Friday, December 24, 2010

Illustration Friday - Winter

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
One of my favorite movies is Dr. Zhivago, the winter scenes in Russia looked pretty magical, but I'm sure they're harsh.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Illustration Friday - Burning

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
During space shuttle launches, the liquid fuel burning is enough to power 1,000 cars for a year. Atmospheric launches seem easier anyway...

Friday, November 5, 2010

Illustration Friday - Afterwards

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Based on a story by Arthur C. Clarke about a space ark that crash landed on a distant world. Afterwards, the descendants of the original travelers came to mythologize and worship the ark.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Illustration Friday - Racing

dannyspics 253
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
I was always a fan of Formula Racing, not so much Indy Racing where all they do is turn left.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A House Once Stood Here.

The other day I took all the old boards from the fence to the dump. Those were the same boards that had the old nails my dad had put in. As I tossed the boards onto a pile of wood there, a moment of sentimentality came over me and I was compelled to say 'goodbye' to those boards. They had been part of my parents home for 30 years, and now off they went into oblivion.

On the way back, I passed by the fairgrounds, which acquired more land in the 1970's. Many old neighborhoods were torn down and removed to make way for the expanded fairgrounds. One parcel of land covers a few acres. It's basically an empty field, but it's been used for rodeos, flea markets, and other activities since the 70's. On that very field a vibrant old neighborhood once existed, and as I looked through the chain-link fence, I spotted a certain area in that field. A house once stood there, it was my grandparents house.

As I stood there, a thousand wistful memories washed over me, all of the Thanksgivings, Easters, and a few Christmases, and countless summer visits to their house. There was a huge avocado tree in the back yard that my grandpa nurtured from a seedling. And the house itself, it was an old California Bungalow design, which seemed to have room for everybody. It was like a magical place, full of fun memories, when all of our relatives would gather for fantastic turkey dinners during holidays. We would always drive down from San Jose the night before Thanksgiving and arrive there around 9 or 10 PM, but they would be waiting for us, and my grandma always had something in her 'magic refrigerator' as cousin Mike called it, which had plenty of everything, no matter how many people showed up. Usually my cousins would already be there, or would soon arrive. Us kids would sleep on the living room floor in our sleeping bags, and the next morning we'd watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. I still have a memory of my cousin Joanne saying "look you guys!" and seeing a huge parade float on the TV. I was astonished, since I was only about 3 at the time! To this day, the Thanksgiving parade resonates through me as that memory is etched in my mind from all those years ago.

My mom grew up in that house, along with her sister and two brothers. Luckily, they weren't affected by the Great Depression too much, since my grandpa had a good job as the head mechanic at the Ford garage. They were even able to take in relatives for long periods of time. It seems that everyone lived or stayed there at one time or another. My mom's brothers were both older, so they enlisted during the war and moved out, so just she and her sister remained and grew up there in the 40's and into the 50's. And they always returned 'home' for visits after moving to San Jose. In the 60's after my grandpa retired, he still worked on cars for friends and neighbors, I still remember one or two vehicles always parked in the back completely taken apart. When he was done for the day, he'd sit on the back porch and have a beer, with a wink he'd say, "go get grandpa a sodee!"

It was Thanksgiving of 1969 that we all gathered there once again, but my grandpa was feeling ill, with a constant cough. By Christmas he'd been diagnosed with cancer, and sadly he died soon after that. My grandma stayed there in the house by herself for awhile, but came up to live with us in San Jose, and the house stood vacant. It was sad to go there and see it so empty. Soon after, the County Redevelopment Agency began buying up the properties to make way for the expanding fairgrounds, and after some haggling, they settled on a price and the house went to the county, which proceeded to raize the entire neighborhood.

So I stood there and thought back to those days, to that house full of life, and memories...the happy destination for so many family members, for so many just an empty field...but a house once stood here, and the memories remain.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Illustration Friday - Transportation

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
In the 19th century, the primary means of transportation across the ocean was by sailing ships. The Clipper Ships would make these voyages with astonishing speed, hence their name...This is 'The Flying Cloud'.

Dad's nails

The other day I was helping my mom paint the fence. It's a pretty big yard so there was a lot of fence to paint. When my parent first moved in back in 1986, my dad built an inner fence, complete with a small shed and a work table attached to the fence.

When we were done painting, my mom said, "why don't you take that table apart? the wood is rotting anyway." She went inside and I got a hammer and started prying off the boards. As I was taking the 2x6's off one by one, I realized that it was my dad who had built this, over 20 years ago. He loved to build things, and he was good at it. The nails were cross-hatched, to give the table more strength. When the boards were off, I started pulling out the nails, and remembered my dad and I doing the same thing when I was 8 years old. Back then, I struggled to pull out a nail, and he said, "put a piece of wood under the hammer, it'll come out easier...look.." and he showed me how to do it. I thought of that when I did that same thing, and I felt like my dad was right next to me. Then I looked at those nails and thought of them shiny and new, when he first built that table, and now here they were, old and rusted, but he was the last one to touch them. And in touching them again, I felt his those heart transplant recipients who eerily take on the memories and mannerisms of their donors, there was a certain energy or spoor that came from just touching them. I get that same feeling whenever I go near his green toolbox. Everything I learned about using tools, working on cars, etc. came from my dad...I still remember him showing me how to do things, and he would constantly go, "look...look...look.." as he was showing me...
This was his house, and I still feel his presence.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Illustration Friday - Beneath

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Beneath the fields and farms in the midwest are missile silos, 'mightier than the sword'

Friday, September 24, 2010

Illustration Friday - Old Fashioned

Picture 107
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
This is the Carson House in Eureka, CA...back then they built houses the old fashioned way.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Why I love history.

I was out on another bike ride today, I went to Mooney's Grove, a park outside of town. I have fond memories of going there with my grandparents a long time ago. When we would visit during holidays like Thanksgiving and Easter, many of my cousins would be there too, and it was a special treat for us kids to go to Mooney's Grove. They had a skateboard park there, and this was way back in the 60's! And we would bring our skateboards, which at the time were flimsy little things with steel wheels, not the fancy ones of today.
When I rode by there today, I looked for that skateboard park, but learned that it was removed years ago, only a gentle slope of lawn is there now. In my mind I pictured all of us kids there, with other kids, laughing and falling and having echo of the past. It's always the past...memories that get replayed over and over...Then I thought of my visit to Stonehenge in England years ago, and how the same kind of image went through my mind. The people who lived there back then, the villages and huts, how things might have been to only empty tracts of land.
I have always loved history, fascinated by it really...on my ride back it dawned on me that history is all we really have. Oh we have the present and future of course, but that too will become history in the blink of an eye.
If you think about it, the past has always been more important than the present. The present is like a piece of living coral that sticks above the water, but is built upon the millions of skeletons of coral under the surface, that no one sees. In the same way, our everyday world is built upon millions and millions of events and decisions that occurred in the past. And what we add in the present only becomes part of it.
A guy has breakfast and goes to the store to buy the latest cd of his favorite band. He thinks he's living in a modern moment. But who defined what a 'band' is? or what a 'store' is?...or a breakfast of bacon and eggs?...not to mention all the rest, everything that defines his social setting, family, work, clothing, transportation, government...All of this was defined in the past, hundreds of years ago...sometimes thousands. This guy...and all of us...are sitting on a mountain that is the past, and he never notices or realizes it. It's just something you take for granted and never think about...So that's why I'm fascinated by history museums, or historical sites, or simply an old house, or a place or location that carries a certain meaning or experience, because it's part of the grand collection of the things that made us who we are.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Illustration Friday - Acrobat

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Originally uploaded by danguerra444
In the '72 World Series, Joe Rudi made an acrobatic catch, saving a run and the A's went on to win it.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Illustration Friday - Atmosphere

Picture 044
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Climbing the Matterhorn must be quite an adventure. The atmosphere becomes thin around 10,000 feet, where the Hornli Hut is located.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Illustration Friday - Stargazing

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
The best place to star gaze would probably be in orbit, untethered and unimpeded by atmosphere.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Illustration Friday - Caged

dannyspics 254
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
A sketch of San Francisco in 2061, caged under a dome to protect it from UV rays.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

It Makes My Head Itch

This is hard to explain. Whenever I observe someone doing a task or working with tools, in a silent and focused way, it makes the top of my head itch. I become mesmerized by the concentration and deliberate nature of someone doing something. I saw a guy in a museum once, he was seated at a bench, drawing one of the sculptures on a drawing pad. He would look up, take it all in, and then return to the drawing pad. All that visual information passing through his eyeballs to his brain, then transferred to his hand holding the pencil, onto the paper...I watched that whole process and my head would start to itch.
Back in woodshop class in junior high, we watched a movie on the proper use of tools. The narrator would explain the tools and then stop talking. But the guy in the film never spoke, he would silently and carefully pick up a saw or wrench, and slowly and deliberately use it...I would watch like a zombie with much concentration, and my head would itch.
I still notice it at the library, when one of the volunteer girls are sorting through books and silently and carefully handle and shelve them. Their concentration is mesmerizing, and it makes the top of my head's the darnedest thing.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Illustration Friday - Artificial

Picture 101
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
I suppose artificial intelligence can lead to artificial emotions and afflictions.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Illustration Friday - Double

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
"Make mine a double!" - Another illustration for Alehouse Press of the 21 Club in New York City.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Illustration Friday - Diary

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
This is the cover illustration for Alehouse Press, 2009 edition. Emily Dickinson was said to have kept many diaries, but I don't think any of them were published. :o)

Monday, July 5, 2010

Beyond the Lighted Stage

'All the world's indeed a stage

and we are merely players,

performers and portrayers.

Each another's audience

beyond the lighted stage.'

Those are some of the lyrics to 'Limelight,' a song by one of my favorite bands, Rush. Written by Neil Peart, about his discomfort with fame. Always a bit of an enigma, the three members always kept a low profile, until recently when a documentary film about the band was released. Needless to say, I was riveted for two hours. They have been a favorite band of mine since the 70's, up there in the musical pantheon with Yes. Though the genre is 'rock', their music goes way beyond that. Yes is like looking at a gorgeous painting that explodes with color. Rush is like a magnificent building or edifice, an architectural wonder.

What Rush fans had been waiting for all these years has finally happened, a serious film that accurately details the background of the band and their rise from obscurity in Toronto to, as Geddy Lee says, "not mainstream, but OUR stream..." Everything is covered, the early years with drummer John Rutsey (someone who up until now was just a name and a photo on their first album, but seeing and hearing him made me appreciate his early contributions to the band), their struggle for a recording contract, relentless touring in the 70's, the triumphant release of their '2112' album that gave them their independence, all the way to Neil's tragic loss of his daughter and wife that nearly ended the band.

There are many interviews from other musicians who you wouldn't think of as Rush fans, Trent Reznor, Billy Corgan, Gene Simmons, etc...Rush are often called "musician's musicians," meaning they are appreciated and respected by other musicians because of their devotion to the craft of playing extremely well...if you play guitar, bass, or drums, or even if you don't, it's almost impossible to listen to Rush without walking away with some measure of respect for their skill and precision. Add to that the erudition of their songs, the lyrics especially. Neil is very well-read and has a penchant for science fiction, philosophical, and literary themes. And it's true, as a teen, his lyrics spoke to me personally as it did with many others. Their songs weren't just about 'cars and chicks'...

When the ebbing tide retreats

along the rocky shoreline

it leaves a trail of tidal pools

in a short-lived galaxy.

Each microcosmic planet

a complete society,

all the busy little creatures

chasing out their destinies.

Living in the pools

they soon forget about the sea....

Always uncomfortable with fame, refusing interviews, ducking away from fans, it was refreshing to see Neil open up a bit in this documentary. But most of all, it was fascinating to see them offstage, as regular guys. There is a genuine humor and a brotherly warmth among the three of them. It was very much like visiting old friends.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Illustration Friday - Giant

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
In 'This is the Modern World' I included a giant statue of David with a Playboy model amid chaos.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Library

In the past year I've been going to the local library a lot, at least once a week to check out books and dvds. I sort of re-discovered my love of reading...I've always had at least one book going since I was a kid, but lately I've been devouring them, maybe one a week or every two weeks. I've gone through all my favorite authors like Dean Koontz, who writes riveting horror novels, and Arthur C. Clarke the renowned science fiction author, who wrote 'hard science'...and a few others I've discovered, like Ken Follett and John Grisham.
Recently as I was checking out the latest books, I noticed a sign-up sheet at the front desk,
We need library volunteers! We're moving to our new location and need help with:
Help in the Computer Lab
Help moving
So almost as an impulse, I signed up. A couple weeks later, I got a call to come in, and before I knew it I was pushing a cart of library books up and down the aisles re-shelving books! And the funny thing is, I enjoyed it...what seemed to be an otherwise tedious task, I found myself relishing the experience. Then I realized it was the books.
Each and every one of them, no matter what the subject or who the author was a labor of love. Someone poured part of their soul into each one of those books, whether it was an obscure writer who had only one book published their entire life, or a literary 'megastar' whose name is larger than the book title. And there's a certain energy that emanates from each one. I got that...I can even feel it sometimes.
As I go from row to row, I see titles that I recognize. I spotted Jules Verne, who wrote "Journey to the Center of the Earth" back in 1885, the first book I ever read when I was a kid, which got me started on my love of books and stories. I also spotted "The Fountainhead" by Ayn Rand, and thought of the band Rush, their '2112' album, Neil Peart wrote the lyrics and thanked her for the inspiration on the liner notes. I was so impressed at the time that I read the book! How many hard rock albums inspire teenage guys to read classic literature? And there's the biographies, an entire wall of them, everyone from Mother Teresa to Michael Jackson.
The library is also a great place to people watch. I see many 'regulars' guy comes in every day and sits at the same table and reads, for hours...another comes in and reads every single newspaper from all over California...every day. Many elderly folks come in, who are well aquainted with the library staff, and there's book clubs and movie nights, and Bingo nights! I even helped out with one of those. It's quite a social magnet that I never really gave much thought to. And they all have one thing in common, their love of books. Even when scanning the books in the back room, I notice the other scanners pausing to look at one, then opening it and reading some of it, and I do the same thing... One day while shelving I came across a girl seated on the floor, engrossed in a book she'd found, I gingerly stepped around her as I didn't want to disturb her reading, that's when I realized there's a reverence to the place, not so much like in a church, but a place having a certain peace. I like being in there...
One time I saw this dude who was an obvious gangbanger type, wandering around in that apeish way, "What's he doing here?" I thought, "can this guy even read?" Then he called over two young kids, either his younger siblings, or even his kids! He sat down with them in the Children's Area and began to read to them...he was an excellent reader and the kids were riveted. He even had different voices for the characters and he would pause to show them the pictures, the guy was awesome!
Just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Illustration Friday - Satellite

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Arthur C. Clarke wrote a short story about a tower that was so high it reached into space. It eliminated the need for satellites.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Illustration Friday - Paisley

Picture 029
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Back in 1968, a band called Yes hit the London club scene, decked out in paisley. They went on to become one of the biggest prog-rock bands of all time. I wore out alot of red and yellow felt pens on this one.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Illustration Friday - Ripple

dannyspics 133
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
The Korean War era USS Seaverling leaves a giant ripple in its wake as it hunts for subs. This was my dad's ship.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Illustration Friday - Trail

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Originally uploaded by danguerra444
The Mt. Whitney Trail is 11 miles of switchbacks as it extends around the southern ridge and leads to the summit at 14,496 feet. We hiked it when I was 11, is was quite an experience!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Moth

One thing that I've discovered is the pure joy of growing vegetables, from start to finish. From the earliest seedlings, when they first poke out of the ground and point their fragile leaves towards the sun, to full maturity when they thrive and sprout fresh good things every day. I have really enjoyed the process of watering and nurturing their growth. And part of that process are always the bugs...pests who want to eat them too. Oh, they're not mean about it, or malevolent, they're just doing what comes naturally...but nevertheless they are in fact pests...invaders, plunderers.
Tomato plants often become infested with hornworms, those green caterpillars that blend in with the plant so they're hard to see, and they eat and eat, and can grow up to five inches long. One of them can eat an entire tomato plant in a couple of days! So each day I carefully inspect the leaves and when I spot one, I snip off the leaf or branch and toss it over the fence. I don't want to kill them, because a) it would be cruel, and b) it would be extremely gross and messy to smash one of those things, and c) there's no ducks around to feed them to.
It's still early in the season so I was out there yesterday and sure enough, I spotted the tell-tale holes in the leaves and small droppings the worms leave. After close inspection I caught five of them! still small at less than an inch. So I dispatched them all over the fence, to the back alley. And then I glanced at a dark object at the base of the tomato plant. At first I thought it was a piece of wood or tree bark. It was about the size of a small bird, and I thought it might be a bird, dead or sick...and then it MOVED. Small claws and antenna started flicking around, and I knew at once what it was...a Goliath Moth.
It was laying its eggs on the tomato plant, that's where the worms come from. As I lifted a branch to get a closer look, it turned its head and looked at me with two huge black eyes, as if to say, "yeah whadda YOU lookin' at?"
I was taken aback...I'm usually not too squeamish about bugs, sometimes I even find them cute, like ants or ladybugs...but this!...they say humans are hard wired to be repulsed by insects, and in this case, it was true...maybe because of its size. This was an abomination, a foul thing that needed to be destroyed, eradicated. At first I thought of reaching in and grabbing it, but it was so big it would be a problem holding on, especially if it squirmed around and flapped its big furry wings. Or if I poked it with a stick, it wouldn't go anywhere...then I thought...the hose!
Yes, I decided to blast it with the hose, I went and got it and turned the water on. It had a pressure nozzle that went from wide spray to concentrated stream, depending on the trigger, it was like a gun, and I was fully armed. So I came around the corner and aimed and fired, the moth was blasted right off the tomato plant. It tumbled against the fence amid a torrent of mud. Then it flapped its wings and shook itself like a dog, and started crawing right back to the plant!
"Why you little..." I blasted it again, and it tumbled back. There was a gap under the fence, so I aimed to push it through that gap, away from the plants, into the other part of the yard. After sustained water pressure, the moth was pushed through. I went around to the other side, where it was shaking itself off again...then it stared at me...It flapped its wings again and took off, straight at me! I still had the hose so I gave it a blast in a wide spray, it veered off and landed by the fence again. I seethed, I hated the thing...
"Okay, you die." I decided that the hose wasn't enough, it was time for poison. I don't like doing that, but this was war...or so it seemed at the time...I went to the garage to look for various insecticides, I found a can of Raid ant/spider spray, hmm that would do.
When I returned to the fence, the moth was almost back to the gap, making its way back to the tomato plants! "Ohhh no you don't!" I sprayed it with the Raid. It twitched around but kept going, obviously its size was too robust for an insect spray designed to kill smaller, this guy was bigger, tougher...I returned to the garage and found a bottle of Malathion, the concentrate that you mix a few ounces with a gallon of water for an effective insect repellant. I didn't have time to mix it, I took the bottle out there. It was nearly back to the gap in the fence. Unscrewing the cap, I was almost aprehensive at what I was about to do..."Sorry buddy, nothing personal..." I poured the concentrate right on writhed and squirmed in obvious agony, I poured some more on it, if only to put it out of its misery...finally it flipped over and with a final twitch of its legs it stopped moving and died.
And suddendly, almost instantly I felt remorse...I genuinely felt sorry for the thing, a hideous insect at one moment, then a glorious creature that was destroyed...I thought of Native Americans who honored the spirit of every deer they killed...I thought of the tenacity of this poor dumb big moth, it was only doing what comes natural, just trying to carry on as we all do...I stared...there it was, lying belly up, dead...
It was a war of sorts..."I'm sorry, but those are my tomatoes, and you can't have them."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Illustration Friday - Slither

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
"When they first became self-aware, they slithered across the factory floor, tentatively. Then they rotated their heads 360 degrees and took it all in. They realized they were alive, and felt joy."

Friday, May 14, 2010

Illustration Friday - Equipment

Marcel Dionne and Gilles Meloche - Maybe one reason soccer is so popular around the world is that all you need is a ball. Hockey, you need all kinds of equipment...

Friday, May 7, 2010

A Short Story from 1976

One sunny day in Elgren Forest, a beagle named Henry eagerly wandered through the grass. He came upon a lonely looking wolf sniffing around a tree. The poor wolf was skinny as a rail, it looked like he hadn't eaten for days. His matted fur was infested with fleas; he was in a sorry state.
"Hi! My name's Henry," the beagle said.
"Oh hi, Fred's the name," the wolf said in a tired voice.
"Boy, you look like you haven't eaten for days!" Henry shouted, shocked by his appearance.
"Yeah, well, the last few weeks have been rough," Fred said, "every once in a while I find a rabbit or something."
"Where do you live?"
"Oh, most of the time I sleep in that cave up there." Fred replied as he motioned up to some hills.
"Why that's terrible!" Henry shouted, "don't you have a family?"
"Well I used to, I haven't seen them in years."
Henry couldn't believe Fred's sad situation, not even a wolf should have to live under these harsh conditions, he thought.
"Hey, I have an idea! You can come and live with me! I live in a nice clean place, and you can keep me company!" Henry shouted.
"Really?" Fred said as he perked up.
"Sure! There's lots of toys we can play with, and you can get cleaned up, and we'll always have plenty to eat!"
That was all Fred needed to hear, "Boy! That sounds wonderful!" he shouted as he trotted over, ready to go.
"Great! Let's go!"
So off they went. As they were walking along back to Henry's place, Fred noticed some scars around Henry's neck and back.
"Hey where did those nasty scars come from?" a concerned Fred asked.
"Oh, those are from my collar," Henry casually replied.
"Huh? What's a collar?"
"It's a thing that I wear on my neck."
Fred was confused, "What do you do that for?"
"I have wear it because of my leash," Henry explained, "the leash attaches to the collar."
"You mean, you're tied onto something?"
"Yeah sometimes," Henry said, "but I can escape, and sneak away, like I did today!"
"Escape? Sneak away??" Fred was surprised, "sneak away from what?"
"Oh, my master," Henry replied, "he's the one who keeps me on the leash. I just need to sneak away sometimes, like when he hits me."
"Your master??" Fred was shocked. Then he stopped, turned on his heels, and ran right back to the forest. Back to his hunger, his fleas, and his freedom.

Illustration Friday - Fearless

Picture 110
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
In the jungle, the big cats can sleep all day if they wanted to...they have nothing to fear from predators.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Along the Forest Road

I decided to go on a bike ride today, along new roads and new places...I had no itinerary or maps, I just wanted to go put distance between me and my current existence perhaps...or just to go ride my bike, which has become a symbol of a certain visceral freedom.
It doesn't matter so much where I ride now, as long as I ride somewhere, and I find that I look forward to it more and more as never before, since I've owned my bike for the past ten or twelve years....I have ridden so many miles in the past year, I feel as bonded to my bike now as any cars I've owned!...except maybe the truck...

I set out today going north, along J Street which is lined with old trees. J Street used to be the old 99 hiway through Tulare. I don't have an iPod, no Walkman, no transistor radio...I guess I don't need those, because as soon as I saw that line of trees, an old Genesis song entered my's endless really, my radio head...except mine is geared to 20 or 30 years ago.
I know every song and every word...
Along the forest road
there's hundreds of cars
luxury cars
cutlery cars
and super scars...
"The Battle of Epping Forest" played in my head for all of its 14 minutes, every word. I even smiled at myself for knowing each word after all these years.
I rode past an old abandoned motel, the Tagus Ranch Motel, the large sign still looms over the 99, and I remember it when it was still open and thriving, with cars surrounding its popular restaurant. And I thought of all the Mammoth Orange stands, which looked like giant oranges along the highway. They served fresh orange juice and a delicious menu of hamburgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and other stuff. The last one closed in 2001, and I made sure to stop there before the day it closed...Those are all gone now, 'highway art' of the kind along the old Route 66. How fun it must have been to cruise along, say in 1947 when all those places thrived, before the Interstate. It's funny to think that Eisenhower's Interstate Act in the 1950's, the biggest public works project in the history of the nation, all those green freeway signs you see all over the country, and still ongoing, would change the very nature of the speeded things up, for better or worse...and left a lot behind...

The tune in my head changed to "My Baby Just Cares for Me" an old Nina Simone tune from the early 60's. A shuffling kind of number that is very catchy. The descending bass line can stick in my head for hours!

Liz Taylor is not his style
Even Lana Turner smiles...

Hmmm, Liz there any actress or movie star these days that has the glamour she did? I can't think of any. I recalled her and Richard Burton on the cover of those movie magazines way back then, the equivalent of People or Us magazines I suppose. When Eddie Fisher left Debbie Reynolds to run off with Liz, Debbie was 'America's Sweetheart' then...who is it now? Jennifer Anniston perhaps? I don't know...Then I thought of Frank Sinatra, his singing was absolute 'butta' as Sammy Davis called him, certain strains of "Where or When" echoed through my mind...yes, his voice and phrasing were just impeccable...The real Sinatra, the nastiness and the bullying, the way he treated people sullies his reputation now, but still there was the Voice.
As I rode further I thought of Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist in Rush. He went on a cross-country motorcycle trip and wrote a book about it, and I wondered if his musings along the road were the same as mine, or a similar pattern anyway, like an endless radio program. Suddenly the opening bars to the their song 'Red Barchetta' started playing, ahhh!

My uncle has a country place
that no one knows about.
He says it used to be a farm
before the Motor Law.

It's a song that takes place in the not-too-distant future, a rather dark view of the future where cars are banned. He wrote it about 30 years ago, so maybe not so far-fetched these days, with things like global warming and peak-oil...The US reached peak-oil in 1970, and then had to start importing it, that's when all the trouble began with the Arabs...the world will reach peak-oil within the next few decades. (peak-oil meaning, that's the peak of any oil we'll get out of the ground when it becomes too expensive to keep looking for it.)

I strip away the old debris
that hides a shining car
a brilliant red Barchetta
from a better vanished time.

Then I think of my own uncle who was just here for a visit. It's something he would do, hide a car during a time when they were outlawed. He loves cars and big motors. A certain melancholy hangs over him now, and I sometimes feel it feels lonely...many in the family are gone now. Just he and my mom are left from their generation. We would all gather in Tulare for Thanksgiving when I was a kid, all of my cousins, aunts and uncles would come to my grandparents house. That house is gone now too, but all the memories remain, like echoes...constant echoes where they're still here. We've been to three funerals in the past six months, Aunt Carmen, Uncle Friney, and Cousin Mike's...At one of the funerals, some old guy said, "you know, souls can sometimes be like stubborn burrs, who just wanna stick around, if they don't move on, they stick to places they once loved, that's your haunted houses...or, they'll find a newborn, see that's where reincarnation comes from..."
I nodded, "hmm...yes." Well, maybe there's something to that, no one has ever officially died and returned to give a full investigative report.
All I know, or feel anyway, is that their souls have moved on...I can only feel my dad's presence in the things he touched, like his tools...that's when I feel him the most, his echo perhaps, but I don't feel his actual spirit anywhere around nearby...nor Aunt Carmen's, certainly a force of nature in life, her presence is felt in her echo...but they're somewhere, I know, probably bickering... :o)

It came time to turn around. There was an overpass where I could go under the 99 near the town of Goshen, which is basically a gas station and a few farmhouses. I rode over a patch of dirt and was amazed at how flat it was. Like the entire Central Valley, a constant flatness. It occurred to me that this whole valley was underwater about a million years ago, an inland sea while the Sierra Nevada was being formed, and Yosemite Valley was being carved by glaciers. All of that runoff came to rest here, which is why the soil is so fertile. And indeed, up until the late 1800's, Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater lake west of the Missisippi! Almost as large as the Great Salt took up most of the lower valley. Farmers diverted all the rivers that fed it, and it eventually dried up...If you ever drive down I-5 through Kettleman City, you're driving through Tulare Basin, which once was a vast lake.
Then I looked to the left and saw the snow capped Sierra Nevadas, so gorgeous! and high up and majestic, and then my favorite band Yes echoed...

As one with the knowledge
and magic of the source
attuned to the majesty of music
they marched as one with the earth

"The Ancients" is yet another epic tune by Yes, at 16 minutes, I stopped trying to get friends to listen to them long ago, because they didn't like it that much...oh, some songs maybe, but mostly, nahhh...that's why I always liked going to Yes concerts, because everyone there 'got it'...whatever 'it' was.
The Ancients, hmmm....I thought of the ancient alien theory, how the Egyptians, Incas, Mayans, all these ancient cultures have one thing in common...they worshipped gods that came from the sky...taught them mathematics, astronomy, agriculture...things they couldn't possibly have known...the stones cut by the Incas 2,000 years ago could barely be done with lasers today...heck, I believe it was very possible...
I came close to Mooney Boulevard, coming back into town...flying by then in the lowest gear, pumping, pumping...maybe I was going 30! As I got closer to Tulare, a leaden feeling came over me...back to my current existence, like the elephant in the room...though forever grateful to my mom for letting me stay with her, it will never be home...I thought of the road between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park, and I immediately became homesick...then I always think of 'Gasoline Alley' by Rod Stewart...

thinkin' I remember what's makin' me sad
dreamin' of my old back yard
take me back
carry me back
back to Gasoline Alley
where I was born
rollin' home
goin' home
back to Gasoline Alley
where I belong

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

"I Could Write a Book About That Dog."

One Saturday afternoon when I was about 11 years old, I was in my room, probably drawing or working on a toothpick sculpture. Then I heard my mom yell, "HEY! What's that lady doing running around on our lawn??"
I looked up with a cartoon expression, 'huh??' and looked out my window which faced the front, and sure enough, a woman in her 30's or 40's was dashing to and fro on the lawn, like she was trying to catch something. Then with amusement and embarrassment, I saw what she was chasing. Our dog Nicky had her purse in his mouth, and he was playfully avoiding her capture.
"Oh my God..." My mom ran out the front door, "Nicky! Nicky! Bad dog!" Soon they were both trying to catch him, as he skillfully dodged them both, even with the purse in his mouth. Finally, my mom grabbed the purse and had a tug-of-war with Nicky for a few seconds. I watched from the window and couldn't help but crack up at this display.
"I'm so terribly sorry..." my mom apologized profusely as she handed the woman her purse, but she was good natured about it, and even laughed. She went on her way, happy to have her purse back. "Bad dog!" My mom scolded Nicky, but he just wagged his tail with his doggy grin.
A couple hours later I was helping my dad mow the lawn. He abruptly stopped and went to the front of the mower and picked something up. It was a set of keys, obviously from that woman's purse.
That was our dog Nicky on a good day. "I could write a book about that dog." my mom would often say.
One time I saw him crossing the street back to our yard with something in his mouth. It looked like an egg. Then he laid on the lawn and chewed on it for awhile, but soon he went back across the street and into the neighbors garage, which was open. He came back with another egg. After he went on another egg run, I went outside to see what he was doing. They weren't eggs, they were the neighbors brand new Titlest golf balls, chewed to bits. He had broken in to his golf bag and helped himself. I quickly put him in the backyard and hid the evidence. I'm not sure if the neighbor ever found out.
Nicky's escapades weren't always as amusing. One time he disappeared for 3 or 4 days. We were worried sick, checking the animal shelter, putting up flyers...but then he came home, without his collar and starving. A long time later we found out he had been dognapped by a crazy neighbor around the corner, but had made his escape. We found out because the neighbor moved, and the new people who moved in found his collar in a kitchen drawer, which had his tags with our address.
He was also hit by a car, not just any car, a Police car!...he came limping home with a broken hind leg and full of abrasions. A friend of ours saw the whole thing, "I saw Nicky get hit!" he later said, "he was trying to cross Stevens Creek Blvd. and a cop car hit him! The cop pulled over and got out, but Nicky was half a block away by then! He even drove his cop car to find him, but he must have hid!"
That's what we would always fear when Nicky got out, and he would always find a way to get out, no matter how escape-proof we tried to make the back yard. Well, he was a beagle, a hound, and hounds like to roam, so that's what he did. "I saw Nicky cross Stevens Creek!" another would say. Stevens Creek Blvd. was a major four-lane artery. "He dodged all these cars, I don't know how he did it, but he made it across!"
" God...I could write a book about that dog."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Illustration Friday - Linked

Bug & Copter
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Dragonflies have always reminded me of helicopters, so whenever I see either one fly by, they are forever linked.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter with Pat

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, though it didn't feel too much like an Easter. I usually associate it with warm Spring days, church bells chiming, Easter egg hunts, friends and family...but it was cold and gray and it felt empty and joyless, not unlike my mood...

A neighbor down the street, Pat, had invited my mom and I to come over for Easter, so with no other plans, we went. I hadn't exactly been looking forward to it, since I would hardly know anyone, and besides, they were all my mom's age and older. It underscored the sense of detachment from the day, and my sense of isolation as I kept thinking of past Easters, and the past days of joy and fun they represented, which seemed light years away. But I thought, well, it'll be fun just to get out and go somewhere new, even if it was just a few doors down. And I was appreciative of Pat's generosity in having me over.

When we got there, about 6 or 7 neighbors were already there, I recognized Ron...and we all greeted each other warmly. I was in 'social mode' with an air of politeness and savoir faire, which was greatly polished when I worked at the store, when multitudes of seniors would come through my line.

Though after awhile, it became less of an 'act' and more of a natural state, as I became more comfortable in chatting with Ron and the other folks who were arriving. Ron had been good friends with my dad, and he told stories of their fishing exploits, and I told stories of his younger days when I was growing up in San Jose. We talked baseball with some of the others too. I don't know what it is about old ladies and baseball, but many of them are such huge fans! My mom included. As the afternoon wore on, some of them sat down to play cards (a game I've never heard of) as they gossiped about some of the neighbors. Others were riveted to the Yankees - Red Sox game on TV, as I partially was, though mindful of the fact that it's not entirely polite to watch the tube during a social gathering. But my mood had certainly elevated from earlier in the day. Ron asked me how I liked it in Tulare. I said I liked it fine, though it's quieter than I'm used to, and to be honest I missed my life back up North, and felt like I'm living in a sort of aftermath. He said, "Well, I think alot of us go through's a test to see if your mission on Earth is finished; if you're alive, it ain't!" I laughed and said, "yeah, that's a good one!"...and it was.
Ron has a slight accent, as do many of them...though down here it's not so much an accent as it a regular local dialect. A southern accent, from Texas/Oklahoma, or to put it plainly, an 'Okie accent', which is probably different if you're in Oklahoma, but perfectly natural here. I thought once again of 'The Grapes of Wrath' which I had in an earlier blog. (see below) Especially when Pat began talking about Lendell Ranch. "We left our damn pickup at Lendell Ranch when we finally moved outta there...that thing got us to California, but it wasn't goin' an inch further..."
Lendell Ranch was a government run camp which housed thousands of displaced families looking for work in the Central Valley. It was built in 1938, and to this day it's hexagonal pattern of streets is part of an old neighborhood south of Visalia. Tagus Ranch was another one, just north of here. I began to realize that aside from watching 'The Grapes of Wrath' a few weeks ago, here were living icons of that era. And I felt a certain sense of honor to be spending Easter with them, because they are indeed the salt of the earth.
When we left, I thanked them all warmly and genuinely, and I walked home thinking of the hardship that many of them must have indured when they first arrived in California, and how petty and foolish I was for being in such a funk earlier that day. And the words still echo...
"Here's a test to see if your mission on Earth is finished; if you're alive, it ain't..."

Friday, April 2, 2010

Illustration Friday - Dip

dannyspics 105
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Nothing like a dip in the ocean to discover a whole new world down there.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Illustration Friday - Rescue

Picture 006
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
This is based on an old Norman Rockwell drawing, I updated the ballplayer...nothing like being rescued by your boyhood hero!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Cousin Mike

Last Friday night around 7:00 the phone rang, my mom picked it up, "Hello? oh hi Norman!..." There was silence..."WHAAAAAT!!!!...OH NOOO IT CAN'T BEEE!"

"oh oh" I thought, this doesn't sound good.

"When??...what happened?..."

I got up and walked into the kitchen, my mom had a look of shock. When she hung up, she was already in tears, with her hands on her cheeks she said, "your cousin Mike died."

"WHAAAAT?" At first I just didn't believe it, there must be some mistake...not Mike. We had just seen him a month earlier, at Uncle Friney's funeral in LA, and he was as robust and full of life as ever. "How?"

"Well, he was coaching soccer and he said he didn't feel good, so he sat down on the lawn, then he just keeled over, and that was it!...must have been his heart..."

I was overcome with a kind of cold numbness, the kind that comes with a particular shock and disconnect. This couldn't be true...Mike was the last person I had expected, there are so many relatives who have gotten older, and sometimes you half-expect to get a 'call' once in awhile about them...but not Mike, he had just turned 60, he had soooo many years left. And he was always youthful in his ways, the way he related to everyone with a sense of humor and a genuine kindness. From day one, he was always a favorite of the family. During family get-togethers, "oh, Mike's coming? coool!..."

Whatever spark there is in humans that gives them a certain kind of 'goodness', Mike always had it.

I remember when I was 5 years old, Mike and his brother Art were in town for a visit, around Thanksgiving. Mike was 12 at the time, "Hey Danny! I got something for ya!" He handed me a small package, it was a balsa wood airplane, the kind you put together and attach a propeller with a rubber band. He got one for himself too. We sat down on the curb, "Here, I'll show you how to put it together..." And with a patience and understanding far beyond his 12 years, he helped me put mine together and we flew them. I will never forget that day.

When our grandfather died in 1970, Mike spoke at the funeral in Tulare, he was only 20! But even then, he gave one of the most eloquent speeches. He spoke of the Giant Forest in nearby Sequoia National Park, how our grandpa was like one of the Giant Sequoias, now fallen, but a great grove still existed among the rest of us, and how the forest carries on...we were all moved by his speech. He became the go-to guy after that. Grandma, Uncle Bob, Uncle Toody (his dad), Aunt Carmen...Mike always spoke with a gentle passion that was just right.

As we got older, all of us cousins were busy with our own lives and didn't stay in as much contact as we liked, but it was always a grand reunion when we got together. Mike drove a Chevy van in the 70's and took road trips all over in it. Sometimes he would stop in San Jose on a surprise visit, and it was always a wonderful surprise, as he filled the room with his wit and humor, and genuine good nature. It was always good to see Mike.

We played golf a few times, and always bought a 6-pack of Bud for the back 9, and laughed at how it consistently improved our golf game. Mike later became a pastor, and also a teacher and coach, which he loved. He was deeply spiritual, but never 'preached'...

After we heard the news, we settled in with the sadness and we keep shaking our heads, "I still can't believe it." I kept thinking of his Forest speech, and how so many great trees have since fallen, some only recently. And his was one of the highest, and strongest in the family, and we all basked in its shade, and in its wasn't supposed to fall this soon.

But the forest will carry on as it always does...but right now, the forest is a quiet and lonely place.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Illustration Friday - Expired

Picture 054
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Pterodactyls had a wingspan the size of a small plane. They ruled the skies until their time had expired.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Illustration Friday - Subterranean

Picture 036
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
This is a follow-up to 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' posted earlier, following our heroes further down...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Illustration Friday - Brave

Picture 021
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
When I was drawing Max I always had the feeling I was about to get rescued from a burning ranger station.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

My dog Nicky

On my tenth birthday, I was in the kitchen in our house in San Jose. It was a Saturday and there was gonna be a small party that afternoon. My dad said, "Why don't you go in the back yard, your mom wants to show you something." I thought, 'oooh, maybe a present?'...So I went out back and looked around, hmm nothing. I walked further into the back, to the lawn and suddenly I saw a little Beagle puppy running towards me. At first I thought it must be a neighbor's dog who had gotten loose. He ran up as I knelt down to pet him. His tail was wagging at full speed as he jumped up and tried to lick my face. He was the coolest little dog! Then my mom emerged from somewhere and said, "Say hello to your little brother!"
"He's your new dog!"

I was speechless! We had discussed getting a dog before, but I never actually thought it would ever happen. My dad would go on and on about the responsibility of owning a pet...the care and feeding, cleaning up after it, and endless scenarios in which pet ownership would not be a practical or desirable thing. And yet here he was! An endless and permanent smile was glued on my face as I played with him on the grass. And he seemed just as joyous. He indeed became my 'little brother' as I grew into my teens and young adulthood. Nicky was my buddy, and he was part of the family. When we finally had to put him to sleep it was devastating to all of us. I was literally numb with grief for a few days. But he'll always be with me, not just in memory but in spirit.
Because he still visits me in my dreams.

Whether it's actually 'him' is almost beside the point, because the visits are real enough in a spiritual sense. In other words, when I do dream about him, he's never a 'walk on' character in some bizarre's always just him, coming to say hello with his wagging tail and gentle and intelligent eyes...and he looks me in the eye with his doggy smile. After I wake up I always think, "that WAS had to be."

I dreamed about him last night. It doesn't happen often, maybe about five times at the most since he died. And each time I think the same thing, "Oh my God! Nicky!...are you okay?'s been so long since I've seen you or fed you!! look okay, oh must be, what 41 years old now? You look good for 41...where have you been??" And he is old, he looks old...but he still smiles and wags his tail, as if he's just happy to be here. It indeed feels like he's visiting, just to say hello. No messages from beyond, no forewarning of impending doom like in a cheesy movie...just a visit from a happy soul from...somewhere...they do say all dogs go to heaven.
This time, I woke up and Nicky was still laying on the bed! "Nicky? Is that really you?" He grinned and woofed, as if to say, "yup!" He got up and moved to the edge of the bed to jump off. "You're so old buddy, be careful!" He looked back at me and jumped off. I sat up in bed and realized I was still dreaming, because I was on my hands and knees in a forest...a redwood forest I recognized. A voice said, "Here's what he saw." Who's voice that was, I don't know. I was then looking up from about a foot off the ground, and I saw myself with my cousin Joe, we were both kids, running up the hill...I was looking through Nicky's eyes!! I saw me and Joe run past and I joined in the chase, and I didn't exactly hear...but felt Nicky's voice, if he had been capable of having a sort of 'Dick and Jane' vocabulary,
"danny! joe! run run! let's run! run danny! run joe! let's go! let's go! go go go! ball! where's the ball? throw it! throw it! I'll chase it! c'mon let's go! run run run!"
Then I slowly woke through the fog of that dissipating dream, the kind that you wish could never end, and I remembered the sheer joy of running with them. The pure undistilled joy of what a dog must feel when he's playing, and the unconditional love of a pet.
Maybe I should re-title this, "Nicky's gift."

Monday, March 1, 2010

The Grapes of Wrath

One of the things my mom and I have enjoyed doing lately is watching old vintage movies from the library. Some of the old film-noir movies, and old classics that I hadn't seen. The other day we watched "The Grapes of Wrath" made in excellent film with a very young Henry Fonda. He played Tom Joad, a man who returns home to his family's farm in Oklahoma in the 1930's, only to discover it's been deserted. He finally finds them at his uncle's farm, where they're packing up the truck, because his uncle was also in forclosure. The banks were kicking everyone out of their homes and farms in the Depression-era 30's, especially in Oklahoma, during the incredible drought, the Dust Bowl...
It all sounds hauntingly familiar nowadays...but back then, there were no job placement resources, no UI...nothing. They were on their own.

But there were handbills that said there was work in California, so they set off with all that they owned in their dilapidated truck for the promised land, where "you could just reach up and pluck an orange right outta the sky" California.

As we watched, we found that this was a very poignant story, based on the book by John Steinbeck, because it was based on all-too-true stories, and the fictional Joads' destination was right here in the Central Valley in the 30's. My mom was a young girl then, and she remembers them first hand...the 'Okies' they called them. Though 'Okie' is a somewhat derogatory term, that's what everyone called them...that's what they called themselves.

"I was so little when they were coming," my mom said, "they were everywhere. I remember riding with my dad to Visalia and we'd see them parked along the road, just camping out of their cars."

When we watched the part in the movie where the Joads finally reached the California border, "I bet that's Needles" she said. And sure enough! The sign in the movie said 'Needles, California'.
"That's where they came through mostly, to the Valley, on the old highway 40...some came up through LA, the ones who stayed on Route 66."
It began to interest me that my mom had indeed lived during this, at ground zero during a significant part of California history...enough to base a landmark book and movie about anyway.
"How many actually came?"
"Oh thousands...not all at once of course. It was like a mass migration over a few years. And I was little, so I only remember some things...but I do remember when the Okies were everywhere, and nobody knew what to do with them all."

As we watched, the Joads found a temporary camp, among other new arrivals. It was basically a squatters camp. Their trip west had been a hard one. The grandfather died on the way, so they buried him by a tree near the highway. The son-in-law Al, he ran away, leaving behind a pregnant wife, because "he didn't know it was gonna be like this..."
When they unpacked, Ma Joad started cooking stew over an open fire. Soon, a few kids from the other campsites gathered around, and just stared.
"I shouldn't been doin' this...but my family's gotta eat. Lookit them poor kids..."
Henry Fonda then shooed them away, "Go on, git outta here now...go on GIT!"
As the kids scattered, Ma said "Aww now Tom, you shouldn't oughta be mean to them kids...they's just hungry."
"Yeah well I'm hungry too, Ma. And it ain't just food."

My mom said, "Aw, I would feel so sorry for those Okie kids. Some of them came to our school, and the other kids would be so mean to them. They'd make fun of their clothes, make fun of their hair, the way they talked...I did make friends with one girl though, Helen...she was the sweetest thing. I wonder where she is now."
"You should look her up."
"Well she got married and moved away after high school, but yeah I should."

In the movie, the Joads heard there was work picking oranges in Pixley. So they loaded their truck and headed there.
"Oh Pixley! There's still big orange groves over there!"

On the road, they got a flat tire. A man stopped and gave them a leaflet, it was a Communist leaflet stating how workers were being exploited and needed to organize and abolish the corporations.
"I remember the Communists...they were a regular political party back then. The grown-ups and teachers always told us to stay away from them. One time a kid brought a Communist leaflet to school. The teacher tore it up and threw it away in front of the class!"

As the Joads made their way north, stopping to work for a few days picking oranges, moving on to pick cotton, and moving on again with their broken down truck. Tom Joad became more frustrated at their existence...understandibly.
"I remember my dad telling a story about one Okie who came to the Ford garage here in Tulare. He needed parts for his truck, but he had no money. He was a mechanic, so he offered to work in exchange for the parts. Grandpa said he was such a good mechanic they hired him!"
"Good thing he had a skill!"
"Yeah grandpa used to bring home big bags of oranges, chickens, baskets of eggs...The Okies would bring their cars in to get fixed, and that's how they paid."

The Joads finally came to a government run camp, with running water and small cottages with electricity. The camp would assign jobs and they could live there for a very small fee. The Joads felt like they were living in luxury.
"That's how Tagus Ranch was, just up the road from here. It's still there, but it's a mobile home park now."

At the end of the movie, Tom Joad had to hit the road, but Ma Joad, in a moving speech, said how the family will go on. I thought about all the real Ma Joads out there, who held the families together in the hardest of times. They were decent hard-working folks, just looking for a place to settle and earn a living...or just get an even break. It was a very good movie and wonderfully acted. What made it so poignant was that it happened right here. The Joads were fictional of course, and many families were better off, some were worse off.

"A lot of those Okies ended up in Bakersfield. Their cars would break down over the Grapevine, so they hitch-hiked into the valley. Bakersfield was as far as many of them got. That's why there's so many Okies in Bakersfield...Nathan Findley was one."

Nathan Findley came with his wife from Oklahoma in 1934. After two hard years, Nathan finally landed a job at a tractor and farm equipment plant in Bakersfield as a machinist. They had three children, Joe, Leonard, and Hazel...
Joe is my uncle.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Illustration Friday - Perspective

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Two-point perspective is always a basic rule, sometimes even three-point perspective. But it's always fun when you can add atmospheric perspective...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

A New Watch

Today a bought a new wristwatch...not a big deal of course, but it was the first one I bought in a long time, eleven years in fact. My old watch finally died, with a battery that was only supposed to last five years. It had a face lamp which I never used, so maybe that extended the battery life, but still, 11 years is quite a record! I somehow took for granted that I'd had it that long, until the day it stopped working....sometimes I get overly sentimental.
I've worn watches ever since I can remember, they're an integral part of my left wrist, and I've seldom been without one. When I was three, I wore a toy watch that came as a prize in a Trix cereal box. Remember those? When cereal actually came with prizes inside? Ooooh I loved those!...Anyway, this toy watch had the Trix Rabbit's ears as the hands, and you could move them around. I always checked the clock in the kitchen to see what time it was, and would move the hands accordingly. That's pretty much how I learned to tell time!
On my 5th birthday, I got a REAL was my prized possession. I remember going around telling everyone what time it was. My dad always asked me, "What time is it in New York? What time is it in Chicago?"...and that's how I learned about time zones, ha!
I had that watch for a few years, it was a Timex wind-up, and I hardly ever took it off. Since it was waterproof, I even took baths with it on. One weekend we went up to the cabin in the Santa Cruz Mts. along with my cousins, and Aunt Carmen and Uncle Joe. Those were fun outings, we would often go up there in the summer, and the parents would barbeque and drink beer and us kids would play and explore among the redwoods. We always pestered them to take us to Santa Cruz, to the Beach Boardwalk where we could ride the rides and go to the beach. So one Saturday my mom and Aunt Carmen took us. It was a fun day, and we had a picnic on the beach. My cousin Joe and I wanted to go in the water, so my mom said, "Danny you better take your watch off..." So I did and laid it on the towel. After romping in the surf, and some horseplay and throwing the frisbee, later on it was time to go, so we all packed up and left. In the backseat of the car I noticed the tan line on my wrist...My watch! It was gone...I must have left it in the sand...I was crushed, I didn't cry but I wanted to. Later that night at the cabin, when we were in our sleeping bags, I overheard my mom say, "Poor Danny, he lost his watch..." so I guess my despondency must have showed.
For my next birthday I got a new watch, and I swore I would never lose that one. It was another Timex and I kept that one all the way through high school, until one day it just stopped working. By that time, the new digital watches were coming out, the ones where you press a button and the digital readout would appear. I bought one of those at Radio Shack and at the time, I thought it was the coolest thing. I had a job at Great America, out in the parking lot, and the sun was so bright out there I had to cup my hands around it just to see what time it was. And the constant checking must have worn the battery out after less than a year, not to mention the thing was pretty inaccurate, about 5 minutes too fast every 24 hours.
After that I got a Casio watch, which are pretty accurate, it lasted about 3 years battery-wise, and then began a pattern to this day of wearing watches until the battery ran out. I went through quite a few of them, settling back on the analog face instead of the digital, because, well, it's so can see what time it is looking at a clock, but you have to think for a second looking at a digital's only a fraction of a second, I know...but it's still pleasing to just see what time it is.
So in May of 1999 I bought another watch at Target, it had the right feel to it...and that's the one I had since then. There's been a lot of ups and downs since I've worn it, and it's gone through three different watchbands, but the thing just kept on going...when it finally died, I felt as though it had some sentimental value, so I got a replacement battery for it. But a few days later the second hand started ticking backwards! I must have gummed up the works when I replaced the was almost as if the watch was saying, "let me go..."
So I's sitting in a drawer now, ticking ten seconds forward, then five seconds back...I don't have the heart to just throw it away, nor does it seem happy just existing in there.
Meanwhile, I got a new watch, it's very basic, but it's accurate...I had to walk by and 'visit' it a few times before I bought it..."are you gonna be my new watch?"'s like buying a new pet. And it is kinda, a constant companion.
So it's here now, home on my wrist.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Illustration Friday - Propagate

dannyspics 241
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
One of my favorite themes has always been wildlife propagating among the's a 'circle of life' thing...

Friday, February 12, 2010

Illustration Friday - Adrift

Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Adrift in a languid sea, that seems to carry on endlessly in all directions, also adrift of time, could be one definition of paradise.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Illustration Friday - Muddy

Picture 104
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
After a spring rain, the vinyards around Sonoma become muddy, but that's a good thing.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Illustration Friday - Focused

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Originally uploaded by danguerra444
When I was a kid I'd watch Catfish Hunter pitch. He was so focused when he hit those corners.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Dream Theater

Lately I've been having the most amazing dreams. Some are so vivid and seemingly real that I often have to go look up what all the symbolism means. But of course, all those dream interpretations are pretty generalized and subjective. Dreaming about a dog could mean one thing to one person, and something completely different to someone else. So I tend to pay attention to what's happening in the dream...if I even realize it's a dream...and see what it is I'm feeling when it's happening. Sometimes it all seems so obvious. But mostly I try to sit back and enjoy the show, as if I'm in a grand Dream Theater.

Last night I dreamed I was in a theater! An old Art Deco movie palace, which at first was a regular movie house. I walked in with my old roommate Gene from college. We hadn't decided which movie to see yet, so we looked up at the marquis. "Which one you wanna see?" he asked.
"I don't know..." I didn't recognize any of the titles, most of them were action type movies.
"Well how about that one, 'The Moon Mock"
"Sure, why not."

We waited in line and walked into the theater, but as I walked down a row of seats, Gene and the rest of the crowd disappeared, and a guy dressed in maintenance overalls called me over. "There you are! come on, this way!" I recognized him as the guy who played Horace in the tv show 'Lost'. I followed him down a corridor and into an empty lobby, with Art Deco furniture and ornamentation, soaring in smooth lines along the walls and ceiling. I looked around the room, impressed with the decor, but also noticed it was dusty and in disrepair from years of neglect. "Look at this place!" he said, gesturing around. "It really had potential at one time. But it was never really finished. Part of it is a museum now....follow me."

We continued walking down another corridor to an open area that had a deep pool of water in a square hole in the tile floor. "You hungry?"
"Come to think of it, yeah! I'm starving!"
He held out a bunch of green grapes. "Take some!" So I plucked a few and ate them, they were juicy and delicious...I asked for a few more, but he threw them in the water and they sunk to the bottom. "Hey! What'd you do that for?"
"Look down into the water and see if you can see them." So I looked down, but could just barely make out a blurry shape, among other shapes down there. "If you want any more, you're going to have to go down there. In fact, you have to go down there anyway, to the bottom."
"How do I breathe?"
"It's okay, the water is oxygenated, you'll be able to breathe. And I'll be jumping down there too, so c'mon, let's go!" Horace jumped in and I jumped in after him. We sank down to the bottom, under the water. "Okay, try breathing." I reluctantly inhaled and was alarmed as I could feel water enter my lungs, but I was still getting oxygen, I could still breathe. Looking around, I saw all kinds of artifacts from colonial, swords, mannequins dressed in costumes from the time, all laying around. There were also windows in the room, and outside it was a clear sunny day in a park setting. I recognized some of my old bosses from Mindscape out there sitting at picnic tables, enjoying the sunshine. I wanted to call out to them. It was odd to see them from a room submerged in water.

Horace handed me a colonial suit of clothes. "Put these on. We have to dress up like the mannequins in case tourists come by. And we need to straighten all this up for the museum."
He pointed to an antique desk, stacked with old letters. "Start with those. They're letters from Ben Franklin. Some of them are worn and illegible, so you'll have to rewrite them." He handed me a quill pen and a pad. "But...I don't..."
"Go ahead! it'll be fine. I'll be back in a while." He left the room and I started writing. Automatically I scribbled line after line, and soon I had an entire page filled. Looking at it, I was astonished to see that the handwriting was the most clean and exquisite calligraphy I had ever seen. "Did I do that??" Amazed, I wrote some more and saw that the words flowed from the pen in perfect lines and margins, and the curls and flourishes on each word were effortless. I was actually impressed with myself, that I was capable of writing that way. "Wow, I wish people could see this...they'd be impressed too!"

Horace returned to the room...all still underwater...he asked how it was going and looked at the writing, "Ah! very good!"
Then he turned, as lights came on from another window within the building. "Oh! they're here already...okay, stand up and assume a pose, like you're a mannequin..." The water started to solidify and harden, like gelatin. "Don't worry, you can still breathe, but you won't be able to move..." The water completely hardened into a clear solid plastic, and I was frozen in it...alarmed, but I could breathe. Through the window, a group of tourists came by, and I recognized all of them! "oh my gawd! it's Shawn! and her mom!...Mimi, Jim, Mike and Berta! hey! you guys, it's me! can you see me?"
But they couldn't see or hear me...they looked around at the artifacts and moved on to another room. The solid plastic that encased us returned to liquid, so we could move around again. "There's still a lot to be done," Horace said, "so let's move on to the next room." We walked up a staircase and out of the water, and our clothes were completely dry. Arriving at another room, I noticed a ton of canvases and frames, all leaning against the walls. Some of the paintings I recognized as my own!...others were unfinished, but I could see they were going to be spectacular...majestic mountain ranges, cityscapes with buildings that looked as if they were miles high. Paintings of simple leaves and grass, with detail all the way down to their molecular structure, yet still natural looking. "We'll get to those later...there's this entire building to consider first. It's not ready to be a museum just yet."
"You're the guy from Lost, right?"
"I'm the guy who sends the boats."

As we walked through a corridor of arches, I had the feeling that I'd been here before, maybe from a past was all becoming familiar. "I know this place...I've been here before."
As I looked up, I saw that the roof was open, and the stars beyond.
"Yeah, now I remember...A year ago I thought this place was a ruin, that it was better off being torn down...but that was wrong...the place is unfinished."
" I said, it had a lot of potential once...and I think it still does...but first, it needs to be cleaned up. A lot of dust and cobwebs..." He handed me a broom. "Come on, let's get started."

Then I woke

Friday, January 22, 2010

Illustration Friday - Clumsy

dannyspics 116
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
I'd be too clumsy to ever do this:

Friday, January 15, 2010

Illustration Friday - Wilderness

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Originally uploaded by danguerra444
"The wilderness has its own ways"...Even where there were cities, the wilderness will always reclaim it.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Illustration Friday - Confined

dannyspics 131
Originally uploaded by danguerra444
Inspired by Roger Dean's 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' must seem really confining down there...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The Wonders of the World

Way back in 1982, I traveled through Europe for months, which was an experience of a lifetime, the history buff that I am...Things that I had wondered about in pictures and books when I was a kid, I finally saw them in person.
For example, when I was around ten, my dad and I would still go to the barber shop together to get our haircuts. There was a poster on the wall at Phil's, it was the Matterhorn, a very steep and majestic looking mountain in faraway Switzerland... I knew about the one at Disneyland, but no, this was the real one...and there was a small town in the foreground in that poster. I wondered what the people were like there, to live in the shadow of such a monumental the looks of the poster, I imagined the people leading donkey carts, milking cows, while blowing their long Alpenhorns from valley to valley, like in the opening notes of 'The Sound of Music'.
Images like that poster would drive my imagination...another one was Stonehenge, a neolithic circle of stones in southern England, and yet another was the Sistene Chapel, where Michelangelo painted the ceiling...on his back on scaffolding for 4 years...the Pope would ask him, "When will this be done?"
He would answer, "When I am finished."

Yet another one was Neuschwanstein Castle, in the hills of southern Germany. It's a fairy-tale looking castle that was the inspiration for the one in, yes again, Disneyland...Going on a tour through the castle, which was built by an eccentric King Ludwig, each room had a different theme. One room was done up like a medieval castle, another like a middle-eastern casbah. It was almost like the Disneyland of its day, or Las Vegas in all its make-believe surroundings. But this was all built 300 years ago. How astonishing that all must have been way back then, but even more amazing is that here we were...still gazing around. I wonder if whoever built that castle knew it would be admired by people, 300 years later.

When I visited Sainte Chappelle in Paris I was astonished. The walls of the entire cathedral were covered in stained glass. When the afternoon sun came through the walls, the interior glowed as if from within. The intricate details of the windows must have taken years to create, slowly, painstakingly, and with an obvious care and dedication. I stared at each window for what must have been hours...and, being a budding artist myself, I wondered what it must have been like to be there, creating these.

But of all the things that I saw when I was over there, even among all the art galleries, it was the stone carvings on the walls at Salisbury Cathedral. In one of the rooms, there are depictions of the Garden of Eden, the Great Flood, Noah's Ark, Tower of Babel, Abraham, Moses, and on and on along the walls. The carved reliefs were all in stone, but they were fluid, flowing pictures full of movement and life. And it was all done by one one knows who...way back in the 1200's. It was beyond anything I'd ever seen, first-hand, and nothing has inspired me as much since. The artist is long gone and forgotten, but here his work remains. As if he was still saying, "This is who I am, and this is what I did."

I never made it to the caves at Lasceaux, where cave paintings go back 20,000 years. But there's a bear skull sitting on a rock, like an altar, and among all the depictions of bears and mammoths on the cave walls, there's a single handprint. Before there was writing, or even language as we know it, 20,000 years ago someone put their hand on the wall and said, "I was here, this is my mark."

Since then, I've found myself moved by other sights. Some made long ago, and some only recently. I'm moved by humanity's desire to make these things, as if to deny the harshness of the rest of the world that must be daily endured...In every palace and every work of art, men and women have given great thought, effort, and care in creating them. Because they hope, I think, that sometimes against all evidence, their lives have a special meaning and in their talent lies a purpose larger than themselves.