Death is Unoriginal

October 22, 2013

There is nothing creative about death.  Destruction and decay follow the course that’s been laid from the foundation of the world.  Turning life into death is the natural order of things and always has been.  Tune into the program nightly and witness the procession of fast-food destruction served up on microwave-safe trays for public consumption on a global scale.  Pass the ketchup.  The armchair graveyard is never satisfied.

The crushing weight of seven LA freeways cannot compare to the tragedy of the needless speeding of Death’s Process.  Recklessly darting from lane to lane while shrieking a mournful howl across all 8 lanes, Death’s Process hangs one hand out the window flipping a wretched bird to every hopeless soul who by birth, design, or foolery lacks the horsepower to keep up with the flow of traffic.  Confined to the right lane, where they await a forced exit, cut off forever, these legions of hopeless are unmourned by the onslaught of a constantly accelerating culture.

Standing on the side of the highway, breathing in the concrete vapor of exhausted lives it’s a terrible and tragic fleeting moment when you connect the dots and see the wreckage spelled out in slow motion.  Parents weeping for children ripped from their arms by needless disease.  Children stranded, orphaned, and worse because we all had important things to do the day we saw them on the side of the road.  In this moment, delicate as the fluttering wings of a butterfly, the rush slows to a walking speed, the city evaporates and there is nothing but barren fields of earth.  Welcome home.

The TV is dead and gone now.  A new vision has sprouted from it’s earthen grave. Why live another spoon-fed day when we can go to the kitchen ourselves and cook up a thunderstorm with the fruit of the suddenly fertile earth? Feed the children, comfort the parents, take them all in to your own broken heart and listen for the sound of the wind and rain beating against that thin veil separating you from death itself. Life is not what you ever expected.

The Unexpected

October 22, 2013

It happened again the other day.  Cruising up the coast for a surf, minding my own business, getting passed by a speeding funeral hearse, and in one instant flash, the course of my life was altered.  No, it wasn’t an accident, at least not of the car wreck variety. It was more of an accident of mind, and it’s been happening a lot lately.  Apparently I never read the life-as-an-artist handbook that warns of all the dangers of inspiration.  I worry that if I keep this up, my creative license may get revoked.

Inspiration is a tragic fleeting moment where a new vision sprouts from the shallow earthen grave of a bad idea.  Often times I cling to the rotting corpse out of desperation, not knowing where else to turn, ignoring the funeral procession, refusing to wear black.  But I play the fool.  Death itself was made for bad ideas. There is nothing creative about destruction, decay, and death.  Turning life into death is the natural order of things.  Do nothing, and you will have played your part in the unmourned dance.

The tragedy of inspiration is that often the lifeless idea is the safe idea.  And when inspiration comes gently fluttering in with the breeze, behind it lurks the force of a thousand waterfalls not to be resisted.  Life itself blasts out a soul-splitting bass-line from the speakers of the funeral hearse.  Get up and dance!  Mourn if you must, but get up and move!  When death turns into Life, it’s never what you expect.

It’s often not what anyone else expects either.  Always surprising, at times embraced, but more often rejected, true creativity has no other path than to walk through these rusty gates.  The lock’s busted, the gates swing freely in the wind, creaking out a strangely melodic tune.  Welcome to the graveyard of bad ideas.  Here you’ll find the world’s best artists dancing on the graves while Inspiration herself does donuts on the graveyard lawn with the volume turned up to eleven in the funeral hearse.

California Gold

October 22, 2013

“Welcome to California.  Now get lost.”

Getting lost is an easy feat in the old city of one way streets and construction work dead ends, where the 2 a.m. limousines cruise the darkened streets and the drunk Russian couple leans out the window and invites you to their apartment for crepes and cigarettes and possibly no return.  Nothing to do but surrender to the waves of the pulsating neon narrative rewriting itself in the shade of this towering symbol of prosperity. The Golden Gate.

In truth there is nothing golden about this Pacific sea-faring gateway to the land of wealth and opportunity.  The gate itself is actually red.  The color of caution and rage, a warning shot to all who enter here seeking gold that it will not be easily gained.

Its been this way for a long time here.  Territorial disputes. Warring tribes. Warring nations. Blood-soaked ground.  Quick wealth seekers with gold dust in their eyes. Out of work dust-bowl refugees with only survival in their eyes.

Fast-forward to Silicon-chip greed gamblers. Buy-and-sell-for double real-estate mass-ponzi schemes. Grow-your-own-money-tree under the sheltering shade of medicinal legalities. Securing investments to disrupt our collective social engineering experiment with a handheld bet wagering ever higher stakes. In each of these manifestations of wealth-without-work mass mentalities, the winners are few and the collateral damage runs high.

The Spanish galleons seen on yesterday’s evening news were listing heavily from cargo holds full of dreams to be sold. They still circle the bay today, docking in the dark fog of modernity, selling these dreams to the corporate midnight brokers. They rebrand them and sell them for double on these beautiful streets of ancient brick as the smell of roasting coffee awakens the city daily from these plastic dreams that have been broken and left us broke.

Just like all the other scared souls afraid of losing what never really belonged to them in the first place, there are two things these merchants know very well; first, that broken bodies heal faster than broken dreams, and second, we are not in their dream.

Just how its always been…   “Welcome to California. Now get lost.”

The Middle Ground

March 6, 2012

Verbal Sketches Inspired by California's Central Coast

This collection of verbal sketches was one of the first times I can recall sitting down to write, just for writing's sake.  I remember being shocked just how much I enjoyed it and marveling at where in the world this stuff came from. It was a feeling of tapping into a part of myself I hadn't ever taken the time to get know before. Drawing on memories, cliche, and the sheer enjoyment of putting words on paper, these brief little lines of prose still bring a smile when I revisit them. Enjoy... (more…)


California Storm

December 23, 2011

We came to this mountain in search of gold
We’ll leave with pockets full of solitude
We speak to the wind
We are here now
Everything else is gone
The cars and houses
The monies and the media
The interconnected web of information that
Ties us all together
None of that can truly exist at all

We know because we’ve listened to the quiet
That raged so loud our ears bled
We know because we’ve stood on the edge
And peered over
And seen everything we ever held on to
Smashed against the rocks
And washed away
Only to be returned as the treasures of
Small children on the outgoing tide

Dream on, dreamer, but when you awake
You’ll find nothing here
And that will be all that you need

Ok, bring your own beer if you like
Just don’t forget to pack out the empty bottles
When you leave

A Break in the Rain

December 21, 2011

All the while the day grows darker
And nothing dry is left.
The eternal endurance of water has won,
And now even what’s wrong is right.
You can see it, but you cannot understand it
Nothing more can be done
But surrender beneath the weight of it all
And be
Washed Away
This is what it is to be human

Restricted Access

December 1, 2011

We never did imagine
The golden
Of our free fall
Would yield…

Such high rent
For apartments so small

So many left turns

No rights at all


November 25, 2011

If you spend any time at all in this town, do yourself a favor and find a different mode of transportation than a rusty old van. Parking is nuts to non-existent and navigating the unfamiliar streets in a vehicle that can’t hop curbs, cut over embankments and weave through crowds of pedestrians really hinders one’s getting around here. A bike however, opens the world. A borrowed bike with a friend or two to follow around is even better. They’ll know all the fun zigs and zags.

I recall this morning clearly, even though it was quite a few years ago. My old college roommate was living in town here and had the day off work when I rolled through so we
grabbed the bikes and hit the trails, roads, paths, walkways, dirt hills, etc., on the way across town for morning surf checks and coffee accumulations. This was before the age of cell phone cameras, so I brought a camera with me in case anything caught my eye. The borrowed bike I rode was a bit unruly for one-handed use on the crowded bike path that follows the shore here, so once we procured the coffee and rode on, things got difficult. I’d managed to get this far without incident, but no further. Fortunately the landing was soft, the camera intact, and somehow, against all odds the coffee remained unspilled. After brushing off and taking inventory I snapped a photo, and later painted this.


November 5, 2011

Each passing storm
Brings a clearing
Of mind
Spiral rhythms
Of color
In your eyes
Both fragile
And totally free

No Fires

November 1, 2011

The higher laws do not forbid
The burning of your gasoline dreams
They practically command it

We’d driven all over the state, the miles passing like a rushing river in a sudden spring rain. It wouldn’t do really, us being together, that is. She was from a different world than I was, far too refined to spend any sort of life with me. Even her car was the sort that would start up every time, a Toyota Tercel that would look at home in any dealership’s
used car lot. Made me a bit uncomfortable, really. I came from a long line of Volkswagons (believe it or not, they weren’t always worth so much), old American vans, unclassic relics from someone else’s childhood.

On this cross-state road trip, we drove her car.

No hotels, no campgrounds, just a soft shoulder on the edge of the sea with a construction site dirt berm for privacy, and a big blue tarp to envelope our time on the side of the road. There had to be at least two dozen rules against our unplanned happenstance there, but neither she nor I stopped to read the signs.

Though we did not break the rule you’re thinking of, we did awake to a different look in each other’s eyes, and the fire was still burning that morning, suspended in a soft falling mist as we drove on.

-Entry on August 5, 2011

First Look

December 30, 2010

I’ve been told lately 
That I didn’t paint this one quite right 
Or it must be somewhere else 
That our local jetty doesn’t look like this 
That it’s all busted up 
And full of holes 
Where the ocean pours in 
And leaves salt in every wound 

But I painted this a long time ago 
From photos and memories  
Made even earlier 
We never had 4 wheel drives 
And the sand road wasn’t so well packed yet 
So we walked along the edge of the seawall 
From the carpark to the rusted chain 
Our first view 
Was this 

Looking at it now 
It’s easy to forget 
That there was a time 
A time and half a time before 
When the path that we walked  
Wasn’t falling apart 
And once in awhile 
A painting like this  
Let’s us stop 
And remember 

House of Prayer

December 24, 2010

These trembling walls dance
With their Maker’s invisible spirit
As we wage war on tomorrow’s past

Victory was better an hour ago
And defeat is a low-tide


Lined Up

December 10, 2010

On the morning I was created⠀
I crawled out the back of the old yellow van⠀
Wide-eyed and blinking⠀
Wondering where my brother had ran?⠀

He ran to the sea⠀
He ran for his life⠀

Past the razor’s edge of the earth⠀
Into the mist where the horizon is long⠀
Where the black dots line up and wait⠀
Is that really where my brother had gone?⠀

He ran to the sea⠀
He ran for his life⠀

I unearth sandwiches buried in sand⠀
Sealed plastic baggies with PB and J’s⠀
Perfect gifts from Mother Earth⠀
So why did my brother rush into the haze?⠀

He ran to the sea⠀
He ran for his life⠀

Looking around I see girls on the move⠀
Their bikinis and bodies these young eyes amazed⠀
What were we talking about?⠀
And how did my brother get past them unfazed?⠀

He ran to the sea⠀
He ran for his life⠀

He told me to join him before he ran off⠀
I was unsure of myself and scared⠀
Of the ocean and its blackened depths⠀
What made my brother think I would dare?⠀

To run to the sea⠀
To run for my life⠀

To follow him out and beyond⠀
To the great sea where its rhythms unfurled⠀
To leave the logic of land for the great “into-ocean”⠀
But he was my brother and did he not rule the world?⠀

So I ran to the sea ⠀
And I ran for my life⠀

Bewildered by movements unknown⠀
I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried⠀
I couldn’t get past these white rolling waters⠀
“Where are you, brother” I cried⠀

Scratching the sea⠀
And scratching for life⠀

“Turn and go” was all that I heard⠀
So I turned and I goed with all that I could ⠀
That little white wave pushed me along⠀
And my brother watched as I stood⠀

On the sea⠀
And on my life⠀

I had never felt so alive⠀
As when the white foam gave way⠀
To smooth water before it⠀
I was made a brother that day⠀

We ran to the sea⠀
We ran for our lives⠀

And to this day we still run⠀
But I’ll always remember just how elated⠀
I was to join my brother ⠀
Back on that morning when I was created⠀


November 26, 2010

They’ll happily share with you
Each and every wave you ride
Whether you like it
Or not

But then again…
They’ll also cook you up a cup of Dutch Coffee
In the parking lot

American Paradox

November 25, 2010

Under watchful eyes
We pretend the machinery
Will clean up the remains of our freedoms
Lost forever to the systematic fire

We burn your money
Weep with your love

The One that Got Away

November 14, 2010

They fish for meaning
There’s tension in the line
Once they’ve caught our drift
They will place a hook in its jaw
And skewer the guts from the living truth
Until nothing is left
Between us and them
But a line or two
Hardly worth repeating

October Groundswell

December 30, 2009

Rising and falling like the tide
And yet they are surprised when their stocks don’t rise and rise and rise

One October they fell
A negative low-tide

The panic that followed scorched a thousand cigarettes
And left ‘em where they lie

While their shaking hands still burned with fear
We tip-toed past the madness as the tide slowly filled back in

Surf Check Daydream

December 22, 2009

The first art teacher I ever had used to always tell us that all art is a lie. I never really understood what he meant by that, but it sounded pretty neat and quite teacherly.

Generally, I gravitate toward truth-telling with my art and most inaccuracies in my paintings are accidents of omission. I’m just not one to paint every single blade of grass and individual leaves on every tree.

There’s an ancient text that repeats the theme that all men are like grass, referring to the brevity and fleeting nature of our lives on the face of the earth.

More often than not, I treat humans in the landscape as the blades of grass that they are, fleeting, ephemeral, just passing through for a moment before they move on.

Sometimes it lends to an eerie silent vibe in my paintings of places that should be full of human activity, but showing no trace of it except those features we’ve built into a more
semi-permanent state on the landscape itself- roads, benches, stairs, paths, etc.

This is one of those spooky ones.

That said, I’m not sure which is the bigger lie here: the complete lack of human beings on a glorious sun-filled afternoon here… or the sandbar creating ruler edged perfect waves from that outside rock all the way to the sand 200 yards later.

Neither of those ever happen.

Hence the title: Surf Check Daydream indeed.

Waxing Moon

December 21, 2009

My favorite story about this one isn’t my story at all. It’s something a Patagonia employee said the first time they saw this piece in the back of my van in their HQ parking lot in Ventura, California. It went something like this:

“This is heavy, no way, check it out, when you look to the right it’s what’s already happened, the wave has gone by, that’s the past, you don’t want to live there. But then when you look to the left that’s future, what’s to come, something to look forward to, but that’s not where you want to live either. When you look at the center that’s the present moment, that’s where you want to be.”

I’ve always remembered that, even though I’ve forgotten his name and have lost all touch with the fellow who uttered that wisdom off the cuff like only a barefoot surfer in a parking lot in southern California could muster…


December 20, 2008

Some things are easy to overlook⠀
Others take a little more work⠀
Natural beauty⠀
Simple love⠀
So often get left where they lie⠀
While the headlines print bold⠀
On our aching flesh⠀
These haunts where our demons lurk⠀

Crashing stocks upon the shore⠀
Homes condemned to their blight⠀
The need to eat⠀
A will to survive⠀
We’ll do what we must to get by⠀
Sell our daylight for leprechaun’s gold⠀
That will vanish⠀
In the dark of the night⠀

We wake to a frozen sunrise⠀
Empty and cold and ruined⠀
It’s easily missed⠀
But always there⠀
The lift in our hearts at the sight⠀
Of these earthen glories before us⠀
By which we know⠀
That we are nowhere near the end⠀

So we’ll use our bodies for kindling⠀
To build this blaze bright and warm⠀
Our skin burns hot⠀
This smoky font⠀
A poetry of ash in the wind⠀
As we soak in the beauty around us⠀
We are fire⠀
Just in a different form⠀

Some things are hard to overlook⠀
Others take a little less effort⠀
The pressing needs⠀
The desperate pain⠀
Can grow louder till all else recedes⠀
While the light within and around us⠀
Steadily burns and waits⠀
To bring joy in the midst of the hurt