Monday, April 17, 2017

I've Got A Little List - I've Got A Little List - Of Society Offenders Who Might Well Be Underground

Koko, The Lord High Executioner with his "little list"

 In 1885 Gilbert & Sullivan, those irreverent songsmiths took London by storm with THE MIKADO, set in old Japan but referring to the English political scene of the day ... sometimes quite nakedly. The tale of forbidden love, an art form as old as the ancient Greeks, it brought up some interesting comments about life in Victorian times and, as I am finding out, the 21st Century as well. In it, Gilbert and Sullivan expressed the frustration they and a goodly part of Victorian society felt about their quite stuffy government. Sound familiar?
   One of the great and famously funny songs in it was: "As Some Day It May happen" with these opening lyrics:

          I've got a little list — I've got a little list
          Of society offenders who might well be underground,
          And who never would be missed — who never would be missed!
          As some day it may happen that a victim must be found ....

   In the last 24 hours I have found two "society offenders" who I am beginning to consider might well not be missed,  actually quite a record for me. The first was the post office, one of the first in the world created by Benjamin Franklin and now, well, put it this way, under Franklin heads would roll just like they were supposed to in THE MIKADO.

    I had to get a deed notarized and had a bill to pay my lawyer so after getting my signature notarized, I went to the Palm Springs Post Office to mail it with a Return Receipt Requested. I asked the clerk if I needed to send it, say Priority Mail, but he said no, it would arrive Monday, no later than Tuesday. It is only about 120 miles from Palm Springs to Century City in the heart of Los Angeles. Priority Mail is no great shakes either.
   I hung around all week just in case something else needed to be filled out. Still quiet on the western front I decided to go see the wild flowers in Joshua Tree National Park last Friday. No news is good news right? Wrong. Glancing at my email when I returned, it was now 5:30 pm and signals are non-existentent (at least for AT&T) in the park, I noticed one from my lawyer. It told me they had not received the letter I sent April 8th. The deed was due at their office no later than April 14th ... that day.
   I was furious and realized there wasn't anything I could do this evening but then pursued it on Saturday. Using the "receipt" tracking number I followed a letter that seemed to have taken the slow boat to China. They didn't even get around to delivering it until Saturday, a week later, a day the office was closed and there was no one to sign for it. Adding insult to injury they said they would either have to pick the letter up or arrange to have it re-delivered. 
   A late call this morning to my lawyer confirmed what I found online - still no letter. I drove over to my post office and a clerk helped me finally tracking down the post office it was delivered from and they wouldn't answer their phone.
   Trump may be a lot of things, few good to many but he IS right on one thing, our government is dysfunctional. You have legions of public servants that could care less. I can hear the howls now. But I ask you, public servant or not, how have you been treated by other public servants? Is it any wonder people do 80 - 90% of their letter writing online? Maybe some shouldn't, ask Hillary, but for most of us it is a reliable way to reach others. I don't know how much longer the post office can continue to exist. Lines are looooooong, everyday, there are few at the counter to help you, maybe none if its break time and while more expensive FedEx and UPS tend to be far more reliable. However, by this afternoon the letter was finally delivered.
What good is "Good paint at a good price" if there 
isn't anyone to mix it for you? I never got it.
    My other experience today was at Walmart. Everyone in the retail world is getting more and more upset with those of us who let our fingers do the walking at sites like Amazon. Just about every retailer in the United States is starting to close stores as the relenting fingers shop online and not at their stores. If their experience was like mine today at Walmart, good riddance.  
   I still have a little painting left to do. I found the color I wanted at Walmart and hot off chores, like going to the post office, decided to get the paint. Well, there was no one there. Walking nearly half the length of the store to find an employee I asked a clerk how to get someone in paint. He said he would page for me, and someone did.

This little piggy had empty shelves. Old home

week at the register though.
   Finally a lady showed up but she couldn't help me. "The lady you who does this must be at lunch. Are you done shopping?" I said, "This was all I wanted today." "She's probably at lunch but should be here in 10-15 minutes." Forty minutes later still no clerk. Walking the store it was like they were going out of business. The entire Apple and Microsoft sections were gutted. Want an iPad? A Surface ... you won't be getting them here. Instead everyone was busy chatting it up at their own register. Checking out the TV's half didn't work and those that did had the wrong information or none at all on them. Would you buy?
   Yes, there were many things in the store but it seemed that every clerk was shopping pushing laden carts around like a shopper. Its nice to restock shelves but customers are more important. Of course, no one knew anything and more than a few can not speak English.
  The irony of modern life is that the more we hear "You are important to us and someone will be with your shortly,"  shortly being 20-30-40 minutes on hold. There is less customer service today, not more.  Hence, I too have a list. I've already written about Target and it seems that Walmart is not far behind. I hear about their new web store but if its anything like it was online and is in their stores, Amazon will drive them out of the marketplace as well. To be fair, Amazon is not without flaws. Prime customers do not always get their items in two days. I am here to tell you about that as well!
Really? You need four people to stock 
a shelve? In my retailing days

we did it alone.
   I would hazard a guess and maybe a prediction, if customer service that we so often hear about isn't practiced as we're told it is (or as we all witnessed with United Airlines) there are going to be a lot of people without work. Two great forces are colliding at the same time in the retail industry ... online shopping and companies, like Amazon who are increasingly doing the fulfillment of orders in their warehouses with robots. Are sales positions next? I know for sure I wouldn't want to be a taxi driver. 
   We as a society need to reexamine our work ethic and employees need to hold their bosses accountable for the work they do, and vice versa, just as do stock holders need to hold the companies they own stock in accountable. We are at the beginning of a robotic age and we need to prepare for it. 
   It has been talked about, written about and studied as well as proven. The way to survive in the age of Walmart and even Amazon is to provide outstanding service to their customers. It takes 85% more time and effort to get a new customer than it does to keep a regular one happy. You can argue this all you want but it was true 50 years ago and it is true today.
   One more word to the wise ... if you are a shop owner, service provider of any service, greet whoever walks in the door or answer your phone. You don't have to follow customers around like a puppy dog, but acknowledge them and be ready to help them when it is clear they need some help. Get off your phone, chatting or texting. Tend to the business at hand. A bird in hand beats two in the bush!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Creating A Birdhouse Saloon

Last Chance Saloon, Palm Springs
When I was a kid, you know when dinosaurs roamed the earth, the Western ruled entertainment. I remember listening to GUNSMOKE, HOP ALONG CASSIDY, ROY ROGERS, THE LONE RANGER and such on the radio! Then came TV and they had all my expected cowboy kings there too! Like Sheriff Woody in "Toy Story" we all wore western duds, carried cap guns and were rooting' tootin' cowboys! The western ran in my blood from a long heritage of immigrants I can trace back to the Mayflower.
   I have stressed in many of my blogs the importance of creating an individualized birdhouse, one that you feel comfortable creating but forces you to think outside the box. That time, of course, is when you start either making or buying a birdhouse to decorate.          
Here is the new blank birdhouse
all ready to be decorated. I had
already decided to add an old
tire along with the cow skull!
   Living in Southern California with it's rich history of make believe Western roots (Hollywood), its long tradition of being both part of the wild west and its Spanish heritage, its not hard to see its results all around you. Here in Palm Springs, home of probably the largest collection of mid-century architecture and furniture (you can't drive anywhere without seeing a 50's house these days) yet at the same time Indian-American, Spanish and Wild West architecture sprouts up everywhere alongside. Heck, I live in a condo that attempts to mimic New Mexican pueblos. With a name like "Pueblo Sands" what else? Oddly, it is a counterpoint  that gives Palm Springs, in particular, a kind of old West charm.
As you can see, it didn't take much to 
quickly convert this to a saloon.
     When I first started painting birdhouses, one of my first was converting this birdhouse (left) into a saloon. It resembled an old store front but when I looked at it I immediately thought of a saloon. Maybe I had just seen a western movie, time for a beer, but well, it just looked like a saloon. I had purchased four resin cow skulls and came up with this moniker ... LAST CHANCE. I thought that resin cow skull said it all! It surely was the last chance for that cow.
    My first attempt  was snapped up by a lady from Texas who was creating a man cave, with a Western theme, for her husband. She wrote back after getting it saying that it was perfect for the man cave and even her husband commented on it. It was fun to do but then I couldn't find any more until recently. I had used my cow skulls up but found more and finally with the condo ready and the studio begging me to visit, I grabbed this birdhouse buried in my storeroom where it had been left moving and saw what more I could do, see if my skills had improved.
     I actually started this while babysitting a gallery show I was in but once that duty was done I got deeply involved with remodeling then moving and being creative was cast aside. Moving was exhausting and finishing up the remodeling of the condo was about all I could do. This project sat on my work bench then got put away. I did several other projects as I am sure many of you understand, I wasn't really ready to tackle it just yet. So, there it sat trying to make me feel guilty.
     Looking for paintings to take to Spectrum, I found this sitting on a metal storage shelf and brought it back to the studio. I had wooden tires and thought besides the cow skull, that would make a good addition. I started doing the whitewash to give the drawn boards a rustic feel. I thought a tile roof was perfect to cover the porch. Back in the day it was considered a right of duty to be patriotic so the red, white and blue for the roof seemed perfect as well.
The front may look normal and rustic but I wanted

a desert scene on the back. It takes many coats of
wash to get just the right effect!
   Next came the back and sides that I would again paint as a desert scene with an arroyo, saguaro cactus' fading into the distance that took time to layer and build up. While doing this we had a terrible windstorm in Palm Springs that felled trees, knocked power out and literally stripped the leaves from the bougainvilleas that were all over the complex. Walking my insisting dog to pee, even I was startled to find that half of the tree into the entry of our pod had fallen as well. While the dog didn't care, I did as stuff was blown and falling everywhere. I didn't work that night instead huddled in my chair in the living room expecting the power to go out at any minute as the windows rattled and things blew all around my patio. After recovering the lid to her dog food twice, I dragged it to the dining room door.
Back and both sides carry the desert 
theme so that it can be viewed on 
any side/
   Walking her the very next morning, surveying all the damage everywhere I noticed lots of branches and twigs. Hum, I thought. I wonder if that would add a hint of authenticity to my saloon. Picking up pieces that were about the right size, I came home and tried them out. It really did add a lot to the feeling of this birdhouse. I knew it was never meant to go outside anyway but would be a fun display piece that could be viewed from all sides.

  Only after the entire birdhouse was painted, only then could I begin to put the "additions in place. It was tempting because I wanted to get it finished but the idea of working around the "trees" and skull before all the antiquing was in place made me settle in for the long haul. The back and sides took the longest time to build upbecause of the layers of colors. 
You can see the bead used to support the skull at the top
and the pot is in place under a window. The skull is off
to the side awaiting gluing.
   Finally, I could add the tire, branches and skull. I ended using a small bead of wood behind the skull to keep the skull flat when resting against the top overhang. The bead was about the same depth and worked perfectly.
Ready for sale!
            This is a fun project and for now decorates my living room with other desert and western themed birdhouses. I plan on putting this up for sale on my ETSY store though and hope that it will have a wonderful home that enjoys its one-of-a-kind status.
    The next time you visit Michael's, Hobby Lobby or A.C Moore, take a long look at what's available then stretch your imagination on what the possibilities could be. I know that I sure do. I guess us artistic types see in mind's eye the possibilities before even that first drop of paint hits the surface! Be sure though to let your idea take flight on its own. Never be afraid to change in midstream. I think some of the best ideas I've ever had were when I asked myself ... what if?
   All of the paints are acrylic, mostly Americana from DecoArt. I use superglue because it dries quickly but be careful ... fingers get glued too. The matte finish was also DecoArt Matte that keeps the flat dry look of an old building with a slight shine bringing out the colors. Many of the details were done with a liner brush or a black Sharpie ultra-fine point.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Sunday, April 9, 2017

What Is Truth?

Watching the news during the Trump era, especially the Supreme Court nominee fight, budget fights over healthcare, attacks around the world by religious groups and the personal issue of a divorce, I have had this nagging thought running through my head these past few days. It was, a question that was first asked over 2,000 years ago by Pontus Pilate to Christ after Jesus' rebuttal to Pilate's question in John 37: "Then you are a king?" "You say I am a king" answered Jesus. "For this reason I was born and have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My voice." To that Pilate asks, "What is truth?"
     This haunting question has troubled Christians and not more than a few non-believers since Roman times. A million debates have swirled around this very question and some answers have led to more than a few wars.
    We do know however, these facts about truth:

  • Truth can be hard to hear. Bad news can also be true.
  • Telling the truth is not always accepted by the majority. Often, the minority can be right.
  • Telling a lie many times does not make it the truth. Witness Hitler. Tell a lie long and often enough it begins to sound like the truth.
     The first time truth got in the way of a people was soon after Jesus was crucified. Its ironic that as Easter and Passover are days away the world today is no more ready to hear what truth is than it did in the time of Jesus. Same fights, same arguments, and pretty much the same people. The Zealots of Christ's time wanted change now. They hated the Romans. It disrupted their way of life and like Americans in our time, Romans brought change and in their attempts to make the lives of the people they conquered better, in many ways, they made it worse. A scene in a movie the other night struck me. American soldiers couldn't understand why the wells they dug for Afghan women were always destroyed. It turned out in their rigid society that was the only acceptable way for them to socialize. They got to leave their compounds to get water.
      Change is hard ... and maybe harder for rigid backward societies. Change is a threat and must be resisted at all costs. However, that resistance in its own way makes us intolerant and blinds us to accepting others and their beliefs. The most moving religious comment I ever heard was from the Dali Lama. After speaking he was asked the question, "Should we all become Buddhists?" He looked at us a long while then finally responded, "NO! Follow your own traditions as they all lead to God." Not what anyone expected. The auditorium was dead silent!

     We all think that love conquers all. That love is a truth.  I am here to tell you it isn't. Yes, we all know people for whom their love lasts until their passing. However, we also know far more where the truth becomes a lie and we have changed and people divorce. There are many ways to examine and talk about the truth of love but, as I have recently experienced, there is also a time to discuss when that truth is gone and another truth takes its place.
      Since moving to Palm Springs, living in a heavily Gay community, I have experienced a very different kind of truth. We are taught many things growing up and for most of us they are relatively true. Yet at the same time we discover, as much as we don't want to, that the world is not black and white ... it is covered with shades of grey. Men can love men, women love women and people born as one sex truly believe they are the other. It is hard to accept because we were trained not to. I can remember relatives talking about the fags and queers, men that did disgusting things. As a child I knew that I didn't want to be "those" people, whoever they were. And yet, later in my life, I realized that I was. So what is the truth then? Didn't God make us all ... Gay and straight?

     America is as polarized today as it was in November 1860. God fearing people in the North and South knew they were right and that God was on their side. The South's justification for slavery was anathema to the North who was industrializing rapidly and didn't understand that the south had in its slave labor much the same drive for industry. The Northern banks held the debt of the South and they hated that. The South's industry was on the backs of living beings, not machines. It was actually an economic war. The bulk of American exports were cotton, fully 50%! In 1860 alone we shipped to England 1 billion pounds of cotton, the very item they needed for their own fabric mills and industrialization. So again, what is truth? A war against slavery or an economic war?
     I remember going to the Ellis Island where most immigrants came for decades to the United States. My father and his family was in this tide during the 20's. However, just before this time millions of Italians reached our shores, something over 20 million! Fearing a Catholic pope and millions of his believers laws were passed by Congress in 1925 that only allowed 250,000 a year to settle here. I remember Opa saying that he had to be sponsored by someone already here and he could not receive any government subsidies for 20 years. Posters and editorials in the island museum lined the walls from the 20's with calls and arguments that are exactly like those used against Latin Americans today. Even the language. Check for yourself. It should be noted though, they had to come by ship, not walk across the border.
     You listen to statements by the GAO, or other agencies that give out figures regarding expenditures, details of changes to the planet, changes in governments, missile firings, the list goes on and on and then listen to the Democratic or Republican take on these facts. You sit and wonder how can they both see the same facts, the same numbers and come up with two totally different responses? What is truth? I am convinced that they see the world through their own ideologies ... that is their truth. Yet, maybe to everyone else it isn't. It is becoming more apparent, they may be the representatives of their constituents but they are not listening.
     This was a republic founded on compromise. So far in the 21st Century that has been thrown out with the baby and its water.

     Will we ever know the truth about our neighbors? Is their truth different from ours? I would hazard a guess and say that yes, it is. One of the greatest weaknesses of the LBJ presidency was his complete misunderstanding of Viet Nam. He could never grasp the concept, the idea as Doris Kearns Goodwin so ably pointed out, was that LBJ thought everyone wanted to be an American. Since I was in Liberia, West Africa as a Peace Corps volunteer during those years, I knew for a fact that while many admired the many things we had, they didn't necessarily want to be Americans. That is true the world over. It is still a lesson our state department has yet to grasp. Truth is truth and yet it is not always your truth. 
     We helped such enemies as Germany and Japan become democracies yet upon closer inspection they are often quite different from our own. They were / are shaped by their own histories and traditions. America is literally a melting pot and vast numbers of immigrants have come here for over 400 years. We displaced those already here yet the very fact they were already here changed our lives as well. Foods, style of government (the Iroquois Nation had a Supreme Court long before England and maybe even Rome) that our forefathers studied and added to the Constitution ( Executive, legislative AND Judicial) as separate branches and checks against the other. Native Americans showed us how to live and how to adapt to a land vastly different from Europe and Africa. They helped the colonists create the nation we are today. So yes, our TRUTHS have changed and continue to change even today, and now it seems, every day.
      In ancient Greek, the word for truth was aletheia that means to un-hide or hide nothing. Yet, as we all know today, that is what we struggle for ... maybe more than ever. Because even a statement seems to have multiple meanings depending on who is making it and hearing it.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...


Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Quilted Birdhouse

Alan starting a new Crazy Quilt Birdhouse

at the Indian Wells Spectrum Art Show
     As a kid growing up I was surrounded by women who had some kind of craft as a hobby. Most sewed. I can remember hours spent at the fabric store as my mother leafed through the pattern books trying to find just the right item to make ... be it for her, my father, for me and later for my sister. I guess I got a discerning eye about clothing because back in the 50's famous designers lent their names to McCall's, Simplicity and all the other pattern makers. I can remember admiring Coco Chanel's designs and hearing my mother mutter, "Less may be more but these things are (then looking at me) 'hard' to make!" I got any number of shirts most that I hated to wear because they were homemade and to me, looked it.
     She also knitted, crocheted and later in life made creations that employed all three. I however, was content to draw or paint, skills that I guess I inherited from my father.
     My Mom made some quilts but it was my grandmother who was the quilter, and rug maker and knitter.  In college my best friends grandmother had beautiful, heavy quilts mostly made during the 30's when nothing went to waste. I can remember one quilt made entirely of old ties. Man, I wonder what that would be worth today! Quilts could be made of anything and one, an especially heavy one was made from old men's suits. Sleeping upstairs in an old uninsulated attic of an Oklahoma farm house in winter, you needed those quilts, several in fact. No one realized of course they were treasures.
There may be only 7 base colors but it still makes a mess!
       I can remember a show in a small museum in Memphis that showed Tennessee quilts from the 1850's. Many were gorgeous, true works of art. The amount of work in them was stupendous. I don't think anyone would even waste the time today. A friend in a home in Southern California had a crazy quilt from the 1840's framed behind plexiglas that was huge and stunning.
     Most people don't realize that quilting is the only original American art form. I am sure that colonists recognized that many manufactured goods would be difficult to obtain or even afford and had to make do with what they had. Hence, quilts. They inspired the very first recycling.
     By now of course, it is done around the world and many are influenced by their own design traditions. It is because my wife also quilted and had a stash of quilting books that I would look at, I quickly realized that those designs could easily be transferred to my birdhouse painting. In fact the designs of Pennsylvania Dutch, Norwegian Rosemaling, Germanic, Polish and Russian folk designs shared many common motifs as did the quilt designs.
Here are the painted fabrics on wood. Seven colors 

usually make a base then each fabric has the same
design used on the same color base coat. 
      It was the crazy quilt though that caught my eye. In fact, the very first one I did I entered in a contest sponsored by DecoArt. Since I used their paints primarily, when I got the email to enter, I quickly finished and photographed my very first Crazy Quilt painted birdhouse. I found out a month later that I was one of three finalists chosen from entries nationwide and then while on an Alaskan Cruise found out I had won! Just think ... a man painting crafter. I then branched out in a variety of colors and items ... birdhouses, plates, kleenex boxes, even cubes that could hold a 3" x 5" recipe card.
     Most of them sold on ETSY store and when I couldn't find a new creative mood, could always do a Crazy Quilt design.
     That was what prompted me to start one at the Spectrum Art Show last month. I figured that everyone else would paint (and they did) so I painted a birdhouse having marked it all up and then began painting the background. You'd be surprised at how many people stopped and talked to by me asking questions.
     Then I got distracted but after spending all the time setting up my studio and then sorting it so I could actually find things, sat down this week and seriously got to work. I also started another birdhouse because Crazy Quilt designs are complicated and its a three dimensional object while a painting is not.
Here I show the "fabrics" and the
Craftsmart pen from Michaels that
I used to create the stitching. 
      It is difficult to pick colors and I have experimented with various combinations ... all similar colors such as reds or blues, a variety of colors such as this one, pastels, strong colors and all seem somehow to work. After all, our relatives had to use whatever they had. Only today do modern quilt makers head to the fabric store and buy fabrics.
The stitched birdhouse. All that remains

is the antiquing that gives a new item an
aged look, a seeming heirloom.

     For me, the finishing touch, before I purposely antique the items, is the "stitching." I have tried a variety of gold colored pens and such. The one that worked the best for me in the past were the thin points using nail polish designed to make fingernails fancy. Those enamels were perfect and were not affected by varnish. When the enamels became too expensive to replace I tried a variety of inks hoping to find one that wouldn't resolve the minute I put acrylic varnish over it. So far, the only one that seems to work is the Craftsmart brand from Michaels. I think that the stitching gives it the perfect finish replicating the look of hand stitching. The beauty of course is that the "fabric" is painted and won't fade.
The finished Crazy Quilt birdhouse painted, stitched

and antiqued for an old, older look!
                     These are fun to do but because I try to use every color on every side, it is easy to smear paint. The red base used here had white polkadots and since this color was used everywhere I would get so zealous putting on dots I would forget that the other side or sides may not be dry yet. Usually it wasn't. I used the base of a wooden chopstick dipped in white paint ... over and over and over again!
     Oddly, these are a great way to get the juices flowing again. Because of the complexity of color and design, it forces you to focus and remind you that if you are going to spend all the time such a project requires you might as well do it right. If you face such similar blocks, maybe you, like me, can recreate something that was successful in the past. It tends to unlock the freeze and get your juices flowing again. It has for me!!!

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Monday, April 3, 2017

Does Anyone Work Anymore?

The Los Angeles Basin Freeway System - I-10 from Santa Monica to Palm Springs. Orange lines show our freeways.
     Last Friday I had to drive into Century City, a high rent district inside Los Angeles, CA for a meeting with my lawyers. Since I have moved to Palm Springs last year, I have done just about everything I can to not drive into the land of OZ. My trip to LAX last December 21st was easily a modern version of Dante's INFERNO. I had entered the 7 circles of hell. 
OMG! Where am I?
      It is not without justification that locals hate the drive and visitors are terrified of the "basin" because, truthfully, as one wag said, the signs on the Los Angeles freeways are useless merely informing those who know where they are going that they are almost there. Its that bad. Does a sign directing you to Santa Monica tell  you, you are heading west? We know that it means west and that Santa Monica is as far west as you can drive before hitting the Pacific Ocean. Would you know? Similar signs adorn the freeways with city names instead of a simple north, south, east or west. But I digress.
     What was particularly irritating were the digital highway signs that are supposed to be telling you about slowdowns, accidents, etc. Instead each and every one this day was telling us to "SLOW DOWN AND SAVE A LIFE." If we went any slower we would be in a parking lot not unlike that silly opening scene in "La La Land." Yes, the freeways do get like that. No, nobody is dancing with joy or anything else for the matter. At those moments there is no joy. 
     Driving in I used the Waze App on my iPhone as it is generally better about warning you about slowdowns, accidents and such as you drive to your destination. I expected a 2 ½ hour drive and that was what I got. I was amazed at the volume of traffic that late in the morning going to Century City and beyond but didn't give any thought to it. I, for once, was on time!
This is a typical day in LA ... its not even rush hour. Yes, it can get worse!
    However, it was when I got back on the freeway at 1:00 pm that the volume of traffic surprised me. The freeway was jammed ... I mean coming and going. Where were these people coming from? Don't they work? Doesn't anybody work? Why are SO many cars out on the freeway at 1:00 pm?
     Knowing I-10 can be a tough drive that can take hours to get anywhere heading east, the program guided me to the CA 60, a state highway that parallels the 10 rejoining it well out into the desert. However, I know that going through Riverside and Redlands, besides the millions (billions?) spent on improving the exchanges, has in fact, made it worse. Ramps fly overhead and as you creep by at 5 mph you can see huge trucks, busses and masses of cars soaring overhead just waiting to join the chaos down below.
     I had to pee after about 2 hours. I got off at Legg Lake in Whittier Narrows, a county park, that has a restroom. I did my duty quickly and rejoined the hordes heading east. Later friends told me that I should have just stayed in LA. I was caught in the Friday Vegas traffic heading to I-15, another miserable drive where, it seems, millions are heading to sin city creeping up 4 and 5,000 foot mountain freeways at about 5 mph so they can lose their money. I hold out my hands to my gambling friends with this comment: I don't pay out either!   
MetroLink covers vast areas of the basin. Is it enough?
      Is there a cure for this? Obviously, a far better public transit system is needed and citizens of places like the Bay Area, San Francisco in particular, eschew cars in favor of the Bart. They also have a fairly extensive bus system. Just parking a car there though is a challenge and a place to park your car is oftentimes as challenging as finding a place to live. I have heard of people paying $100,000 for a garage!
     The ancient Romans decreed that no deliveries of any kind could be made during the day in Rome or other major cities. Merchants had to receive their wares at night. Could it get to that? Try breaking through the line of semi's on any given day on either the I-10 or CA 60 heading east.
     But the elephant in the room is why are there so many people on the road at all times of the day? Weekends are worse. If you don't leave early enough say Saturday morning that trip that should take one hour takes three.
This could be considered rush hour traffic ... but at 1:00 pm?
       In Tokyo before you can buy a car you must prove that you have a place to park it. You see some very creative parking let me tell you! London levies a tax for cars coming into the city center each day. I guess there's a fee you pay when you park your car. I can remember skipping back and forth on Cabrillo Blvd. in Santa Barbara in the late 50's. You can just about do that again as the traffic is so bad and soooo slow it would be difficult to get hit.
     Friends tell me that Beijing, a city I remember seeing with streets filled with one speed bikes as a kid, is so congested and the driving so bad, that immigrants that live here refuse to drive when visiting home. Instead they become white haired at the mercy of their Barney Oldfield cab driver or simply take mass transit. I know that I would never drive in Hong Kong. Why would you? There are double decked buses and cabs everywhere plus mass transit that takes you just about everywhere you need to go. The airport is a 40 minute ride and is cheap.
Depending on where you start the trip to Vegas it can take
up to 8 hours. It's under 300 miles away.
     Part of the reason Los Angeles is so bad is the distances involved. The metro area spans Ventura on the Pacific ocean 90 miles from Los Angeles, across Los Angeles and across two more huge counties and south to almost kissing San Diego. There are hundreds of square miles with almost 20 million people. Here in the Coachella Valley we hold our breath as we can hear the wolf at the door and it grows like an oil spill east.
     Oddly, there are railroad tracks and such to here and beyond. The other end of the I-10 freeway is Jacksonville, FL. The Sunset Limited and freight trains go near Palm Springs and the MetroLink that I would take to San Bernardino could easily be expanded east. Amtrak, Southern Pacific and MetroLink use the same rails. It certainly would work for me.
     Over the decades a high speed train has been proposed going from Las Vegas to a variety of cities in the basin. None has been built. The other less painful but more expensive means to Vegas is to fly. However, the time I tried that it took an hour to retrieve my bag, more time than it took to fly there.
Just a mere 100 years ago there was this traffic jam.
     Today, the irony of all time finally surfaced when Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he was seeking a 12¢ a gallon gasoline tax increase, 20¢ on diesel and $100 a year for electric's (this after he berated the public into driving more electric cars and seeking better milage per gallon of gas). As the law of unintended consequences has shown, you buy less gas, or no gas at all, you collect fewer taxes. After watching our CalTrans work, I think he should rather be opening up infrastructure improvements to competitive bid. City, county and state government would save billions ... more than enough each year over what he is attempting to tax us. Gotta protect those jobs. Politicians simply see the public as cash cows. Why not spend it ... its not their money!
     Another innovation that the CHP has ignored are drones. Some states are using them now for emergencies, car chases, etc. I propose that the CHP use them to monitor driving. How many times is grandma in the fast lane going barely 55 mph, two lanes have trucks going, if we are lucky, their 55 mph speed limit in a turtle race that literally chokes the freeways in a noose. Find those cars, photograph them and ticket them. You know I'm right. How many times have you been creeping along and suddenly for no reason the traffic opens. The holdup finally got off the freeway. 
     So the question remains ... do people work? From several other experiences I've had over the past week and my visit to Target today, they may work but many, far too many, work not very well.

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...

Ah Well Target, It's Probably Cheaper On Amazon

I just had a rather depressing shopping experience at the Target store, here in Palm Springs. Trying to make some changes to my bedroom, inexpensively, I wrote down several items they had on their weekly flyer that I wanted. They were advertising a console table that could fit behind my bed freeing an antique trunk I refinished almost 50 years ago, and a 42" LED TV that I was going to put on my dresser using the wi-fi network I had saving the cost of a cable box.  The console table was higher than the trunk and putting the trunk in front of my bed would finally give me space to store blankets and pillows for winter and the new console table would give me a higher table for my reading lamp yet still being able to put extra books behind me.
     That wasn't going to be today. After waiting several minutes for someone to come and help me (I personally saw several other customers in other departments ask an employee to come help them and then stood and waited for someone to come. One, in a wheelchair had already been waiting two hours) and while kind and helpful couldn't find the item in their store network and finally, like me, had to go online and found out exactly what I was looking at on my phone ... there wasn't any stock in that store. They might be able to help me at the customer service desk but she didn't have any. "Let me take this." I said. "Oh no, that is the display!" When I noted that what good was the display if they didn't have any, I drew a blank. They wouldn't let me buy it.
The three dying sisters
     Moving on to the Electronics department, they had a 42" Smart TV for sale. Once there I noticed another one, $100.00 cheaper whose picture looked just as good, was the same size and had both wi-fi and three HDMI ports that I planned on hooking an AppleTV to. Well, after waiting again for yet another sales person, I was told that the cheap one was gone. And the sale item? Not at that store either. Really? I looked at her and said I hoped she was going to school. When she asked why, I, by now rather snarky, noted that Target like Sears, Kmart, Macy's and JC Penney's were an endangered species and several of them had hinted about literally going bankrupt. She might not have a job in the future ... and after today I think that time is coming sooner rather than later.
     Its been a trend in retailing for awhile now. Everyone points their fingers at Amazon. However, I can remember that Best Buy was notorious for poor service. Every time I would go there to buy something ... a camera, radio, some computer equipment, the floor sample didn't work (they never did) they were out of stock on something and after getting a "rain check" and never called you when it came in. I simply gave up. It was no mystery to me when they started having financial problems. The stores were really the last place you wanted to go. One by one its competitors went bankrupt and because everyone knew nothing worked there started going online. You could get a far better price and read the experience others had with the same product. I alway read the 1 and 2 star ratings to see if I can live with whatever defect they find. Beats the spiel of a salesmen in the store, every time! And because you could get it on Amazon, and if a Prime member, in two days, you discovered you could wait. I discovered this when remodeling my condo. Some items were 50% cheaper and my handles used on the new cabinets were two-thirds cheaper even if I didn't need the amount I bought!!!
     When I checked out at Target, the kindly cashier asked me if I found everything I wanted. No, I said. She looked at me and then said, "I don't want to hear the "A" word. I told her she better get used to it. I almost said she should start looking for another job but bit my tongue.
      That said, I don't think that Amazon is perfect. In fact by no stretch of the imagination is it. However, even if the item you buy is crappy, and I have purchased a few, in most cases it is easier to return that item than at most stores. Target and I have gone around before. Some of the KD shelves I bought were junk and they do not give you your money back once you start to assemble.
     In the store, I did go online and found a variety of console tables similar to the one I wanted and cheaper. They had dimensions and consumer comments. The same thing for the TV. I thought why did I even bother driving over? It, like so many other facets of my life, is much simpler when I let my fingers do the walking and the delivery man brings it directly to your door. I don't know about you but my back is not what it used to be!
     Walmart has seen the light and, at least here is Southern California, is waging an aggressive TV campaign letting us know you can order from them, get the best price and it will be delivered no more than two days later for free!
     Some of these struggling retailers in "big box" stores may have been around 100 years or longer but the times, as noted by a Bob Dylan song, "the times, they are a changing'!"

Thank you for reading my blog. I invite you to take the time to read earlier blogs where the emphasis here is to explore the ways art and design affects our daily lives ... and always has. I share with you what inspires me with the hope that it will inspire you as well. Comments are always welcomed! Be sure to check my re-opened ETSY store ...