Sunday, December 25, 2011

California or Bust!

I left Bozeman around 10. The weather had given in and it was flurrying.  Cheryl had suggested that I take Route 101 South through the Gallatin Valley.  Great suggestion. I had to stop and take a couple of pics. Driving through a valley along side a river right in the mountains, shapes change constantly as the roads wind.

    Snowed all the way into West Yellowstone. From here I drove pretty much straight into Idaho and through to Salt Lake City.  The landscape in Idaho - at least the part I went through - wide valleys, big "hills", the highway was elevated a little bit, so the views were great.  There was one point where the landscape suddenly changed into black rock, broken and jagged with low foliage - Hell's Half Acre Lava Flow.
    I approached Salt Lake City at dusk - I could see a bit of the Great Salt Lake to the west just before the sun went down.  Pretty lights of the city, but its California or Bust!  The drive past and across this part of Utah was bay far the most unnerving so far.  It was pitch dark. Foggy. Visibility was not very far at all. Except for the occasional salt factory & oncoming car, all I could really see was just what was illuminated by my headlights.  The highway median had pooled water in it, giving me the feeling that I was surrounded by water, and any false move would land me deep into cold dark salty water, not to be discovered for days.
    This only lasted for a couple of hours, and suddenly I was into Nevada. WOW oh WOW, I can hole up in a cheap hotel, get liquered up, pay too much for a crappy buffet & prostitute, and gamble all my money away!  Talk about an abrupt change!  Once I got past the lights of West Wendover, The sky was perfectly clear, competing with the beauty of the New Mexico sky. 14 shooting stars! 14!! Most of these I saw while I was driving. I did have to stop a couple of times just to look up for a while.
    I slept in the truck that night, I found the thought of staying in a motel so unappetizing.  There are some good rest stops, where it is okay to sleep in your vehicle without getting harassed. Slept pretty good.  When I was getting ready to go, just before dawn, a big truck pulled up, and a woman my age got out for a pit stop.  I watched as she returned to her truck, a few minutes later, another woman exited the truck, duffle bag in hand.  The truck drove away, leaving her behind.  Whether or not I did the right thing by driving away I don't know.  There is so much of a story there, though. How intense of a situation caused this woman to be dropped off at a rest stop in the middle of Nevada just before dawn with nothing more than a duffle bag?
    The morning drive followed suit with this intensity.  Cold, flurries, windy, saw several vehicles including one of those triple trailer trucks slid off the road.  All single vehicle accidents.  Made it through, they inspected the truck for fruit & bugs at the Cali border, gave me a card to prove it & sent me on my way through the Sierra Nevadas.  Lets see, I am only a few minutes away from Lake Tahoe.

    That was totally worth the stop! Took a random wrong turn & landed back on the highway.  The drive through the mountains was, well this will explain:

    Made it into San Francisco just in time for dramatic sunset......

Friday, December 23, 2011

North Bound

    Having decided to continue on as planned, with only a day delay, I loaded up Friday morning & took off towards Montana. I had never been. I have a couple of friends from Philadelphia who relocated to Bozeman.  It was super foggy when I left Denver - traveling North, it was a wet cold fog. all the deciduous trees were white ice coated branches, such a strange and beautiful view.  Couldn't see very far ahead of me at all.
    At the exact moment I crossed into Wyoming, the fog lifted! WoW! The landscape on that drive was incredible. such diversity over the whole day. and consistently EPIC!
    Of course, I didn't stop to take pics.  The thing about driving for me is that it becomes a meditation. I become involved in where I am and what is happening as well as letting my thoughts go to do their own thing.  Often times I see things that correlate directly with the thoughts.  Other times the sights take my breathe away, and I don't even consider taking photos or trying to capture that moment.  The physical manifestation of all these experiences tends to come out in my work - a lot of ideas for my art present themselves while I am driving.
    Not to mention where my head had recently been (if you read the last Posting).  This was the day just before the lunar eclipse.  I arrived in Bozeman in time for a late dinner.  Up early the next morning to see the Lunar Eclipse.

It's not that great of a pic - but I HAD to see this thing that put me through the ringer!  Ahh. It passed.  New Day.  I had such a great time with Andy & Cheryl in Bozeman.  They warned me when I walked in the door that their intent was to get me to stay.  It almost worked.
    We walked around town for a bit the next day. Quaint, progressive, fantastic art scene. Very relaxing. There is sculpture everywhere! Visited the Emerson Center for the Arts, a building filled with dance, music, painting studios as well as several galleries.  Cheryl took me to the public library, which was gorgeous!  Outside was her favorite sculpture, called "One World, One Water". An amazing piece!
    The next day we went SNOWSHOEING!  IN YELLOWSTONE! So I think you get the idea that I have never been in these parts before. It has been a childhood dream to get to Yellowstone - even though there was only one road open. We spent the day Sunday checking out the sights and walking on top of the snow - apparently there wasn't that much yet. The weather was beautiful, sunny, crisp.  Here are some shots from the hike.  We stopped by Mammoth Springs on the way out - very cool, wild geology in that part of the country! We ended the day at a place called Chico - a hot spring that is fed into a pool. it is a resort/hotel, but you can pay a few bucks and take a soak.  Awesome. There is something about the mineral water heated by the core of the Earth that feels so right!
    Spent the next day in Andy's studio forging a dragon head & wings from a railroad spike.  Fun fun - it had been a while since I have forged anything.  To top it off, we went to see a local bluegrass band The Bridger Creek Boys at the Bozeman Brewing Company.  Great music + great beer = great crowd.  Had some terriffic conversations & met some really cool cats.
    So after this tour de force, showcasing some of the highlights of the Bozeman way of life, I was convinced that I must stick around.  However, I had a workshop scheduled in San Francisco, and as my cash reserves were dwindling,  I knew it would take a little while until I could return.
    I would like to return to Bozeman some day, I felt immediately comfortable there.  I feel as though there is great opportunity there for me - when the time is right.  There is a lot to be said for that!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Fork In The Road

Arrived in Pagosa Springs just about dusk.  It had been quite a day travelling into new territory. Thursday. I had originally wanted to travel into Utah, but a couple of things were nagging at me. It was getting late. I still had a long way to go. Not to mention a giant storm was heading south from the the North West. I decided to chill out and do a little R&R, see what the morning brings.  Sometimes a decision warrants a coin toss. Other times, a little thought.  Next day my options seemed very defined. Instead of travelling into the snowstorm, I drove East through Wolf's Creek Pass to the Eastern side of the Rockies. Perhaps they would shield me from the storm.

    Notice the lack of guard rails. Intense. Exciting. I made it.  As I had hoped, It was clear on the other side, and really beautiful. I had been to the Rockies at some point in my childhood - I have very vague memories of  getting into a snowball fight with my sister on top of a mountain in the summertime!  Long wide plain between mountain ranges. Big skies, dramatic light this was sunset:

Right about now, I took a call from an old high school friend Scott, who I would be staying with in Denver.
Made it there early enough to catch up that evening.  

     I spent a few days in Denver, catching up & helping out. Such a cool city.  While I was there, I took the opportunity to blow some glass (I actually had a few orders!)  There is a terrific glass studio in Lakewood called C&H Glassworks. I had spoken with these guys when I was planning the trip, I was really looking forward to meeting face to face. Turns out, as with most of the glass world, we have quite a few mutual acquaintances. That is one thing about the glass world - it can be a really small one!  Corey & Horace are really cool cats, they have a terrific shop & make some very beautiful work. I very much enjoyed working there.
    I stuck around Denver for a few days, it felt good to sit still for a few & to get back in touch with a couple of old friends (there is another of my good high school buddies there - Jess).  We all got together and went to see the Christmas light display at the Botanical gardens. they had these nifty glasses that turned all the lights into snowflakes or stars! what a trip! I managed to take a couple of photos through the snowflake lens.
    Spent a day walking around town too. Beautiful city.  Here's a little album I put together. Click!


    There was another thing about this visit. There was a point at which I almost walked away from everything. I had a one way ticket out of the country IN HAND.  I was going to leave in four days.  In my mind I let go of all my belongings except for the computer, phone, and a backpack of clothing.  It was strangely freeing.  I was freaked out but calm at the same time. I spent a couple of days trying this on. Thinking very hard about where I was, my circumstances and what I am doing.  I will admit I was in shock.  I will also admit that the only thing that prevented me from following through was realizing the burden I could potentially become on others.  It wasn't time yet.  This moment represented a significant change, one that I am still examining. It is all about letting go and moving forward.  Oh yeah, did I forget to mention it was the build up to the full moon/lunar eclipse?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Into the West

Thanksgiving was great. A few days later & I'm off again.
This part of the trip was really exciting to me. I only have a couple of vague memories of being in Colorado when I was a child, and have never really explored the West much at all.  Oklahoma and East, seems like I have been all over the place. I have been looking forward to the dramatic landscapes. I will say, they have not disappointed at all.
    My original plan was to head to Bryce Canyon, then North through Utah across Colorado into Denver.  Figured I'd make every effort to get to Santa Fe the first night.  Beautiful sunset right as I was entering New Mexico, followed by clear skies at nightfall.  It has been a very long time since I have seen the stars out here. WOW. Had to stop for a while on a dark, 2 lane road to check them out. Saw 5 shooting stars that night!
    Arrived in Santa Fe around 10 that night, drove and walked around quite a bit - the architecture was unlike anything I have experienced before.  Everything seems more horizontal than vertical, and stucco. Loads of single story, still packed in tight, but the the buildings have soft lines, as opposed to the hard lines you get with brick or siding. I met a woman at a place called The Matador - I chose the place because it was downstairs & had punk rock blaring from the outdoor speaker. All the joints that were open had music playing outside, helped to figure out what the vibe was going to be like prior to entry.  Serina was her name. I have trouble remembering names, although I think I just figured out a trick. Say the wrong name with confidence, and a little embarrassment seemed to make me remember.  Hmmm....
    She suggested that I check out this place called Bandelier National Monument.

Near Los Alamos. It was on the way, so sure!  Early start, and I was there by 9 in the morning.  Remember, I arrived at night. It started to get really dark while I was driving across the plains. I could see shadows of landscapes but that was about it. There are mountains outside of Santa Fe!  The scenery was overwhelming at times! Here are some shots of that little visit.
    I stopped off at Los Alamos on the way out. I didn't realize that it was still a functioning research facility. So just for contrast, here's what I saw that afternoon:
Yes, that is a reproduction of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.  Needless to say, I didn't stick around too long. Made my way to Pagosa Springs, CO that night.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Trek to Mangum

There are many small towns all over the place.  Easy to forget this when you live in a big city for so long.  I like to take the two lane route. So much more to see.

3 windows, 2doors, couple pallets of cinder block.

I have this fascination with single trees hanging out in fields. Once in a while the camera gets close to how I see them.

Stopped by Kansas City for a couple of hours - farmer's market & an amazing antique store.

Spice Bins wide open air. Anything you can think of!

Ice cream mold almost became a glass blowing mold.....

The security guard asked me what these were!?!? 

Four Floors of crazy goodness.

These were amazing - found some without the metal rack for next to nothing. Thinking about making a mold off of one of these & having a little fun....

This reminded me of Hank Adam's Work.

I tend to find quite a bit of inspiration rummaging through antique stores.  They are like museums in a way, but you get pick the stuff up & really get to figure it out.  They are no longer in context, and things can become something else entirely.

Spent the night in Tulsa, OK. Tulsa Glass Blowing Studio is there.  I have never been to Tulsa, only through it, and I must say I was happy to find such a vibrant art scene. The Studio was very welcoming, had a great vibe. They do a lot of work with local youth services groups, and really reach out in a powerful way to their community.  One of those things about glass blowing - it commands respect from even the toughest teenagers!
Spent some time talking with Janet & Rachel. I will definitely be back - it is one of those places that I feel I need to spend some time to get to know.
     Onward to Mangum to visit Dad & Marie. Thanksgiving in the hometown for the first time since '87.  Long overdue.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Mark Twain

I wanted to spend Thanksgiving with my dad in Mangum, Ok.
I left Minneapolis that Friday about an hour and a half after the demo.  Thought it would be a good idea to hit Dubuque, Iowa on the way through. Apparently, this is a very scenic route along the Mississippi River. I think it is probably much more scenic during daylight.  Of course, it was dark by the time I got on the road.  The stars were great though.  By the time I got to Dubuque, It was a little after midnight, wasn't feeling the vibe, so I just kept going. Spent the night at a roadside park.
     The next morning, I continued on, stopping at a random exit at Iowa City for some breakfast.  Next to the restaurant was the best re-use of an abandoned box store that I have seen.
Studio Arts Building for the University of Iowa. Everything but a Glass shop. I took a look around at the galleries - there was some fantastic work. Jewelry by Youngjoo Yoo was right up my alley. Very inspiring. There was also a display of drawings and ceramics by Katherine Teesdale. All of the work revolved around birds. She had a bowl of little ceramic birds with a pile of little slips of paper that read:
"Bluebirds of Happiness
Please take one of these little bluebirds to keep in your pocket. Whenever you feel worried you can rub your bird and let it take all of those feelings away!"
I have a beautiful little bird that now travels with me.
    I meandered on into Missouri, took a random right hand turn and found myself at the birthplace of Samuel Clemens.  Mark Twain Memorial Shrine.  I visited the shrine they have there - didn't realize until then how much I feel connected to him.  The funniest part about it is that I didn't plan to go there. It just happened. Right at the appropriate moment. This is where I would set up camp for the night. Watched the sun go down over the lake & rested.

I will say it was pretty cold that night.

Repacking and the Return to Foci

     Back to practical matters. Eoin's garage was full of my crap, and I needed to get the truck organised and move on. FOCI's media coordinator Marlo Cronquist had contacted me over the weekend regarding a video interview. We had arranged to meet up at the studio on Wednesday morning.
I took the day on Tuesday to spruce up the Falcon. Painted the windows of the cap, built wrap around shelving, organized all my belongings. Took all day, but I finally got there. Took off a little after 5 pm, headed into Minneapolis to see what was what.
     I found myself in the Northeast in the Arts District. The Northeast in Minneapolis is nothing like the Northeast in Philadelphia. I had a little map of the area which showed off the places to see & be. Very handy. Decided to check out a place called 331 Club. Fantastic Tacos, great local beer, “Blingo”, and free live music. 

There was a band in residence on Tuesday nights. The opening act I could get into, the main act, not so much. But the vibe in the place was right on. After this I really needed some diner food, some how found myself in St. Paul (the quieter of the Twin Cities) at Mickey's Diner having the perfect 1AM burger. Found a random parking lot at an apartment complex on Suburban Street and took a nap. Perfect night before filming an interview!

Woke up really early & made my way slowly through the cities back to the Northeast. Dropped in at FOCI where Andrew Thompson was making some beautiful incalmo pieces (mostly by himself). The interview went really well, I was a bit nervous, but Jack was terrific – guiding me through. He actually had the piece ready and on YouTube in just a couple of days.
Packed up & one foot on the stairs to leave, Michael & Sofia stopped me. (paraphrase) “There is a group coming in on Friday for a demonstration. They specifically requested to see some things about mold blowing. What would it take to convince you to stay?”
My response: “Heads I stay, Tails I'm off to Sheboygan”

Toss the quarter into the air....

“Looks like I'm going to need a place to sleep”

Todd Cameron is one of the managers at FOCI and makes some kick-ass work. He was gracious to put me up at a moment's notice and show me around for a couple of days. I helped out on the blowing floor for the afternoon & early evening, out for a few beers & settled in to Todd's place.
The next day I made some work of my own, a few fishnet bubble bottom cups for the Minnesota Glass Girls, a few mold blown ornaments & a piece that I have wanted to make for a couple of years.

Multiple pieces from the same mold, kept them hot & put them all together.
This is a whole series of work that I need to explore. Made a second one a little different for the demonstration the following day (thanks to a conversation with Michael).
Met many great folks, had a great experience and look forward to a return visit in early spring (if not sooner).