showed up without a plan - just a loose vision. I figured to allow the character of the bus and the project shine through. The bus is named "Twist of Fate" and there is still yet work to be done on it. It was at Burning Man this year and a few other events. It's mostly around San Diego, so you might run into it there if you happen to frequent that city. It is in honor of and homage to. It is a well-rounded creative vision. It's a trip, all right.
We were on our way to Black Rock City, that visionary oasis in the Nevada desert, riding in this bus that I'd painted over summer. Driving up the 395, forty miles north of Bishop, past the sierra peaks of Mt. Whitney and other big craggy mountains, the road starts to climb up over the pass. At some point the radiator over heated and a crack that had been fixed opened up and we pulled over to the side of the road. Waited a while and this grizzled looking repair guy shows up. He took a look at it and suggested we come to the camp where he lives where he said hed fix us up. We all looked at each othera, wondering what that might entail.
So we coasted back down the mountain and turned off the highway into the grassy expanse of the Owens Valley. We parked the bus next to a snaking river and had the whole range of the sierras as our view. Not such a bad detour, all things considered. The folks were suer excited about the bus- what a psychedelic wonder!
Not too long ago I boarded a very crowded train on its way to San Diego and sat down next to a young woman of 20 or 21 or so. We started talking. She was on her way to meet with her church group and that they would be going to Haiti to help build houses. I had this mental picture of a continually revolving door through which an army of volunteer workers had passed over the past year. Better to build homes than hand out solar-powered bibles (yes... a group did that).
In any case, she asked what I did and I showed her some of my work. Inspired, she steered the conversation towards the obvious spiritual components of the paintings, asking me many pointed questions about my background, my intentions, etc. None of it came off as judgmental - just curious. She was very interested in what seemed to her to be an obvious connection with spirit while not proclaiming any religion system.
A number of excursions recently to downtown LA - a place of a thousand flavors- it's dirt and it's grime, it's old art deco buildings and the motifs that sometimes get lost amongst the construction, the plywood, playbills and graffiti. Here, in this foyer, a ceiling of mosque-like moulding leading to pricey lofts extolling the virtues of the thriving Downtown LA art scene. There a bit of an art deco sidewalk, half of it left, beneath a layer of old bubblegum, ten billion foot prints and car soot still shines tiles of red and gold and white and blue, partitioned off by golden brass fronting against a store selling stereos, karaoke machines, congos and trumpets. The neon signs and blitz and bling reflect on the 20's style lines underfoot. Around the corner you see a curving arch overhead, twisting and twining with intricate grandeur, welcoming you into the marketplace of a dozen shops selling nintendo knock offs, hair extensions and piñatas. Delicate corners and cornices drop down to boarded up windows, the smell of urine and mexican grocers, sewing machine repairs, and parking garages, art galleries, sushi restaurants and a 50's style diner replete with jukebox and checkerboard tiling. This is the old town of Downtown LA - the part that came before the sleek glass and steel and polished granite high rises exuding modernity and shunning this dirtied rough and tumble corner that moves into the fabric and fashion districts, lying in the shadow of the business centers. The corner where, with a bit of dusting off, one might find architectural treasures, if only one knows how to look.
Juxtapose all of that with the rocky coastlines of Sonoma and it's an intense contrast. There - there is no 'modern' vs 'rough and tumble' - no new cliffs that transition to mexican grocers and burrito shops and the odd stylie sushi bar. There - the cliffs are the cliffs. There is no difference from the top to the bottom other than the smoothness of the lines - how much one section has been smacked and sculpted by the crashing waves more than another. The waves come churning in - wham! bam! ka-boom! Into little inlets that drop down between the rocks and then up! - up along the sides of great jutting corners - no angels or gargoyles upon those corners, no sculpted fleur-de-lis. Just raw rock, at times sharp and craggy, at other times stippled - pock marked like sand after a hard rain and then dried to a hardened shell. Along these lines, echoing the rhythms of sea, wind, and storms, we might cast anthorpomorphized suggestions of a face or the reminiscences of a body, a hand, a heavenly choir. All of it left to the imagination of one or another and the ground left to the cast offs of the ocean- kelp and other types of seaweed, smoothed by the sea driftwood, the elbow of a lobster, red and dry in the sun, or the body of a crab, brittle and speckled in delicate patterns, waiting to be divided up and cast back to the sea.
On and On and On.
This is the last chapter. I promise. Cause we're back and unpacked. But it was a while in getting here. The last stint of driving - from Sedona to San Diego with a stop in Quartzite to look at rocks in the insane heat went quickly, with us getting home at a reasonable hour. The rental car - that giant Toyota Sequoia we'd been driving - was returned without any issues the next day after a thorough cleaning but we left the Bonnaroo Vendor Vehicle sticker on it by accident. It drove off into the rows of Enterprise Rental car fleets, a little wiser, a good adventure under it's belt. The other cars looked at it with respect.
Sedona was a treat. Tasting wine, looking at art, an early morning hike into the giant red rock formations and climbing up onto their curving feet - high up so I could see the valley. Breathing with the world - the birds and trees and dirt and bugs and rocks and clouds. I'd open a gallery there one day.
Giant raindrops intermittently pelt our windshield while the sun still streams through the clouds, casting rays of lights through long cracks in the cloud cover revealing a blue sky beyond. We are driving through the western foothills of the Colorado Rockies. From Boulder the highway crested up and over hills into mountains passing Loveland and Vail and various other ski mountains with still snowy peaks and multi-million dollar condos butting up against their feet, occasionally a mine along the river mining gold or copper leaving obscene scars long the hillsides. The aspen and pine intermingling til the pine leaves it for the higher elevations. The mountains just as quickly turn into shear cliffs along the Colorado River - the cliff faces jutting out at odd angles and millions of right angles of every size. Now the cliffs have turned to arid woods, chaparral and tall wide mountains that will soon again change to something else- Arches and Canyonlands Parks, our next destinations.
We left Boulder after a hike in Gregory Canyon and a breakfast of mimosas and eggs benedict at the Chataqua Gathering Place, a lodge built in the late 1800's for the advancement of education and the arts. Their wide green lawn and the copper red Flatiron Mountains as a backdrop made for a lovely parting meal. The day before we'd woken at the Alps Inn, a bed and breakfast lodge up a different canyon outside of Boulder where we'd spent the night of our first anniversary as a wedded couple.
Driving through the mid west there isn't much to look at. curving sloping fields segmented by barbed wire fences and oaks give way to neighborhoods, shops warehouses and billboards advertising Nostalgia-ville with it's 50's and 60's icons - Elvis, I love lucy, Betty Boop and Scooby Doo - a time they hope to remember as simpler and more innocent. It's never simpler and innocent. Only different. There were wars and torture and drugs and sex and crime and corporations bent on poisoning the populace in exchange for a hard-earned dollar from father knows best. After Nostalgia-ville, Winery billboards pop up, maybe every tenth billboard, advertising wines - non-organic and not too special. Then we end up back with green wooded areas and cornfields. Endless cornfields. Soon, in the distance, we'll be in Kansas with it's own endless horizon of green. For now, wherever we are - Illinois? Indiana? - has become nothing but woods surrounding us.
"The Move Over Law" - a rule we don't have out in California but I can see the use for. However, I didn't know about it until a police officer kindly chose to inform us of it on our way from Nashville, TN to Bonnaroo. I'd made it a long ways at that point - all the way from San Diego - without any hassles. Safe driving, usually over the speed limit (except in Arizona where the red light camera are waiting at, seemingly, every curve to pop you and send a ticket your way). In Little Rock, AR I picked up Violet perfectly on time, right as she landed at the airport. She'd had final exams to finish, was without much sleep and I drove us to Nashville where we found a hotel. The next day, after going grocery shopping at the Whole Foods and breakfast at the Waffle House (not an ideal choice) we were on our way to Bonnaroo, early Wednesday afternoon, perfectly according to plan.