Tuesday, September 4, 2012

More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About Tossing The Caber...

The whole idea of going to Pleasanton, California - beyond searching for Men In Kilts - was to actually see the Scottish Games, and it included witnessing The Caber Toss. So very Scottish in its nature, even more so, from my point-of-view than following a little white ball around and knocking it into random rodent holes with curved sticks in impossibly difficult Highlands landscapes. Today's simple sand traps and groomed green links can't hold a candle to what the original Scots must have had to face in their inventive version of the game of golf. Can you imagine it?

The crowd watches in breathless anticipation while the Men In Kilts discuss strategy...

But for sheer lack of practical skills, other than a show of sweaty brute force and expenditure of testosterone, the Caber Toss has to be the winner of games.

Locate a loose telephone pole and ask a couple of your mates to bring it to you. 

Have them stand it upright at your feet and steady it with your hands.

Bend over with a straight back - no stretchy sissy yoga moves here - and grip the pole low and hard.

Stand up. Balance the telephone pole against the wind and against all odds.

Run forward, sometimes backwards a bit to retain the graceful balance, and gain momentum. Simple, eh?

Not done yet: The release: toss the telephone pole upward and outward. Grunt a little.

Make sure it lands on its forward end. The fellas at this particular Games had to contend with a hard, dry, well-groomed surface that tended to bounce the pole and not allow it to stick, but rather skip lazily after all that effort of launching it skyward. I can see how a spongey bog would be a better place to toss cabers for the intended effect of making the pole fall forward after it makes contact with the ground - or maybe a squirrel-hole-pocked bit of field that might be found in the Highlands, although I am not sure there are ground squirrels there, but I digress...

Pray for a proper forward fall of the gigantic pole. This short moment of time must be LON-N-NG for the man in kilts.

Most of them did not get it to topple forward at all. When it did the crowd applauded politely. A roar went up for one guy... I assume he was their champion. Or, MY champion, I should say, being of miniscule Scottish heritage. I "woot-woot"-ed when the lie of the pole was forward.

Most often, there was the long walk of shame back to the starting point, often with the telltale limp of a pulled hamstring or worse.

We watched for several tosses, and each MacParticipant was allowed best of three. A long, sweaty battle of the Big Men in Kilts...

I chose not to stick around for the Women's Exhibition Caber Toss Event. I would rather leave that in my imagination... forever. Whoa.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ojai Day, a community celebration and arts festival...

I was asked to answer a set of questions for an interview in the Ojai Valley News tab that is printed especially for this community event. I feel honored! Here goes:

What am I doing for Ojai Day this year?
I am attempting to update the Ojai Day website that I designed last year, one or two pages per night, as new information streams in. I have made the 2011 cover for the Ojai Recreation Department's FALL QUARTER schedule of classes, etc., featuring Ojai Day in pictures. We are advertising in Ojai Quarterly magazine with a full page ad also... I do much of the print design for our event, such as post cards, rack cards and flyers galore for schools and businesses celebrating the event and promoting all of its various sponsors. I have, by default, become the coordinator of graphics for Ojai Day, working with a growing crew of talented designers who have volunteered their expertise in various areas. Hooray for volunteers!
How long have I been involved with the Ojai Day crew?
Uhhhhhhh.... long time, mid-'90's, I think
What have I done in the past?
I painted a dark blue banner that stretched across Ojai Avenue back in last century, and I think that's when I was hooked. What a privilege it is to be involved in this creative community celebration!
What do I do the rest of the year?
I tell people that I do everything I can to avoid having a real job. I am self-employed as a graphic designer, web designer, apps animation graphics designer, fine artist, freelance illustrator, sculptor, hand engraver, die maker, scrimshander, art teacher of nearly-lost hand skilled arts and cartoonist for the Ojai Valley News. Many people know me only for the cartoonist position, for which I am humbly grateful.
Background info: How long have I lived in Ojai?
I came to Ojai in fall of 1967 just before I entered Nordhoff High School as a freshman. I was fresh meat, didn't know a soul. I got involved in working on the yearbook at Nordhoff because I wanted to learn who was who, and my first gig was sorting class photos and spelling names correctly. I ran for Sophomore class president against another newby named Ken Vadnais and won by a slim margin, I'm sure - I probably made more election promises than Ken. I am not sure that Ken ever forgave me! I'll ask him at our 40th reunion.
What brought me to Ojai?
My father was looking for a comfortable community away from the madding crowds of Los Angeles County where he could raise his two younger kids and start his own business. My two older brothers were already young men on their own when my folks moved my younger brother, Neal, and myself to rural little Ojai. When we arrived, Ojai wasn't even considered an artists community or a visitor destination yet - it was more agricultural and back-woodsy. The new agers had discovered it as a spiritual center at the beginning of the century, though, and private schools were well established, too.
What is the story about my family?
My father had a hazy memory of Ojai in his mind because he was in the Navy during WWII, stationed at Point Mugu and San Nicolas Island. His CASU 8(Carrier Aircraft Service Unit) was given R&R at the Ojai Valley Inn, and the swabbies spent most of their free time in an alcoholic haze between beer drinking bouts at Camp Comfort area on Creek Road (where they could walk to from the rear exit of the Inn's grounds) and The Wheel bar near Wheeler's Gorge where the "world's smallest post office" sent out letters and post cards that were postmarked with those words in the hand cancel stamp. Because of the impaired memory of this beautiful Shangrila, my family spent the weekends of the first half of 1967 searching Santa Paula and Fillmore for suitable workspace and family home. Nothing seemed to fit, thank goodness. One day we came to the lookout over Ojai Valley from Dennison Grade, and my father said, "Wait just a minute..." as his eyes and memory focused. We drove down the hill into Ojai Valley from the east end, and the rest, as they say, is history.

My three daughters grew up in Ojai: Jessica Mills Trent, Ally Mills and Michele Seliger. They tolerate my involvement with the Ojai Day event. Two of them have helped paint mandalas beside me, and my eldest brings two of my grandchildren every year, wouldn't miss it! This year I will have a table at the flagpole in Libbey Park, in the interactive demonstration area, next to Ojai's own bubble blowing artist/sculptor, Dennis Shives. I will be demonstrating scrimshaw and hand engraving at my bench, welcoming friends to the park activities. My grandkids, my daughters and my mother Lola will help me man the booth - four generations! That's SO Ojai!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Day 14: The Sidewalk Mime Artist's Prediction

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk seemed like a perfect venue for street performers, but I was a little surprised that I only witnessed one such artist. A young woman in whiteface sat amid a small altar of make believe, dressed as a dolly with a white parasol. I had been walking behind a little girl and her daddy, watching the child spin and twirl and dawdle down the walkway as her father encouraged her to come along, maybe a little faster, please?

The girl stopped in her tracks as her eyes settled on the Dolly Mime. She watched as the mime rose slowly, turning a graceful full circle as she stepped up on her platform. There, she struck a pose. The child was mesmerized.

The little one moved forward and touched the Dolly Mime's dress hem. It seemed as though she instantly believed the mime to be a life-sized doll. A crowd began to gather. A man in the crowd began to taunt "I saw you MOVE!" until his ladyfriend shushed him. The little girl continued to stare as the Dolly Mime broke the pose long enough to lean down prettily, taking a scrap of paper from her pocket to hand to the child.

I moved in, trying not to disturb the spell and tucked a dollar into the vase on the altar's edge, and stepped back to snap a picture. The child gazing at the living dolly was just too precious. The Dad fumbled with his cell phone to take a picture also, definitely a Kodak moment to carry home.

As I turned to walk away, someone in the crowd said, "Hey lady, the clown's got something for you!" I looked back, and the Dolly Mime was holding a scrap of paper out to ME. I mumbled thanks as I took it and stuffed it in my pocket. I didn't stop to look at it. Thought maybe it was a coupon for a local slice of pizza or something like that. Maybe her performance art was sponsored.

Instead it said this:

I was stunned. How could the Dolly Mime have known? I have been on this road trip and quest for two weeks, and tomorrow I return home to family, my Ojai home, and friends. It has been a wonderful vacation, also filled with family and friends. I feel renewed! But, I am going HOME, no magical red slippers, completely by choice, and the best is yet to come.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My Road Trip/Quest, day 14: Santa Cruz! People watching on the Boardwalk...

The last overnight of my Road Trip/Quest! Here I am at the very crowded Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California, just because I have always wanted to experience it. And it's Saturday. And the weather is incredible. The beach is packed, there's no place to park - and since I thought to book ahead, I have accommodations AND a parking spot! Ah, life is good.

I love to people watch. People are the funniest looking critters that ever were, especially when they are on vacation, wearing their vacation costumes and exposing slabs of skin that haven't recently been introduced to the sun. I tend to draw cartoons inside my head, so I am easily entertained on days like today!

I decided that I needed a hot dog to celebrate the Coney Island atmosphere that I was experiencing. Thank God I remembered to bring my Tums! But check out the artistry of this All Beef Original With Everything:

It's truly an artistic statement, a work of art, although the kid that made it was named Sean. Anyway, I needed to share the visual with you, and I need another Tums.

Day 13: Visiting Michael and Pat

Our house is a very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard...

... and Shiloh, that big beautiful smiling dog. The two cats are named Jack Russell and his littermate whose name escapes me at the moment, and the yard is filled with flowers and veggies. The front house is a 1915 Craftsman style two story home that Michael and Pat have refurbished and decorated in period style. They lease it out to folks seeking to attend the Masterpiece School of Fine Woodworking in Fort Bragg, California. http://www.masterpieceschool.com/

Michael and Pat live in the back house. It's a very, very fine house...

Life used to be so hard, Now everything is easy
'Cause of you
And Our House...

Each of them worked the original Renaissance Faire and subsequent offspring Faires for the life of their careers. Pat was a haberdasher - I guess that's what it is called - she made hats for sale at the Faires. Michael invented a drophammer show that stamps designs in metal while you watch, so that you may purchase a customized medallion to to take home as a souvenir. That's how I met Michael some 35 years ago, when he sought out my father's expertise in die making. Now somewhat retired, they have melded their long friendship into a longer term personal relationship and business agreement with their very, very fine house. Very, very cool people.

Day 13: Trees of Mystery!! This one's for you, Jessica...

My dad always hated "Tourist Traps". We kids were encouraged to loathe them, too, but when my kids came along, I wanted to indulge a little in forbidden territories such as The Trees Of Mystery, the little tourist trap that advertises with billboards for MILES and MILES of Hwy 101. The place is emblazoned in my eldest daughter's memory as a very cool place to include on a family vacation to Northern California. So, Jess, this one's for you.

I thought I'd stop in to see if Paul Bunyan would talk to me as he had when I was about 13 or so, the one time when my brother Neal and I whined loudly and long enough to make a stop at the fabled Trees. Well, I probably did the whining. Neal was too cool to actually whine, even at 7 years old. Paul has a smooth deep radio voice that emanates from a speaker hidden in his chest hairs, and he keeps up a lively real-time conversation with the folks approaching the entrance, asking where they are from, how they like the weather today, have they met his friend Babe The Blue Ox?

I had always assumed that Babe was a girl, perhaps a sort of a life partner of Paul, the lonely North Woods Loggerman. I think this trip was a real eye-opener for me, and my Babe Epiphany was helped along by the family in my photo. Now, you'll have to take my word for most of the story, because when all the major action was taking place, I was in the middle of changing my camera batteries. I fail at being a action photojournalist. I will leave that up to Logan Hall.

The man and his son had ducked under the clueless Babe The Blue Ox. When I looked up from my battery fumbling, just as the woman was focusing and saying, "Are you ready?" I saw that they had each placed one hand on Babe's - um, bullsack. Yup, Babe's definitely male. Funny I had never noticed those before...

My Road Trip/Quest, day 13: From Crescent City, California, and beyond!

I broke out the watercolor box and just began. My daughter Jessica checked in with me by cellphone and when I told her my exciting news, she congratulated me. "You cracked it open, Mom! Now there's no stopping!" She knows me better than most, having raised me for 35 years.

I had hoped to paint a little each day of this quest, but driving and questing AND painting proved a little too ambitious as a steady job. I forgot about the necessary sleep time, those wasted hours between driving and musing. But on the 13th day, I got serious and just began. I haven't used watercolors much in the last few years, painting with acrylic on canvas instead. Whole different breed of medium. I love the way one has to allow the watercolor to lead, and to have its way with the paper. As an artist, I feel as if I have to surrender a little - if I get too pushy with watercolor it all turns to mud.

Hmmm, as I re-read that last paragraph, it sounds a little like a metaphor for my love life. Pretty sad, huh?