Monday, March 31, 2014

Ceci n'est pas un Lac

Here are two places where I go to find some peace and quietude, inexact nomenclature notwithstanding.


Lake Merritt....not a real lake...

This small Golden-eye is about to swallow whole a large mussel.
Years ago I used to row here quite often
the ecology wasn't as healthy as it is now

Christ the Light Cathedral
with its scared geometry,
A yantra-like hologram of a Gothic Christ

Evening falls early 
on comes the Necklace of Lights
... actually a salt water estuary


Tilden Park

Lake Anza... not a real lake...

twisty old oaks with light reflected off the water

... sort of an ersatz alpine pond

Lake Merritt: December 2013
Lake Anza: 23 March 2014

Friday, March 21, 2014

Fleurs Nouveau apres le Printemps

Just some flower shots under the spell of the Springtime

 Wisteria bestride the iridescent windows of the Rockridge Library

 Rain came at last to Alameda,
an outing in honor of Saint Patrick

 A delicate streetside plum tree in bloom, 
from a bus window in Berkeley

 A pale Iris rises after a shower in the Elmwood

 African color on a Berkeley doorstep

Roses bloom on New Year's day
Oakland Ferry landing

march 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Secret of the Sea. Part Two, Chapter One: L'Enigme de la Mer

The Flaneur ventures out on the Bay and deep into the unconscious to reach a nostalgic cabinet of ultra-marine wonder.

This is San Francisco's streamline moderne steamship 
The Maritime Museum located in Aquatic Park

Around to the front entrance prepared to immerse

Like the lip of the sea, to enter it is to arrive in another world

 The building was built  in 1936 as a public bathhouse to be the centerpiece of a major WPA project. The interior is entirely covered in  murals and mozaics evoking a dream-like vision of the sea outside the windows. The transporting murals were painted by artist and color theoretician Hilaire Hiler. He was American who was raised in Providence Rhode Island  and had washed up in San Francisco like an Oscar Wilde figure of speech. This was after quitting his life in Paris where he played jazz piano in nightclubs while providing suitably exotic murals and mise en scene.

 Hiler was art director of the bathhouse building from 1936-1939. In addition to directing the overall design, he created two full-room murals within the Maritime Museum.  Fellow former expatriate and Californian artist Henry Miller called it the only mural worth seeing in the United States.

Hiler's work is popular Surrealism with elements of Futurism and Constructivism. All the then-current schools he had been exposed to in Paris. He was said to be an admirer of Miro and the Spanish painter's influence is apparent in the amorphous yet solid seeming shapes seen in Hiler's oneiric realm under the sea.

Architecture of lost cities
through which unnamed life-forms swim

The doors to the outdoors 
surrounded by vertiginous nautical figuration in tiles

The icon of the sea lions
observes the park from the temple

Deck for reading the seascape
watching for lost ships

Timeless view of the Bay
from the main observation deck

Clouds and moisture
enter through the Golden Gate

 Don't even know what this thing is supposed to be.
 Dig the tesserae though

Phantom phone booths at closing time
 make the sound inside a seashell,
the ghosts of sailors trying to score dates

An antiquated rudder steers me back 
toward the time and tide outside

 time to sail into the mystic

The Bay's vastness suggests other lands, other lifetimes
if one could only finally, fully cross over it

photographs: 4 march 2014
Mardi Gras

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Road to Morocco


A puff of kif before breakfast makes a man as strong as
 a hundred camels in the courtyard
-Moroccan proverb-

  A Flaneur can be sort of visionary street Arab.

In the year of 1967 I was intrigued by a poster advertized in Ramparts magazine which had gone from largely a liberal Catholic magazine to a New Left national standard-bearer to a full-bore herald of the Hippie revolution.
The poster became quite a tribal conversation piece in my local youth scene after I sent away for it and tacked it up in my esoteric attic hangout. It was a graphic rendering of the Moroccan proverb written above together together with a rococo hookah and some cannabis leafery.
Within a very short time after that,  I discovered a book published by City Lights in San Francisco. The publisher was at the time an avid enthusiasm for me via their Pocket Poets series.
It was by Paul Bowles and was entitled A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard.
This time the typically stark black and white cover featured a photograph by the author of what I later learned were called a sebsi and a mattoui but were immediately evident to me as being a hash pipe and a stash bag. Authentic Moroccan versions of both useful items would find their way into my private museum and library.
So began my life-long psychic affair with the mysterious land of Morocco.

 In those days numerous authentic products of international ethnic hash-making found their way to the shores of America. Moroccan hash was a product of a fully socially-integrated history of cannabis use in the region, but alas what we saw of it was not what we would came to regard as being of exemplary quality. I suspect the best of their production never left home and what we got was kif-like and not very strong.
There they mix it with tobacco and smoke it ceaselessly in hubbly-bubblys. I do know from my readings that a Moroccan kif-smoker keeps two compartments in his stash pouch. Since they smoke individually out of small stones bowls that hold one puff essentially, they continually offer each other refills. When one is filling another's bowl one goes to one side and the other to refill it for oneself.

I became a devotee of Paul Bowles' writings, reading my way through not only all of own books the proliferating translations or versions he created of oral literature he collected from Tangier locals he befriended who spoke Mogrebhi. Most notable of these native authors was Mohanmmed Mrabet. He had a companion volume of kif tales, also published by City Lights, with a photo of him by Bowles on the cover embodying the book's title M'hashish.

I  followed Bowles more deeply into the music of the region, an interest that originated with me in reading of and then listening to music of the Master Musicians of Jajouka as recorded by the late member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones.

Bowles had done  far-ranging ethnomusicology for the Library of Congress resulting in its release of an album of two LP disks entitled Music of Morocco.  Its a unique document never to reproduced due to the subsequent disappearance of the various tribal musics and customs. He did not however focus on the various sufi-like trance groups. Foremost among these were the legendary Jajouka, but a grouping that would include Gnawa, Jillala, Assouia, and others.
It was in fact the North American artist Brion Gysin who had championed the Jajouka musicians and even featured them at a night club he himself ran.
Eventually a substantial amount of recordings of this music of the most high accumulated in record shops, many of which I still have. My long-held interest in the Master Musicians of Jajouka paid off in the mid-nineties when a group of them toured the United States in connection with the reissue of Brian Jones presents the Master Musicians of Joujouka.
That LP captured a furious example their marathon performance at an ancient fertility feast evoking the demi-god Bou Jeloud, a archetypal of Pan figure who is gotten up as a goat man who herds and whips the women no doubt stimulating ovulation and the desire to reproduce. Notoriously he put a "phasing" effect on his recording to increase its psychedelic potential.
There tends to be somewhat less pandemonium in the more careful recording which have followed. By the time I saw them the group had lost many of the elders whom Jones had originally encountered in their mountain remote where his photograph still receives veneration. A new young leader had emerged from their lineage Bachir Attar who would play far and wide, performing his own music and various world fusions as well as the traditional music of his tribe.
I was there was their show at the Zellerbach auditorium on Berkeley campus.
All standing with just a few hand-held drummers,they mainly perform on rhaita, a distant relative perhaps of the clarinet, blowing the same phrase in a frayed sounding unison that goes higher and higher through repetition and spiritual groove. Then when you think it has surely peaked Attar plays the ancient panic notes over the top.
This being action music for outdoor festivals, they move, and by the end they were extolling movement from the audience onto the stage to dance. It didn't take a great deal of encouragement for me to head on down and blessedly you can walk all the way from the mezzanine onto the stage. One older Jajouka saw me coming and hurried over to shake my hand with a beaming smile.

 The eye wants to sleep, he said, but the head is no mattress.
-Paul Bowles, He of the Assembly-

Photos: 28 February 2014