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life in Bolinas:   Bobbie Louise Hawkins, laborin',
piano technician, and the rat haus

        Leaving Durham closed a chapter in life of traveling the path of playing piano perfessionally. Although i do not know what wood have happened if Mary Lou had returned before i left, i came to the conclusion that i simply was not obsessive enuff to want to practice all day every day and go out and play all night every night which is what i felt it wood take to "make it go." i also sensed trying to make money to provide for my material needs by playing piano was not something that wood suit my own nature. Far better it seemed, to keep playing for the fun of it, and find something else to bring home the bacon.
        i came out to Bolinas after returning to California, and stayed with Steve and Ashley while i began to scope out the situation with the pending construction project at the skool. A man named Wally Grewe was the big boss and i learned the possible slot for me was as a laborer. i wood need to join the Laborer's and Hodcarrier's Union in San Rafael but that cood be done after Wally hired me. This job was clearly going to be a pretty lucrative one -- as far as a kid in his later twenties was concerned who had never worked for wages significantly above minimum wage -- so i bird-dogged Wally. As is usual, things were getting off to a very slow start and he kept putting me off because he wasn't going to need a second laborer until some of the first buildings, the foundations of which still weren't complete, had their framing begun.
        i was also taking wild stabs at ideas of what i cood learn about to make money so i woodn't be condemned to shit-jobs for the rest of my life. In a letter from Dad in Saudi, he suggested piano tuning and told me to look up Sheldon Smith in Berkeley who had a shop and had rebuilt Dad's baby grand. i called him up and he invited me to drop by the following week to talk about things. He said he was getting ready to take on an apprentice in rebuilding. We had a nice visit and he made me feel the idea of becoming a piano craftsman really had some merit to it -- if one stuck at it long enuff to really become good. He asked me if i knew how to tune and i said i didn't. He said he'd call me nonetheless when he made up his mind. i felt i almost might have made it in if i had known how to tune. He never did call back.
        On June 27th (a full moon) i went up Overlook Road with Steve to a woman's house to help unload a wood-stove he had picked up for her over the hill. She had already bought it and he was going to do the installation. Her name was Bobbie Louise Hawkins. i had met her very briefly two Christmases before at the Bolinas Community Center after a performance she had been in with Terry Garthwaite and Rosalie Sorrels.
        Bobbie was and is a writer. Born in Texas, her ancestors included an Irish man and Cherokee woman at the time when "The Irish came to Texas building the railroads as they came, the cheapest labor available." On stage, the three of them wood trade the limelight each telling their own stories:   Terry wood sing a song she'd written accompanying herself on guitar, Bobbie wood read from one of her books, and Rosalie, guitar in hands, wood likewise sing one of her own songs. As they'd go around each one wood tend to leverage off of and further develop the theme of the previous stories. i had been greatly taken by her when i watched and listened to her read that night.
        The stories she read were from two of her books, both published in 1977:   Frenchy and Cuban Pete, & OTHER STORIES (TOMBOUCTOU), and Back To Texas (BEAR HUG). Her source of inspiration for these stories was her own life growing up in West Texas and the exceedingly rich tapestry of characters that populated her world of those years. She read them with her Texas drawl turned up full creating an irresistible enchantment and transporting one into the world of Uncle Horace, Grandmother Oda Louisa, Aunt Ethel, Beezer and cousin Velma, Aunt Hannah and cousin Billie-Bob, and a host of equally captivating characters.
        Enhanced by an impeccable sense of timing, her Texas drawl gave the telling of these stories something i have never encountered before or since. i suppose it is simply that Bobbie Louise knows the timeless, age-old art of story telling better than anyone else i've ever met. i wood imagine what she does is what everyone knew how to likewise do more than ten thousand years ago when story telling was the means by which one learned about life and the world one lived out one's own within. As Reynolds Price observes on the back cover of Back To Texas,

        If more writers were writing like Bobbie Louise Hawkins -- economically and truly about the only human things that interest us in prose:   the past, the family, love, hate, duty, forgiveness -- then maybe a few more thousand Americans wood be reading narrative fiction and nourishing themselves on the oldest of all safe and enduring pleasures:   news and fun and consolation. Start with Back To Texas if you're low on any of the above mentioned fuels.
        One of the stories she told that night in the Community Center (from Frenchy and Cuban Pete), altho not centering around members of her own fam'blee, is one of my all-time favorites for the wisdom its closing sentence imparts:

I OWE YOU ONE        

        Before it gets lost into the void I want to tell about a letter that got written to the Denver Post years ago. It could have been as long ago as 1947 or 1948.
        It was apparently written in answer to a letter that had been written earlier and, judging by this letter, the earlier one seems to have been written by a woman who was complaining that when her husband got drunk he'd knock her around.
        The woman who wrote the letter I read said that she had the same problem.
        She said she only weighed about a hundred pounds and her husband weighed close to two hundred pounds. She said for years he'd go out on Friday night and Saturday night and get drunk and then he'd come home and beat her up, then he'd fall asleep on the bed with his clothes on.
        There came a night when he beat her up and when he had stopped she said, "I owe you one."
        When he fell asleep she went outside and brought in a piece of two by four and she started pounding on him with it.
        Of course, he woke up right away, and he beat her up again. And she said, "I owe you one."
        She said that in no time at all she had him afraid to go to sleep. Then he began to see that it was ok to go to sleep if he hadn't beat her up. So he stopped.
        Considering the number of years it had gone on the stopping was really quick.
        She said she hoped that her own solution would encourage the other woman to look for a solution because it was not hopeless.
        The two principles involved were consistency and perseverance.
i have never forgotten this and strive to "follow thru" with anything i ever get started on with consistency and perseverance.
        So we brought the stove into Bobbie's house and she offered us tea out in the sun on her front porch. She and Steve talked literature and writers. They already had a great rapport thru their common interest. At that time, Steve was engaged in finishing a PhD in English Literature at Berzerkeley and was writing a book as part of this on Thomas Campion and the aesthetics of songs. She invited us to dinner at the Gibson House that night with another couple Steve knew whom she was already slated to meet there. Ashley was in Berkeley for the night and we agreed. Steve got a baby-sitter for their daughter, Oona.
        i realized only after we got up there that morning who Bobbie was and felt very drawn to her. Dinner was marvelous and in time we moved into the piano bar room where Michael McQuilkin was playing piano and singing. i had heard about Mike before and had been told by Steve and Ashley more than once that i shood meet him because to them we seemed so much alike. i knew he was a piano technician of sorts and said i'd like to talk to him about that because i wanted to learn how to tune. i stuck close to Bobbie thruout the evening and Steve finally had to go home at 11:30 to relieve the baby-sitter.
        We were quite a loud group of people when they kicked us out of the bar at 1am and Bobbie suggested we all go to her house for a little more liveliness. About 10 or 15 people came along and i got to sit in the front passenger seat of Bobbie's VW bug. We stopped at the top of Overlook to drink in the magnificent vista of Luna in full splendor accompanied by her uni verse of stars. Then to Bobbie's house where i played a little piano with 4 guys trying to all play along on acoustic guitars. It was quite cacaphonous and after a point Bobby and i went upstairs to look at some xeroxed-type artwork collage she had done (an instance of which was used on the cover of Frenchy and Cuban Pete) and sat on the floor examining them until, in just a little while, everyone else had left.
        We came back downstairs and had tea in the dining room. We talked and talked, each feeling more curiosity about the other. i never went home that night and, although Bobbie expressed some ambiguous feelings about actually being able to live with anyone else (she had been divorced from her second husband for about three-and-a-half years) -- and she continued to feel uncertain for the next week -- i ended up staying with her and moved all my stuff in within about a week's time. Bobbie was twice my age. For a long time i had wanted to be involved with an older woman and now was able to explore what this was like.
        Throughout July we spent each day enjoying our mutual company and getting to know more about each other. At the end of July i was hired on at the skool job and began a six-and-a-half month stint as a perfessional laborer. i immensely enjoyed working at this job. There were 12 carpenters and one other laborer named Dell. Dell was 37 or so and had been laboring for 15 years. He was red-neck in some ways but was also a real sweetheart and great to work with. i became very fond of him. This was the first experience since hi skool where i again felt that wonderful sense of comraderie, this time with all my fellow construction workers.
        i was the honest-to-gaud grunt on the job site doing the majority of all the shit work. But the sense of belonging and of participation was fabulous and i drank it up. i also got to do intoxicatingly fun stuff like driving the heavy-duty forklift around. Maneuvering with the hydraulic lifts the tremendously weighty "pay loads" up to the second floor or roof of a building was unparalleled in its "control master" excitement mixed with the requirement of being absolutely precise with "positioning" and then "touch down" of whatever needed transporting.

mr. forklift (Juan's Chevy in background)                 mr. forklift at the helm

        At some point during the fall i almost made my last mistake. i was using a cement grinder to grind down the bottom edges of building walls to a smooth finish where the cement sill adjacent to the slab sidewalk wood be exposed after the wooden walls were added. The grinder was heavy and had a suicide switch which kept the rotor spinning after one turned it on at the trigger. Without the suicide switch, the grinder turned off the way a Skilsaw does once the trigger is released.
        i had been warned to make sure my shirt was always tucked into my pants but at one point had failed to keep one of the shirt tails from hanging loose. The next thing i knew the rotor had latched onto the shirt and the grinder twisted on, its sanding edge glancing off the edge of my stomach and the whole unit flying up to hit my chin. In a flash i was locked in mortal combat with this electro-mechanical beast, holding it at bay as it was still trying to spin and close the remaining distance between itself and my chest and head. i think it was Dell who ran up and yanked its plug. i immediately collapsed onto the ground, more from a kind of psychological shock, altho i had just expended an uncommon amount of energy to keep the grinder away until the plug was pulled.
        i think i went home for a while but came back during lunchtime and even did some work for the remainder of that day. Later that afternoon i was in the bathtub and it was only then for the first time i began to realize just how intense the experience had been and how fortunate i was to still be alive. As quickly as it happened i cood just as easily have been disemboweled if it had really gotten hold of me along the stomach instead of only glancing off it.
        From this and other experiences -- especially from seeing Dell who was not yet 40 years of age but looked as if he cood have easily passed for someone in his later forties (his rugged face has a certain sand-blasted "luster" to it) -- i came to understand that doing construction in general and laboring specifically (as in other trades equally taxing physically), one pays with one's life to an extraordinary degree:   years are prematurely added to one's human overcoat.
        Throughout the fall i had been trying to learn piano tuning from Michael McQuilkin. He got me a lot of the tools but progress was slow since i was laboring full-time. In December i bought my first vehicle -- a 1963 Dodge half-ton truck with a cab-over camper for fifteen-hundred clams. i got this essentially so Michael and i cood move pianos out to Bolinas from the Bay Area to work on them. We were planning to go into business -- but this never came to pass.
        For the first month and a half of 1981 i continued on at the skool but the job as a whole was winding down and on February 19th i was laid off. Steve and Ashley had bought the Blue Lagoon, a building in downtown Bolinas, and later in March Steve and i began to work on it's foundation. We had to redo a lot of the support for the base of the building. Also in March i worked with Michael restringing 2 upright pianos and learned a great deal in the process. As March progressed work at the Blue Lagoon started to consume the entire work week and i had little time for much of anything else.
        Bobbie had gone down to teach at U.C. San Diego for the spring term at the end of March. During that time we decided it was better that i find my own place to live. i found a great space on Lauff Ranch Road -- the second floor of a two-car garage building -- and moved in June 1st. i had been working full-time with Steve at the Blue Lagoon and we had enuff to do that i succeeded in talking him into hiring Juan Manuel de Santa Anna, a special friend i met on the skool job who was hired as a carpenter's apprentice. Juan is a descendant of none other than General de Santa Anna. Juan's disposition has always been flowingly mirth-full and his bright energy enhanced every aspect of our joint efforts. We three made the Blue Lagoon into a cherry building that had a restaurant downstairs and a bed-and-breakfast run by Ashley upstairs.
        Juan was living with Ane Rovetta who worked at Audubon Canyon Ranch across the Bolinas Lagoon. They have both become life-long friends. i had the honor of playing some piano at their wedding a year or so later. Ane is extremely gifted in the art of live story-telling as well as a being a superb nature illustrator. i've enjoyed many years of her calendars with ink drawings of native wildlife of California and the west. In recent years, she has gotten into doing pastels in a big way with the subject matter being natural setting landscapes. i just attended a show at the Bay Model building in Sausalito where Ane had some of her pastels of the California coast, wine country and Klammath area and Juan had some photographs. They are beings filled with great light.
        After moving into Lauff Ranch Road i again found a rata to share my abode with. Originally he wore the tried-and-true moniker of rata but this transposed itself into a string of intermediate names beginning with Lucky-Lata, which shifted to Latahno, which changed again to Latanos, and was extended to Latanios, shortened to Tawno and, with Tom Bombadillo (was he in The Hobbit or The Trilogy?) affectionately bebembered, slurred into Tillo which finally came to rest in the most inspired rat name i have ever discover, Mister Tillo. Mr. Tillo was destined for immortality but he didn't seem to care.
        Throughout the spring i had been practicing piano tuning around Bolinas and playing on Bobbie's upright. i transcribed Bobby Timmon's solo from the "Close Your Eyes" tune (off the Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' At the Jazz Corner of the World, Volume 2 album which i'd first fallen in love with back in Durham) altho i never succeeded in truly being able to play the score.
        In July i got the go-ahead from my friend Kate to fetch her father's grand piano that had been languishing at his wife's sister's house in Fresno for 16 years, move it to Bolinas, and restring and restore its "innards" for him. He paid for the materials, and i did the labor for free which along with restringing, included regulating the action, replacing the dampers, and getting the keytops re-covered (in plastic, not ivory). For doing the work it was agreed i cood have the piano as a "loan" for an indefinite amount of time. "Landing" this grand piano was a great blessing as it is always the case that the richer sounding the instrument one can play on, the more one is inclined to play and play and play.
        Starting that summer i had an ideal environment in which to be more and more engaged playing piano and transcribing songs off records. The garage building was far enuff away from where other people lived on the property so i cood play at night or in the morning without worrying about disturbing someone else, an ever-present issue where pianos are concerned. i worked up transcriptions of Willie "The Lion" Smith's "Relaxin'" (from the "Luckey & The Lion":   Harlem Piano Solos by Luckey Roberts & Willie "The Lion Smith" album on Good Time Jazz) and Monk's "North of the Sunset," "Monk's Point," and "Dinah," (off Solo Monk on Columbia).
        i had become enamoured with an incredible record store in Mill Valley called Village Music. The owner knew worlds about "the biz" and had a tremendous catalog, including a marvelous jazz section. During this period, along with more Duke, Tatum, Monk, Trane, Bill Evans, and Bud Powell, i got heavily into "The Lion", Jaki Byard, Randy Weston, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Tete Montoliu, Little Walter, Lennie Tristano, and Martial Solal. Thanks to my Dad's recommendation, i also fell in love with the three four-record box sets on Seraphim (Capitol's budget label) of Walter Gieseking's immortal 1953-54 recordings of Mozart:   The Complete Music for Piano Solo.
        Since further elucidation of the rat piano thread ceases beyond this point, we jump ahead to 1986 for a musical coda of the MOST significant recordings i have come across in the last ten years. In 1986 i found a recording by John Lewis (Modern Jazz Quartet pianist, composer, and arranger) called J.S.BACH, PRELUDES AND FUGES, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, BOOK 1. Six Preludes and Fugues (Nos. 1, 2, 6, 7, 21, 22) were included with the preludes being played by him as solo piano and the fugues having as many strings as the number of voices in each -- four was the maximum and included violin, viola, guitar, and bass. In all the pieces, whether solo or as a group, the complete original score is played and extended with an improvisation occuring somewhere inside, always returning back to the score where it left off before concluding.
        I've always loved John Lewis. Like Mary Lou Williams, he has the same rich deep love for and apprehension of the blues. His style manifests a genius of simplicity as well as possessing a magnificent grasp of playing just the right notes between the vast empty spaces of silence;   no hint ever occurs of feeling cluttered or redundant. His intonation and phrasing is unique amongst the pianists i've become familiar with.
        Over the next four years three more albums came out constituting all of the remaining 12 Preludes and Fugues from Book I. This music is the most inspired i have come across in a LONG while. The second volume's subtitle is The Bridge Game. Initially i took this to mean the works were a "musical bridge" between Bach's time and ours where these songs evidenced both a supreme love for Bach's own magnificent creativity as well as that same rich "classical elegance" that is the trademark of the Modern Jazz Quartet in general and John Lewis in particular. In fact, it turns out he loves to play Bridge -- each of the tunes on the second volume have secondary names that are types of bridge hands.
        i became so caught up in these recordings i was inspired to learn some of the Preludes from the original manuscripts and then transcribe John's improvs and include those as well. i worked up versions of Prelude Nos 3, 4, 5, 9, 16, and Fugue 10 (one of the only Fugues he plays solo). This music is some of the most sublime i've ever heard and heartily recommend it to anyone who thinks the above sounds at the least intriguing, and at the most, inspired synthesis of the most astonishing kind.

        After the Blue Lagoon was "ready for business", Steve landed a job rebuilding a house next to the Bolinas lagoon that was owned by Alice Kent. Her husband Roger had been a big supporter of the Democratic Party during Truman's time and i believe their fam'blee had been the namesake for "Kentfield" in Marin County. During this job we began to jokingly see ourselves as "Ratcliffe Brothers Construction". Our "M.O." here was the same as before:   rip out the flooring, re-build the foundations, and then put everything back together again pretty.
        For the rest of 1981 and thruout 1982 Alice Kent was our benefactor as we "cleaned house" with another building she owned in Bolinas (also re-doing the foundations) and then "graduated" over to Kentfield to work on her own smaller "mansion" house, re-painting the exterior and rebuilding part of the foundations of a large porch with massive wooden columns on its edges. We also re-roofed a neighbor's house that fall. Home-grown construction king-pins were we!
        The great flood of '82 began to shift into full gear during the Christmas holidays before New Year's Day. By the start of January things were getting exceedingly wet and there was a lot of time to spend indoors. January was a difficult month as i was re-grouping after a very passionate but short-lived romance that had begun the previous November.
        It was sometime in late January or February that i was feeling particularly wistful about the rat cabin and victorian and the poignancy at my having "lost" them. The only thing to do, it seemed -- if i really wanted 'em back that bad -- was to build another one. Once i decided to proceed it seemed only fitting to have this "re-make" be even bigger than the rat victorian as i had felt back in 1976 once it was structurally complete, that there were shortcomings in its scale and the degree (or lack of it) of "rat spaciousness". Thus it seemed that in order to do this one "right," it had to be more ambitious and expansive in its scope and detail to justify the time i knew it wood take.
        My second-floor "house" in the garage consisted of two rooms in a 30x26-foot space, divided by a wall with one being the "bedroom / piano room". It had a large window seat sort of 4x8-foot area and i commenced building in this space. My M.O. was again to draw out the to-scale first floor plan on graph paper, modeled after the rat victorian. But this time i was interested in "injecting" more human contrivances into the framework and so included "toilet rooms" (how incongruous the "stand-in" term bathroom is when the room only contains a toilet and a sink!) on each of the three main floors.

1st floor framing, front view           1st floor framing, back view

        In the above left "front view", the toilet room shares walls (going clockwise) with the front hall, dining room, hallway between it and the kitchen, and living room, with its doorway between the back hallway and the living room. A pantry is off the kitchen across from where the rear stairway begins. i still have the graph paper used for this and bebember very clearly creating the joists and blocking for the first-floor with cardboard underneath the graph-paper, wax paper on top of it, pinning the joists down as i glued them together and feeling very excited that i was actually "on my way" with the descendant of the rat victorian. i knew this one wood be that much more compelling to the eye, but i did not know just how much at the outset.
        For the next 10 months i spent a great deal of time engaged in the enormously satisfying process of rat haus construction building it floor-by-floor in the manner outlined previously for the rat victorian. As noted therein, the one addition with this haus was inclusion of lights in every major room or area so that by the time it was structurally complete, there were 32 lights all hooked up on separate switches. rat haus at nite: attic detail
        While writing this section i found a forgotten series of slides (what a delightful surprise!) of the rat haus at night illuminated only by its own lighting.   Oh   SO   sweet!   Memory of the existence of these has lain fallow for at least ten years (and it has been almost that long since i've hooked the transformer up to the switch grid panel and turned on any of the lights.) It is a truly magical sight to gaze upon this edifice lit only from within. Such illumination of the interior heightens one's sense of its space and achieves the apex manifestation of the desired "miniature replica" effect articulated in the rat victorian's construction. The 32 light switches were laid out in five rows (corresponding to the five floors) on the control panel to provide some sort of intelligence to the mass of switches and where the "end of their lines" switched.

rat haus at nite: front         rat haus at nite: front

        i lived in Bolinas for three years from June of 1980 to September of 1983. It was a very special time in my life since i was able to participate on a daily basis in Steve and Ashley and their daughter Oona's fam'blee life. Ever since my parent's divorce i had grappled with the sadness of feeling i no longer had a fam'blee that was whole that i belonged to. During those three years i embraced the opportunity to be a participant in Steve and Ashley's with a gratefulness that nourished a deep longing within. Oona was five when i arrived and, although we had previously spent time together off-and-on, it was during these next three years that she and i discovered a deep, abiding pleasure in each other's company that has significantly enhanced both our lives from then to now.
        As "uncle dave", i wood drop in at their house any time of the day for whatever reason. i joined them for dinner a great deal of the time helping out as the perfessional "pearl diver" i had years of experience with to clean house in the kitchen after desert. i'd baby sit at times, but the real thrill was when Oona came for sleep-overs at my house. We'd have dinner and then perhaps go out on a walk (it was very pastoral there with a creek and fields and woods). Although in the kitchen Ashley is an inspired chef bar none, Oona claimed she thoroughly enjoyed my very basic pork chops or chicken concoctions.
        Two of the most enjoyable activities we engaged in when she came over were playing with Mr. Tillo and watching the Three Stooges. Oona loved Mr. Tillo. She wood carry him around and was as entranced with his cuddliness as i had originally been. But her own home was "cat world" of a very the Regal Mr. Bobtail ensconced kind. Her Mom had two extraordinary kings -- Bob Tail and Beast -- who had been with her since her prior life living in San Francisco. There were other cats (not as exalted but very essential members of the fam'blee nonetheless) in the mix as well and so it really was out-of-the-question for Oons to have a rata of her own in such a cat-heavy domain -- at least until she was older and cood adequately protect her own furry charge. (Seen here is a shot of the regal Bobby Tail, a very vocal manx of extraordinary bearing who also went by the names of Bobba-luna, Tibby, and Mr. Tibs.)
        Along with the cats, another quintessential part of Steve and Ashley's fam'blee were their two Vizsla hounds, Sandor and Sage, father and son, respectively. Sandor had joined the fam'blee as a puppy in 1973 and at some point had been the Sandor in his dinner clothes father to another litter of which Sage was a member and, when weaned, came to live with his daddy. i loved Sandor as much as Pingo our black Labrador when i was growing up. Vizslas are known for their liveliness and Sandor possessed his own vast amount of such energy and intensity in spades. In the tradition of name-rhyming, the two-syllable original begat many derivatives including Sandor-Landor, Landor-Tandor, Lando-Tando, Lannin-Tannin, Quandor-Landor, Quando-Lando, Quazi-Quando, Quazi-Quandro and from Sage came such variations as Layjro-Tayjro, Quayjro-Tayjro, etc., etc., etc.
        Early on Lando-Tando had transferred all his formidable bird instincts into the object of the tennis ball. He was an irrepressible ball-master and when the words "the ball" were spoken, he ceased whatever he had been doing and became intently focused on finding one (if "where's the ball"? was uttered) or staring unblinkingly at it if held up as a prelude to the throw. One summer day i threw a ball out into the surf for quite a long time and Quazi-Quando relentlessly kept bringing it back to me until he actually had exceeded his own limits and looked rather disgusted as he Sandor in the driver's seat emitted a burst of water out of his butt! He had of course been getting a mouthful of salt water with each ball-grab and it came to be too much even for him. He was quite low-energied for a few daze and i learned that even such a ball-gaud as Lannin-Tannin was truly mortal and needed to be taken care of in a manner consistent with such a status.
        Ashley is exceptionally gifted with the camera and has an extensive background of her own in and with the world of photography. One Christmas she gave me a framed 8x10 of Sandor sitting in their VW bus out near RCA beach wearing an Andean knitted hat and looking very stately and pensive. At another point she took Red Dog Pale Ale label some pictures with the assistance of Steve and Wilson Burrows (who lived downstairs in the Red House), with Sandor bedecked in a Tuxedo. Some home brew was immortalized with the source of its label being none other than Quandro-Landro's legendary "tuxedo sitting" which Wilson, a master print-maker, concocted at the same time he was engaged in the initial frames of his superlative "MetalMorphosis" series. A proof sheet of these "Red Dog Pale Ale" labels can be found on Wilson's Bolinas Soccer Club page.
        Sandor and Sage, though father and son, had distinctly different personalities in a host of areas, one of which Sandor & Sage On The Porch was the degree to which they wood lose themselves in "the ball". i have no doubt that Sandor was, hands down, the most maniacally engaged ball master ever to manifest on Earth. In comparison, Sage was "interested" but only in a much more circumspect and diffident manner than the focus-every-iota-of-attention transfixed gaze his father wood levy when the ball was held aloft. My own sense was that Sage was into it only because his father was. The images here are represented in a somewhat larger scale in an attempt to convey this difference.
        This is most easily displayed in the porch shot where Sandor's single-minded intent is demonstrated by the way his ears wood drop limp, devoting all his perceptive energies into the eyes for maximum tracking capacity. Sage's ears, on the other hand, are perked up, which one might think was an indication of a more heightened attending to the moment. But, in comparison to his Dad's undivided all-consuming gaze, he simply was not as carried away by it all.
        The shots below, especially the left, distinguish this degree of carried-awayness in the manner of their facial expressions:   Sage is sporting his "mournful interest" eyes he applied in numerous situations in which he knew his father was interested, and therefore so was he. But only on his own terms, and not in any way bringing to bear the beady-eyed and singular-focus his Dad was caught up in. The image on the right shows Sage with his "giving it his very best attention" visage and the increasing years toll on his Dad who looks a little less energized. Yet, even here with Sandor not quite so transfixed, he still is nonetheless on all fours ready to bound while Sage prefers to study the situation in a more relaxed sitting posture.

Sandor & Sage Ballwatch #1                   Sandor & Sage Ballwatch #2

        As has been previously mentioned in The Sportin' Rats as the source of inspiration for Buildin' Rat, i was weaned on The Three Stooges. In the San Francisco Bay Area, Captain Satellite ran 4:30-5:30pm weekdays and included two complete episodes as part of each afternoon's program. As a kid, even though i was the youngest, appreciation of the Three Stooges was a fact for everyone in my household. We wood go over the hills to Half Moon Bay beaches a great deal thruout the year and along the way there was a small out-of-place house we gleefully dubbed "The Three Doodies House." Any such house or structure that had a ramshackle or "inconsistent" air to it elicited associations with "the Men" from all of us. Ok and i used to love to wreck things and our primary source of inspiration in such activities was the Doodies mastery of such theatre of the absurd and ridiculous.
        Despite all the condemnation about their "violent `comedy'", "the Men," as Ok and i affectionately came to think of them in our 20s, personified a quality of innocence that is almost completely non-existent in today's cynical-is-cool (as a mask to hide the terror we feel with the sense of "living on the Titanic") postured-world. Richard von Busack has written a marvelous homage to these masters of "velocity without sentiment" on the occasion of their formation 75 years ago, in 1922, and i am grateful for his permission to be reproduce it here on ratical.
        von Busack's well understands the reasons for the Stooges' "durability" and ageless allure:

        Their popular appeal may not justify them as artists, but those oppressed by authority -- children and poor people -- revere them for their anarchic strain. Charlie Chaplin may get all the praise, but currently the Three Stooges get all of the viewers . . .
        Curly's gift as a comedian was knowing how to get down to the level of an inanimate object, to match wits with it. . .
        Is it possible that watching the Stooges, who suffer crazy injuries and survive, is akin to acting out the same part humanity plays when we go to worship? . . .
        The Stooges' shorts are often about work, always a touchy subject in the movies. Typically, Moe leads the troupe into a situation in which they're highly unqualified. By the end, the machinery is in wreckage and the Stooges have fled the scene. The usual setup finds them as door-to-door salesmen, mechanics or plumbers (as in their symphony of disaster, the 1940 short "A Plumbing We Will Go").
        There was a syndicated Stooges show that played every Sunday morning and when Oons slept over on Saturday night, we wood always watch it. For my part, during those years i was big into recording the audio portions of old movies playing in theaters with a portable tape recorder -- as well as off the television -- and extended my library of Stooges tapes from this Sunday time-slot. Oona and i had already been watching some old Star Treks off-and-on at her house that aired on weekday afternoons. She exhibited a very sharp mem'rhey in being able to "call up" all sorts of details from and references to different episodes of boldly going where no one cares to go.
        As "background music," i wood play a LOT of Three Stooges tapes while absorbed in the craft of rat haus construction. Some people are addicted to listening to the radio thruout the day to keep their loneliness at bay. i've had a streak of that thru recent decades but draw upon my own library of recordings rather than the radio bands for company. i'd previously gotten into recording Star Treks on weekday afternoons in Durham after i'd fractured my fourth metacarpel and these augmented the Doodie recordings as well as films such as Casablanca, The Big Sleep, To Have and Have Not, The Maltese Falcon and It Happened One Night.
        Building the rat haus was a great outlet for my compulsive energies. The day i was born was a full moon. The presence of a kind of effortless access to some sort of infinite energy source has always been with me. At times a listlessness sets in but this seems more the result of an essential quality of life that inevitably re-asserts a sense of proportion to the tempo of existence.

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