Happy Thanksgiving


Peggy and I want to wish you and your families a Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy your day!

The card is from a series of Christmas, Thanksgiving and Birthday cards I created and copyrighted a while back. I’ll introduce you to the self-stuffing turkey at Christmas. Grin.

The Rhine River Trip Begins… The River, a Cathedral and a Chocolate Factory!

While the first part of our journey lacked the beauty and castles of the Rhine River Valley we were about to explore, it wasn’t lacking in charm.

Birthdays are important to Peggy. When we first met, she told me “Forget my birthday and you are toast.” She was kidding, sort of. Apparently her first husband forgot the warning. I never have. Grin. Decade birthdays are even more important. For her 70th, Peggy planned a special outing. We would take the whole family on a riverboat trip up the Rhine. The kids and grandkids loved the idea (who wouldn’t), tickets were purchased, excitement grew, and then Covid struck. 

While Peggy is usually laid back and willing to ‘go with the flow,’ she assumes a more regal persona when it comes to her birthdays. I laughed when I came across this crown chair in Rheinstein Castle and asked Peggy to pose under it, which she did good naturedly. Note the shocked expressions on the faces of the two Norse gods.

Fortunately, our kids came up with an alternative for Peggy’s big 70. They rented a large house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the celebration. We hopped in Quivera, our small RV/van, and zipped across the country. Carefully. Covid was raging. It was a great celebration and Peggy was quite happy. But the riverboat trip was not forgotten. We still had the tickets and would use them as soon as Covid calmed down and Europe let us back in, which happened this past summer.

I’ve already done two posts on Amsterdam where we started and ended the adventure. Today, I am kicking off the series about our trip up the Rhine. 

It was special, no doubt about it. The boat trip in itself was a delight— good food, nice rooms, and great service. (Admittedly, Peggy went first class. But what the heck, it’s only the kids’ inheritance.) While I am not a fan of mega-cruises with thousands of people and their impact on local communities, I will admit they are good for family outings. People have their own space. They can come together or go their own way. No one has to plan entertainment, no one has to cook, and no one has to clean up. It reduces the likelihood of the trauma that sometimes accompanies family get togethers. Our riverboat offered all of these advantages plus one more, a big one: there were only a hundred people.

Our boat, the River Empress of the Uniworld Boutique line.
An example of the gourmet food we were served. I’m lucky I only gained a couple of pounds on the cruise.

Today, I am going to feature the first part of our journey. The countryside was relatively flat and industrial centers frequent. While it lacked the scenery and castles of the romantic Rhine River Valley we were about to experience, there was beauty and charm. And, we ended up in Koln/Cologne where we visited one of the world’s most beautiful cathedrals— and a chocolate museum/factory. Have I ever shared how much Peggy loves chocolate?

The photos for this post and all of the Rhine River series are all taken by Peggy and me unless otherwise noted.

There was plenty to capture our attention along the lower Rhine including colorful towns…
Historic buildings…
Attractive, modern cities and, I might add, a lot of beautiful bridges.
If we ran out of other things to entertain ourselves with, there were always barges, scads ands scad of them, each carrying up to 2500 tons. Annually, more than 300 million tons of goods are shipped along the Rhine serving Switzerland, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, making it the most important river in Europe for commerce.
The ease and inexpensive nature of river travel has encouraged the development of industry along the Rhine. For example, one fifth of the world’s chemical industries are located along its banks.
As might be expected, fighting pollution in and along the river is a major challenge. Global warming presents another problem: Drought has lowered the level of the river so much by late summer that it limits the ability of barges to navigate it.
Coming into Cologne, one of our first views was of the magnificent Cologne Cathedral that we were going to visit. First up was the chocolate factory, however. Peggy does have priorities. It was like Christmas to her…
She found a chocolate Santa and made a beeline for it. Who needs chocolate bunnies?
Of course there were chocolate bunnies, and even chocolate elephants. This is the mold for one.
But the prize, from my perspective, was the purple cow. Our grandson Cody agreed to pose with it and I recited the old poem to him: “I’ve never seen a purple cow, I never hope to see one. But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one.” Maybe the last line should be changed to “I’d rather see than eat one.” I’m 99.9% sure the cow would agree with me.
The pre-Columbian artifacts on display caught my attention even more that the purple cow.
I’m not sure if the ancient artists had a sense of humor in creating their art, but these made me smile.
As we left the Chocolate Factory/Museum, our five grandsons agreed to sit with Peggy for a photo. It’s something akin to herding cats. I think she bribed them by buying them chocolate goodies. Cooper, the youngest is in front. He just turned 10 this past week.
As we left the museum, we took a final photo from outside.and started our hike over to the Cathedral.
The Hohenzollern Bridge loomed up in the distance.
As we approached the bridge, we saw that it was filled with people walking across. Most of them were involved in Cologne’s Gay Pride festivities that were taking place.
We also passed by another of Cologne’s famous landmarks, the Great St. Martin Church.
Finally we reached our objective, the Cologne Cathedral, which kept both of our cameras busy in an effort to capture its beauty. This is the back of the church.
Every angle provided a different perspective.
A view from the side.
We discovered gargoyles lurking near the top.
Making our way toward the front of the cathedral.
A front view.
Looking up from below.
Another perspective.
A view from inside.
Looking up.
Stained glass windows.
I’ll finish up today with one of the things I find strange, if not downright weird, about so many of Europe’s medieval churches is their collections of pieces of long dead saints, like a finger, or a toe. The Cologne Cathedral is known for its collection of Magi parts, the Three Kings who came to see Christ bearing gifts. I believe they are stored in this gold reliquary.

Next Friday we will visit our first castle as we begin our trip up the Romantic Rhine River Valley. And— we meet some old friends we had never met before!

Amsterdam: Just Ducky… Things that Entertained Us

A plethora of rubber duckies.

We are never bored when we wander. There are always things that capture our attention. It may be something we find beautiful, or educational, or interesting, or simply amusing, like the whacky-quacky characters above. The store caught us by surprise with its large duck and all of its ducklings that represent a multitude of professions and occupations from kings to rabbits. We had a traditional rubber ducky for awhile. It lived beside our bathtub and was occasionally known to go for a dip. I suspect we still have it, packed away for the time being. Do you have a rubber ducky? Are you willing to confess to it? Note the bike reflected in the window. As I said in my last post, it’s hard to take a photo in Amsterdam that doesn’t include one.

I found drinking this large beer amusing. And it became more so as I worked my way through it. Peggy stuck with the smaller one. I’m used to drinking pints. There are a multitude of brew pubs found in the US and it’s always fun to sample their wares. The locals in Amsterdam seemed to love their beer even more. I noted many of them were sipping out of mugs that we would call pitchers. My elder bladder would have little sense of humor about that! I’d be up peeing all night.
A walk down any of the streets is heaven for cheese lovers like Peggy and me. Alas, we had no way to pack it up and carry it home. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Just one of these large blocks would have fed us for months. You’d certainly want to sample it first. Imagine getting it home and discovering you didn’t like it!
This woman, carrying her large blow-up doll certainly caught our attention. We could only wonder about the large pink appendage. 🙂
We had never found a take out place that featured only French fries. Peggy loves them. She almost divorced me once before we were married because I stole one of hers. This store featured the fries cooked in a multitude of ways.
Peggy went in and ordered their smallest container. The fries were soaked in garlic, and, at Peggy’s request, smothered in ranch dressing. It became dinner for both of us. Heartburn!
I like fries. I certainly ate my half of Peggy’s score. But this tasty grilled lamb rib is more to my taste. Finger food, right? My hair was looking wild because we had dodged into the restaurant during a downpour. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
We had failed to notice the name when we dashed in. El Pimpi: The Pimp.
Maybe it was the reason I found the poster of this cool cat in the men’s room.
This cat was the major attraction of another restaurant we ate at.
Just across from the restaurant, someone had found a unique way to keep his window propped open.
At first I thought this dog in the window was part of the show at the Orphaned Art Gallery. Then it wagged its tail. The description of the gallery on its website noted: “We are definitely not a typical gallery. OODE brings the work of young Dutch designers together with orphaned art – art from closed museums and art institutions. For this we work together with the Foundation of Disinherited Goods (Onterfd Goed).

Not all coffee shops are alike. Our Uber driver was taking us into our B&B when Peggy noted a nearby Coffeeshop. “Oh good,” she exclaimed, “We can go there for lattes in the morning.” “Uh, Peggy,” I noted, “they might serve lattes but the primary purpose of most Amsterdam coffee shops is serving marijuana. Your morning pastry would probably be laced with cannibis.” “Oh,” she smiled, not the least bit daunted.
Unique art is something else that always catches our attention. Birds had added their decorative touches.
It’s impossible to walk up and down the canals of Amsterdam without admiring the unique look of buildings. And the unique method of getting furniture in and out of the apartments… (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Let me note in advance, how narrow the stairways are. And steep. This led up to our room. Imagine trying to maneuver a couch up this stairway. Or refrigerator!
The buildings compensate by having a pulley system using the upper arm that can haul furniture up to rooms and then in through windows. Note the decorative sculpture.
The imagination that has gone into the narrow homes of Amsterdam seems almost endless.
Another example. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Larger buildings also had both beauty and personality. This is the main train station. Numerous restaurants and shops are inside.
This was once the Post Office.
Now it has been repurposed as an attractive indoor mall.
The Droogbak office building is another repurposed building of beauty. It was originally designed in 1884 as headquarters for the Dutch Iron Railway Company. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Several large churches dominate the Amsterdam skyline. I took several photos of this one.
A view from across the canal. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And from the street.
We caught this impressive spire from a canal boat we were riding in.
A close up.
And finally, a Catholic Church reaching toward the sky.

Our next major series will be on our Rhine River trip where we will take you along the river, introduce several castles, visit cities like Heidleburg, and make a journey into the Black Forest. But first, I thought it would be fun to take a quick break and catch you up to date on our present journey where Peggy and I will take you into Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Get ready for seeing rock spires instead of church spires and communing with prairie dogs, big horn sheep and buffalo, up close and personal from the safety of our truck.

Such as……This big guy was right beside the road 10 feet away. Peggy took the photo out her window. One does not want to get in an argument with something that can weigh up to a ton and run 35 miles per hour.

Is It Pomo Bluff— or Chicken Point… Fort Bragg, California

I see a massive wave like this and I remember the wise advice of old sailors: Never turn your back to the ocean. Even now when I look at this photo, I think, run! Fortunately, I was happily ensconced on a high cliff at Pomo Bluff when this big fellow came rolling in.

I laughed when I read the information sign posted up on Pomo Bluff in Fort Bragg. Sailors, fisherman, and other boaters of yore making their way out of Noyo Harbor would go out on the overlook to check how the Pacific Ocean was behaving. It could be calm and welcoming or it could be ferocious and dangerous. Checking was an opportunity to chicken out, to remember there was a cold beer that required quaffing at the local pub. Thus the name. Modern technology and weather forecasting have reduced the need to do a visual check.

We wandered around on the Bluff, admiring the ocean, checking out ice plants, watching rowdy crows, and wondering who owned the mansion hidden behind a tall fence.

In spite of the big waves, it was a beautiful day on the ocean. We watched as the charter boat, the Telstar, made its way back into Noyo Harbor. It’s available for sport fishing and whale watching. Apparently some folks had been out to try their luck. We didn’t wonder about what they caught or saw, we wondered how their stomachs had tolerated the rolling sea. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Looking back toward the entry into the protected Noyo Harbor.
A close up of the sea stack seen above.
Looking out to sea from Pomo Bluff. Go far enough and you will end up in Asia.
Peggy captures a photo.
And then goes in search of another. The sign is a common one along the coast, warning of the dire consequences of getting too close to a cliff’s sheer drop. But does this woman casually strolling along seem worried?
How can one resist when the best photos are often on the edge?
Such as this. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Ice plants provide an attractive foreground for photos on the coast. But there is a problem. It is an invasive species that replaces native plants.
I was surprised to find that the ice plant had adopted fall colors, something that I had never noticed before.
This crow took a break from its aerial display of chasing other crows to steal their food, to rest among the ice plants.
Peggy captured one carrying something delectable, like a long dead snail. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
From her perch out on the point, Peggy was also able to catch a photo of this mansion. Otherwise, it was hidden behind a tall fence.
So I took a photo of it through a knothole.
A seagull showed us the way. I liked its feet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And finally we came to the end. It was time to head on to our next adventure and my next post: The Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.

T’is the Season… for Glitches :)

With Christmas a mere three days away, it’s time for my annual Christmas post. (Shamelessly borrowed from the weird Christmas cards and letters I create for family and friends— plus past posts.)

Have you heard? There are some glitches in the Christmas present supply chain this year!

They started with us. Our kids are coming to join us for the holidays, which means we have been pressed for time. We decided to send Old Tom the Cat out to buy presents. What could possibly go wrong?

Lots. You never know what the cat will drag home! Not only was the gift too big for the door; he wasn’t housebroken. And the zoo refuses to take him back.

Meanwhile, more serious trouble is brewing at the North Pole. Blitzen was plying his red-nosed friend with eggnog and rum to make his red nose shine brighter when suddenly Rudolph had a coughing fit. Blitzen leapt six-feet away, donned his face mask and whipped out his vaccination card, waving it around like people use crosses to scare away vampires. (Does that work?) Millions of children were depending on his flying companions and him to deliver Santa and his bag of gifts to their roofs. This was no time for risks!

Santa was even more worried. He might lose his guide. The last time that happened on a foggy night, he had depended on GPS and ended up on Mars. He decided on a back-up plan…

He asked Rudolph’s girlfriend, Rudette, to be the backup for Rudolph. She was excited! She would be the first ever female reindeer to guide Santa. She would strike a blow for equality. Little girl reindeer the world over would look up to her.

Even that didn’t resolve Santa’s concerns. Rudette and Rudolph are quite close. They even share the same stall and who knows what else. When one gets sick; the other is likely to as well. Santa decided to be 100% safe. He would recruit a back up to the back up. He searched the Northlands far and wide for someone to guide his sleigh. And got lucky…

Monty the Mauve Nosed Moose volunteered his services if needed.

So rest assured kids, Santa and his eight reindeer plus someone with a shiny nose will deliver your presents this year. In Santa’s immortal words:


Oh yeah, and Merry Christmas to All and to All a Good Night… Plus a Happy and Healthy 2022!


There’s Something Fishy about Barcelona’s Public Market

Meet Jaws. I met him at Barcelona’s public market.

Barcelona’s public market, La Boqueria, was on our must-see list when we visited the city in 2015. It’s rightfully famous for its size, variety of food, tapa bars and number of tourists. Not surprisingly, Catalans have become a bit grouchy about the latter. “Buy fish, don’t take photos!” one yelled at me. Little did he know that I was helping him out. If more people featured ugly seafood in their photos of La Boqueria instead of chocolate and oranges and mushrooms, and peppers, and corn, and garlic and strawberries, and cheese, and delightful tapa bars, fewer people would visit. Heck, fewer tourists would likely come to Barcelona. Problem solved.

So think of this as my campaign to help the Catalans who are hoping that the tourist numbers don’t climb into the stratosphere again when the coronavirus ends. The slogan for the campaign is, “Barcelona: Stop and Smell the Fish— but Don’t Let Them Bite You!”

While Jaws won the contest as poster child for the campaign, Ugly was a close second.
I don’t want to discriminate against other forms of seafood. This squid was hardly cute.
It’s hard to qualify shrimp for the campaign, but…
I’ll conclude with this photo, also a serious contender for poster child. I don’t have a clue what it is but I would be hard pressed to identify it as edible! Maybe some of the folks who follow my blog can identify it. Maybe they will even declare it is absolutely delicious!

NEXT POST: It won’t be on ugly seafood. (grin)

A tiny Fawn and a BIG Bear… Nature Tales

“Curt,” Peggy called, “come here quick! There is something small moving through the grass.”

I hurried over to the window. You never know what new animal, bird, snake, lizard, etc. is going to drop by for a visit. This time it turned out to be a fawn, probably on its first venture out from wherever it had been hidden by mom. The doe had just jumped over our fence, leaving her baby behind. Peggy’s mother-instincts kicked in. No need, the fawn easily crawled through the fence.

Peggy started snapping photos. So did I but my camera was beeping at me. I’d forgotten to put the memory card back in after downloading photos. Oh well, Peggy took enough for both of us. It was our first fawn of the season.

The fawn had crawled through the fence and was looking for mom. It is one of the smallest fawns we have seen. And, of course, cute. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
I’m coming, Mom! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
And I know right where I am going. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
Ah, there is nothing like fresh milk. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
If, I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a dozen times: Stop pulling so hard! (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)
Wait, did I just hear a door opening? (Peggy and I were caught as we tried to sneak outside.)
We got the ‘Leave my baby alone’ look while the fawn hid behind mom and peered out. “What are those strange two legged creatures, Mom?”

And now for the bear.

Peggy and I came out of a deep sleep at 2:30 am yesterday. Something was crashing around outside our bedroom window. “Bear!” we simultaneously exclaimed! Our neighbor Bryan had texted us on Wednesday to tell us that a large, black bear had rummaged through his garbage the night before. Apparently, it was our turn!

I jumped out of bed without getting dressed, grabbed our heavy duty Mag-lite and made a dash for our patio door. Bears can do a lot of damage in a short time. I threw the door open. Nothing. Our garbage can was my next thought. I had spotted fresh claw marks on it a couple of weeks earlier. I ran though the kitchen and threw open the back door. Again, nothing.

Then I heard a crash on our porch. Damn, the bear is going for the grill, I thought, and went charging through the kitchen, dining room and library. We had already had one Weber grill tipped over and damaged by a bear. I didn’t want to see it happen again. I threw open my third door of the night, this time shining my light on the grill. It, too, seemed fine. Then I noticed that the bird feeder was swinging back and forth and been turned into a crooked parody of itself. The bear had been playing tether ball with it! I pointed my flashlight up our driveway to see if the bear had taken off. He hadn’t.

He was standing 30 feet away staring at me. And he was big, as in BIG. I had only seen one that was larger, and given that it was standing on its hind legs with its feet and claws raised above its head growling at me, I may have exaggerated its size.

“What are you staring at Bear?” I asked. “Haven’t you ever seen a naked man before?” And then I yelled. He leisurely turned around and ambled off up our road. I prefer that my bears run.

I’m sorry I don’t have any photos for you. My mind was a bit preoccupied. He really was a magnificent creature. I suspect we will have more opportunities for photo ops. But here are three pictures for perspective. I’ll close with a final ‘cute shot of mom and baby.

This is our bird feeder after I bent it back into shape. And our back porch. The grill is just off to the right. I had come out the door and was standing on the porch. The bear was standing where I took this photo from.
The sound we heard next to our bedroom window was this patio chair being moved by the bear. I’d set my ground squirrel trap earlier in the day and left some sunflower seeds under the table. Apparently, the bear really likes birdseed!
And garbage. This is a close up of our garbage can and the claw marks. We will be moving the can into one of our sheds until the bear goes away. I will also take the bird feeder in each night.
So I don’t leave you with a vision of a bear slashed can, here’s a final shot of mom and baby as they headed out. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

NEXT POST: I’m assuming it will be on the fabulous market in Barcelona unless the bear comes back or more fawns show up. (Grin)

Just a Boy and His Dog… My 11 Years at Burning Man

A robot boy and his dog check out the building of Medusa. She will show up in my next post. Beware of her eyes! (Well, maybe my next post— after I report on how the Russians used WordPress as a key tool in their efforts to disrupt the American elections of 2016.)

I often think about how are lives are impacted by robots. Peggy and I even have one of the small vacuum cleaners that runs around and cleans our floors and carpets. We call her, Robota. As I grow older, I look more fondly on the robots of the future. In 10 or 15 years from now when the world decides my driving leaves a bit to be desired, I am hoping there is a self-driving car sitting in my yard or readily available to zip me around to where I want to go. Next stop, Grand Canyon. Then there is the downside. Maybe when robots are given quantum computer brains, they will decide we aren’t necessary. I seriously doubt that they will approve of our ‘pulling their plugs,’ under any circumstances.

What’s the danger of a flower sniffing robot, however? This fellow was given one of Burning Man’s prime locations, just in front of the Center Camp Cafe bordering on the Playa. The woman provides some perspective on his size.
Fido appears a little questionable. Maybe she is howling at the moon.
It appears our robot is more sinister here. What happened to the rider of the bike he is holding? Is it time to run?
This robot looks like it was an extra in a 1950’s sci-fi movie.
No question here. Run for it!
Spotting this creature, I’d want a bunch of Burners between me and it.
I think the red eye glowed a dangerous red at night.
A bit more personality.

Aliens are another matter. Maybe they are already here. I’ve blogged several times about the UFO I saw over Sacramento circa 1968. If there are aliens, it seems obvious to me that they would show up at Burning Man. Think about it: a remote desert where it is easy to disguise yourself and people don’t care if you are an alien. Each year there are a number of candidates.

This guy shows up as a master of ceremonies every year at the annual costume contest. What better way to infiltrate Burning Man?
This one showed up in our camp and demanded a beer, an expensive beer. (Photo by Tom Lovering.)
I’ve always been suspicious of purple people. Remember, “He was a one eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater?” Or are you too young?
Or maybe their disguises are more subtle. Slap on a few tattoos and you can get into any party at Burning Man.

Flying saucers aren’t unheard of in the Black Rock Desert. One year we even had one crash.

How much more attractive can a flying saucer get? Aliens contracted with a group of kids in the Bay area to create this one.
But then there was the crash…
Rumors were that a human the aliens had captured was a notorious back-seat driver and had caused them to crash.
The way she buddied up to aliens later seemed to confirm this suspicion.
Undoubtedly part of the crew.
Alien buzzards tend to be a little scary.
And they may be the reason that there are so few alien bodies found. They are also known to snack on Big Foot, or is that Big Feet?

Enough on Invaders from Outer Space. My next post will feature invaders from Russia.

What’s in Your Home? Weird Things Hang Out Here…

A quick glance at any room in our house will confirm that weird things hang out here. Since I am normally blamed for this phenomena, I want to note from the beginning that Peggy shares equal responsibility. As an example, she collected these two mola designed creatures in Panama years before we met.

You can blame Leonardo for today’s post. That’s Leonardo as in Leonardo Da Vinci. I was reading Walter Isaacson’s magnificent biography about him on Monday and he attributed Da Vinci’s genius to “an omnivorous curiosity, which bordered on the fanatical, and an acute power of observation that was eerily intense.” So that’s what it takes to be a genius, I thought, and determined to test the theory by curiously observing my surroundings in an intense, eerie way. A large toad stared back at me. A sometimes doorstop, sometimes bookend frog was lying down on the job. I don’t know if my I.Q. jumped, but I did observe that weird things were hanging out in our home. I decided it was a subject worthy of a blog post.

This toad is relatively harmless but you don’t want to stub your toe on him. He’s heavy. Nor do you want him staring at you.
This lovely gal makes an excellent door stop and can double as a bookend in a pinch. She also serves as a conversation starter.

Who is weirder than Bone? You’ve all met him if you follow this blog. This past summer he hiked down the PCT with me. And of course he loves Burning Man. He has traveled to over 50 countries with people on adventures that have ranged from being blessed by the Pope to deep sea diving. There is much more. What you may not know about Bone, however, is that when he is at our house and isn’t carousing with his wife Bonette or the jackass Eeyore, he likes to hang out on a pedestal.

Bone on his pedestal.
He and Eeyore have been bosom buddies ever since Eeyore rescued him from being hung in Tombstone.
Wyatt Earp had arrested him for robbing a bank. Here, Doc Holiday was checking him for weapons.
Eeyore now shares our bedroom. Way back in time when Peggy was an elementary school principal, he lived in her office. It was bad enough being pawed over by every kid who came through, but one day Peggy walked in and discovered Eeyore was missing. A ransom note had been left behind. He would not be returned unless Peggy refilled the candy jar that she kept for teachers with chocolate. Great trauma was experienced in the school when Peggy got on the intercom and announced to all of the classrooms that Eeyore had been kidnapped!
While we are on the subject of cute, furry animals, I might as well introduce this engaging bear. Nothing weird here. There are millions of cute bears. I gave this one to Peggy on Valentine’s Day in 1991. Ever curious, she decided to open the zipper. Out popped an engagement ring! My ever voluble buddy became scarily quiet for a very long minute. Then, she squealed.

Many of the ‘strange’ art pieces found in our home reflect that both Peggy and I like so-called ‘primitive’ art. Like children’s art, it carries a level of creativity and even power that is lost as children and cultures ‘grow up’ and lose their connection with nature, “omnivorous curiosity,” and “acute power of observation.” The mola at the top of the post was obtained by Peggy in Panama from an indigenous tribe. A number of modern artists such as Picasso have used primitive art for inspiration.

I’m sure that most of you as parents or grandparents have had the opportunity to post your children’s/grandkid’s art on the refrigerator. Maybe you even have some of your own childhood efforts buried deep in your memorabilia box. This fantastic beast jumped out of the mind of our grandson Chris. A budding Picasso, perhaps.
This is an authentic African medicine mask from the Ivory Coast that I picked up as a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa,
You are greeted by Jungle George, the Poro Bush Devil, every time you visit my post. He was carved by a leper in Liberia and came home with me.
He’s quite proud of the fact that I chose him for the cover of my book about the Peace Corps.
The fact that many cultures have discovered the commercial value of traditonal art and replicate it to sell does not take away from its unique look. These Mayan dogs are an example.
And here we have a Mayan god.
Several examples of Mexican folk art can be found in our home. This frog in its Zen-like pose is from Oaxaca.

Our kids, recognizing our quirkiness, have contributed some of the weird things but I am usually the target. Mom gets more practical things, like chocolate.

Our daughter Tasha gave me this. It sits on the edge of our bathtub with a continual look of shock and amusement on its face. I like the way it is reflected in the faucet.
The bear and the moose are from our son Tony and his wife Cammie. Peggy once spent a whole year looking for moose, and I have had more than my share of finding bears.
This is here because it reflects Tasha’s sense of humor, and hopefully mine. We were visiting the San Diego Zoo, which I really like. But the visit went on and on and on. And I got a little grouchy. It happens. So I left Peggy, Tasha and the grandkids and headed back to the car to read. When the family finally returned, Tasha proudly presented me with this.

Much of what we have simply reflects our own unique brand of quirkiness and can be found outside of our home as well as inside.

Three buddies. Lots of Eeyores remain from Peggy’s days as a principal. The pigs seem to be attracted to me.
We were both attracted to this giraffe.
If our bird houses seem to be a bit rustic, Mr. and Mrs. Chickadee don’t seem to mind. Note the head staring out the hole. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)
The last time you saw this rooster, it was covered in snow. While its strange eye makes it look like a dead rooster, it’s the tail made out of tools that amuses me.
We liked the rooster so much we commissioned a pair of Stellar jays!

There are more, lots more in fact, but you get the idea. And that leads me to a question: What strange things hang out at your house?

The Beauty of the Black Rock Desert… My 11 Years at Burning Man

Deserts can have great beauty. The Burning Man festival is fortunate to be located in the remote Black Rock Desert of northwestern Nevada where it is surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

Situated on a flat playa that stretches out for over 100 miles, Burning Man is dwarfed by surrounding mountains and a vast, flat, desert floor. Once, the playa was filled with a huge, glacier fed lake that was over 500 feet deep. Wooly mammoths and Native Americans lived on its shore and called it home. Like other Great Basin Lakes, there were no outlets. Water that flowed into the lake stayed there and sediments carried in from the surrounding mountains sank to the bottom. As the climate changed, becoming hotter and drier, the lake dried up and the sediments became the base for today’s Playa.

By the 1840s and 50s pioneers and gold seekers from the young United States of America made their first forays into the desert heading for the goldfields of Northern California and Southern Oregon. The Applegate brothers created a trail through the Black Rock Desert that bears their name. I live in the Applegate Valley of Oregon beside the Applegate River, all named for the family. I also have family connections. Applegates and Mekemsons intermarried in the early 1800s.

Today, I am going to post several photos that place Burning Man in its Black Rock Desert surroundings.

I like this photo because it emphasizes how flat the Playa is. You can barely see the fence that marks the outer boundary of Burning Man. Art can be found even in this remote section but it takes a bit of effort to get there. The flat playa has enabled some land speed records to be set here. It has also provided a good base for launching rockets.
Of course, I like to spend time out there given my love of wide open spaces, desire to escape the crowds, and interest in the art. Here I am on the outside looking in. It was shortly after this that the Black Rock Rangers, the Border Patrol of BMO, came roaring over in an official truck. I hopped the fence and zoomed off on my bike. (Photograph by Peggy Mekemson.)
The Border Patrol is wise to be vigilant on the outer edges of Burning Man, however. Aliens are known to hang out there.
Some even resemble cats. This doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always thought that cats have a taint of alien blood. It may be more than a taint. Have you ever found your cat staring at you in a strange way and wondered what alien thoughts were passing through its mind?
Another perspective. Note the rain clouds. The Black Rock Desert receives less than 10 inches a year, which is the definition of a desert. At times, it seems like the majority falls during Burning Man! All traffic is stopped. A thick, caky mud clings to vehicle tires, bike tires and shoes. A small garbage bag worn on the shoes helps feet avoid the worst of it.
We’ve seen some spectacular rainbows accompany the storms.
Another example.
My friend, Ken Lake, caught a photo of this double rainbow hanging over Black Rock City.
The first rays of the morning sun touch the mountains surrounding Burning Man. Early morning and evening are the best time to photograph the scenery.
A few minutes later.
This sunrise photo is an example of how the large event is dwarfed by its surroundings.
Another example.
The sun sinks into the west, signifying that life at Burning Man is about to be seriously ramped upward.
While many Burners think party as night approaches, others pause to enjoy the beauty.
And beauty there is.
As the sun sets, the moon rises.
With a beauty and drama of its own. (Photo by Don Green.)
I’ll conclude with this photo of the moon hidden by the clouds— a contrast in light and dark.

NEXT POST: I was reading Walter Isaacson’s book on Leonardo Da Vinci this morning and Isaacson was discussing how incredibly observant Da Vinci was. This led me to look up at our house from a slightly different perspective. I was struck by some of the weird things we collect and decided it would make a fun post. The next post: A Home Full of Whimsy… What’s in your House?