Cats & Dogs

“In the next life I will be a cat.”

I wondered about how much cats sleep and asked Tommy in his sleepy reverie full of purring what he was up to with more naps than awakes. 

He said: 

When cats sleep, they hold up the universe.  They travel vastly among the stars making sure the planets are in alignment and stars keep twinkling to please humans and inspire all life, and making sure that the moon and sun are tending to business. 

So now I know.  It’s a fine mission.  In the next life I will be a cat. 

I’m sure Tzuri does some of the same, though I suspect the canine mission has much more to do with organizing life on earth, all in the present, requiring enormous energy.  Dogs always look so concerned for their humans lest they go astray.  I am convinced their sleep is respite from duty, and their playfulness a respite from the enormous tasks at hand, so much teaching to do. 

So there you are, two professors, united.


A Day at the Beach

Barbara described herself as an ‘Expressionist’ painter, harking back to the international art movement known for bold colors and exaggerated forms that flourished in the early 1900s.

Expressionist artists were not interested in how the world looks, but how it felt. Toward that end, Expressionism stylistically employed:

  • intense colour
  • agitated brushstrokes
  • disjointed space
  • primitivism & fantasy

Expressionism, which came to prominence in Germany & Austria in the years leading up to (and during) WWI, tended toward darker moods, mimicking the widespread cultural anxieties of their era, but Barbara typically exploited expressionist technique to celebrate the joy of life.

AUGUST – The Woman, The Horse, The Dog, The Birds, The Sand, The Ocean, The Sky

Although, by contrast, note a beach scene portrayed less enthusiastically, more cautiously.

Life is Dangerous


Rescue Dogs of 9-11 (Updated)

We recently observed yet another anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and a previous post by Barbara on 9-11 rescue dogs received a spike of over 200 views.

Barbara knew one of the handlers, and it seems appropriate now, five years later, to re-post her blog.

Lest we forget ~~  THE RESCUE DOGS of 9-11

A rescue dog is transported out of the debris of the World Trade Center, September 15, 2001.  (REUTERS/HO/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)

“The last surviving 9/11 Search & Rescue Dog has died. Porkchop was only one year old when he heroically aided the search at Ground Zero. After the World Trade Center attacks, 13 Search Dog Foundation teams were deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help search for survivors. These teams offered hope in a world that felt somber and hopeless.  Over the intervening dozen years, the dogs have passed away from old age.  Porkchop was the last.”

I got to meet Erick and Porkchop when I lived in Yosemite in 20002-3.

RIP Splendid hero, all the heroes, the dear departed innocent Americans.



This made me weepy. The look of tragedy in Porkchop’s eyes is almost unbearable.


I think it’s a kind of overwhelm and exhaustion, too, the same their humans felt. Erick said they’d rushed there like so many to rescue, and it turned out to be something very different. There were vets on hand, masseuses for animal and people, and so much love extended, endless abundant caring for precious life. Erick told me a fireman got very angry at him, and Porkchop for a lack of expertise in an arduous search for a fireman in an area they were sure he’d be found. Porkchop fixed on what looked to everyone like nothingness. Erick trusted Porkchop and insisted. The fireman (his frustration understandable) shouted at the “stupid dog”….until they realized the confusing mass of steel and cloth had indeed contained the twisted body of their friend. The emotional toll on the rescuers, and their ability to come through it years later, is heroic in itself. And the dogs were fearless and always ready. Darling Porkchop, yes, what a face, what a look, saying everything.


I managed to get thru the whole day without crying … Until I read this.


I cried through the entire posting, I had to force myself to stop so I understand. I didn’t know until this morning that Porkchop was gone, fabulous doggie, and more about their story another time. But briefly, Erick had just gotten him, started Yosemite EMT, trained Porkchop for search and rescue in Yosemite for its lost hikers, and 9-11 happened. When Erick heard they were in his car headed for NYC in 24 hours, people buying his gas on the way, paying for his meals the minute they knew…what a country united. The handlers were all so worried about the health of the search dogs but none were affected. Erick stopped at Cabella’s along the way. First they said, Sorry mister no dogs allowed. Then he told them his destination, the owner appeared, he GAVE Erick and Porkchop 300 pair of doggy booties for the 9-11 dogs, which they needed badly. God Bless America that today we passed unscathed by hateful savages.



The Mystery of Plants

“Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation.”

 I had another splendid garden day. I’m in a place that has risen and fallen via occupant, and they have been legion. What’s stayed are some brilliantly designed for the place fifty years ago, very old established plants. The huge Pride of Madeira, the very old gnarled lavender which were trimmed into trees, huge patches of tall reedy African Lilies, dozens of plants I’ve never seen. And every couple of days, something brand new rises out of the ground, stirred to life, introduced long ago by some former planter and which lay dormant. Now here is me, clearing out the underbrush, ridding old bushes of dead branches, exposing the soil to light and air and water that was held captive, and everything in sight starting to cry in a unisonous voice of exuberant joy.

The Mexican Aztec destroyer gardeners have done a nasty job of such severe pruning it’s heartbreaking. I mean, you see the base of things like a jade plant that is so huge it has to be maybe fifty years old and only allowed to grow three feet high! The cherry tree with a ten inch plus trunk was maybe seven feet when I got here. I’ve forbidden the gardeners to come back down here (very sweetly, “Oh, I’ll Do That!”) and the cherry tree, like the others, is now reaching for the sky, some shoots up to eighteen feet, waving deliriously in the sun and wind.

The hedges which are all flowering were reduced to short boxes. And now it’s all hoopla and blooms. The gardeners must be very annoyed when they look down here.

And John, I look around me now and it’s only been a few months, less than a season, and I say aha, that’s me. There I am, in greens and reds and yellows and blues. Time to start painting it.

I’ve landed somewhere I didn’t intentionally head for. It’s taken me more than a decade to begin to unravel the mysteries of plants. I had one garden experience as an eleven- or twelve-year-old somewhere. My mother introduced me to flower seed packets and I dug up a patch of land and grew fabulous zinnias and somethings. But never picked up on it in Brooklyn, except for house bound geraniums I loved, some spider plants and ferns, and nasturtiums I had growing year-round in my studio window, street-level, that used to stop passersby in their tracks routinely.

Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation. So there’s something more than I knew in being led here, to this place, where gallery is important, house too miniscule to consider much, and garden is critical to life. I never know where the hell I’m going or why but learning to trust myself that there’s an attached purpose in it.


The Pig Who Loved Plums

“It was so tragically romantic . . . wild pig all poet. I was training myself to think, ‘Bad wild animal, dangerous wild animal!’ so I wouldn’t care . . . and it turned out he was in love with the plums.”

There are coyote packs out here who howl to each other at late night, moon nights. It’s not scary. There can’t be much other than the occasional mountain lion in the way of predators here – [The Holman Ranch] – 400 acres of a lot of wild land, canyons and hills, beyond the modest cultivated places and few houses and stables and the horse pastures.

Before I had the studio/apartment in the barn on the hill I lived in the peasant housing, the Bunkhouses, a row of about eight on the last stretch of road before the big house. Lousy housing, about 12X12 feet, everything leaked, the walls, half underground in front, seeped, a long communal porch facing west and hills, but oh my God the property was free range and spectacular. The big house had a pool nobody used but me, set off in a mountainside, blue/green tile, condor and hawks overhead, sun-heated.

Opposite the bunkhouses was a little house with the washers and dryers. A fence below that and a big sloping lot of land into a canyon. And Patty and Chris who lived in the one full house next to the laundry. They had a fantastic garden filled with extraordinary plants, flowering vines, fruit trees in flower, a pond, chickens and roosters, cats and a really old cocker spaniel, and they did underwater landscaping for ponds, including for Monterey Aquarium, and pretty much took care of the ranch.

Slow to start, but with increased passion each night one summer, one of the pigs in a wild pack began trying to break through that back fence. Chris, a well-armed Texan, would charge out at 1 or 2 am and fire in the direction of the pig and scare it off.  But the insistent pig returned, every night, making more need-to-repair holes in the wood fence, not getting through but upsetting the Holman Ranch balance of nature, our natures anyway.

These things run about 3-400 lbs, and are all muscle, near blind, and aggravate easy. They charge at whatever appears to be a target.  And they are dangerous. So there was general worry and specific annoyance and between the crashing wood and Chris firing nobody was sleeping any more.

Except me now up on the hill in the barn. The ruckus woke me around 2 am one morning, a lot more shots fired than usual, and voices shouting and screaming and I threw on clothes and ran down the hill.

Chris (and of course it’s the dead dark of night except for some badly placed electric lights) had heard the wild pig break through the fence and he’d gone out with a rifle and shotgun and handgun. Seven or eight or ten shots fired. As the pig charged him! The flashlights from all the woken tenants honed in on the dead pig’s body, still heaving its end of life, Chris panting not more than five feet away, it had come right at him. It was pretty sad along with a relief that the enemy was stilled, Chris unscathed.

But the story, the real story, lay in the aftermath. Here was this grizzled huge thing, they are enormous, and they do attack, bad eyesight and generally peeved at the world, and it lay dead now on the path, and of course I’m in the wild west and everyone here grew up with doing this so they cooked it later that day.

So all this is going on and I’m trying to adjust to the thinking. I’m in a different country, five years out of Brooklyn, one year out of Virginia (where they cooked and ate everything with great fanfare on complex homemade equipment, and often) and I’m talking to the Texan and his wife about the rampaging wild pig and it turns out that the pig kept breaking into the back yard in order to get at the very full post-blossom fruit-filled plum trees that bordered Chris and Patty’s yard. 

My God. The succulent plums. Here was wild pig all poet. He had risked his life for the sweet plums just out of reach and I could not get over it.  No other pig before or after him had thought the plum something he would not live without. No other. It was so tragically romantic, too much to stand. It had never occurred to me. I was training myself to think, ‘Bad wild animal, dangerous wild animal!’ so I wouldn’t care about the rest that followed and it turned out he was in love with the plums.

This was some special creature whose heart must have been filled with exceptional poetry and the stuff dreams are made of.  All the pig wanted was something beautiful and wonderful with that alluring perfume to it. I tell you, it so affected and crushed me, I cried and cried, and for months, and still.  And no I couldn’t bring myself to be part of the feast that followed. And it gave me a new respect for the souls of what is called wild.

Which of course you’ve seen, you’ve known, from among others, your wolves.


What did I want?

“As far as I could see a checkered career was about the best thing on earth. I could live my life as I saw fit to live it and the more checkers the better!”

Many years ago I presented myself with choices about conducting my life. I was in NY and witness to, friend of, working with a lot of driven, influential people. I could see caution at certain turns with them, thinking of the big picture, the future stardom, the decision not to be careless about . . . something. I could watch it take place; fascinated me. It played out in ways like, I’ll get you a cab vs come upstairs. Or carefully, pointedly, leaving a room when discussions were headed a particular way. That’s most especially political. Sometimes a candidate has to be directed. Sometimes they get it on their own but there are conversations inappropriate to hear because of what might come up later if events go south.

Well, as I’ve said I grew up in an emotional desert, and when I started finally allowing emotional content to my life I couldn’t bear the thought of not letting it all hang out.

So that decision, choosing how to conduct my life . . . it was very simple and very fast.

I asked myself if I ever wanted to run for political office. No, I did not. I had no interest in power, or governing, or sticking to one job more than two years tops.

What did I want?

Writing. Painting and Art. Endless Experience. As far as I could see a checkered career was about the best thing on earth. I could live my life as I saw fit to live it and the more checkers the better! Launching into any creative field provides enormous license to behave well or badly, then write a novel or screenplay about the process! I didn’t want so much to behave badly as to not prevent myself from heading around just about any corner that looked good. How I looked in the doing did not matter a whit.


When Will My Time Come?

“I had a rare and precious independence in all this isolating exclusion from convention. That I knew”.

Many years ago when I was in my twenties, a time long in the rear view mirror when I think of all the life since, I interrupted a walk with my dog Princey to sit down on old border barricades of an empty lot in Brooklyn. It was past midnight. Intensely quiet. A moonless early spring night of impossibly bright stars and a night I have never forgot.

Princey was a collie shepherd mix. I found him months before, racing on the city streets from some cruelty with a bum’s old rope for a leash around his neck, scared and cowed and desperate and starving, and took him in.

Somewhere in the dark behind me by many blocks was my apartment on Atlantic Avenue. I lived on the second floor of a 3 story walk up, small building. There was no heat, the newly widowed Greek landlady drove in from Jersey to collect the rents but never filled the boiler. I used to run the hot water in the shower to make steam, somehow there was endless hot water. Turn on the oven and open the door. It was bone cold that place.

A Puerto Rican family lived above with two beautiful daughters. The father worked in the Ex-Lax factory half a mile away. The Black Panthers rented the store front on the ground floor below, filled with black uniforms, army boots, guns, bullet filled bandoliers, pot and incense in the air, secretive 24 hour conspiring, meetings, music, muscle and talk of revolutions.

The apartment was a good size, most were in those days. Lots of light from Atlantic Avenue through big windows. In the back the kitchen window could be opened onto the bit of roof of the room on the ground floor that extended into the crusty back yard. My apartment was filled with rescued cats, sequestered in what would have been one bedroom and a new room of chicken wire I constructed in the kitchen corner, and three dogs. And my child, less than six months old, my Trevor, left sleeping in his crib this night, so many nights, while I finished the endless day.

Mornings came early and nights ended late. I waitressed, tended bar, went to Coney Island on weekends to earn sign painting money. I’d wake my little boy from sleep before dawn to dress and bring him sometimes unfed to the babysitter and picked him up, hot against me from sleep in a strange crib by ten or eleven at night to bring him home. And lucky to have that in an age unknown to day care. There were clothes to hand wash in the sink, his and mine. Animals to feed, the dogs to walk. I’d even found a rooster on the sidewalk, a refugee from cock fighting and was trying to keep him alive in a closet fronted by a door I’d made of chicken wire. And it was during these months in that place that I started and finished a commission of a life size portrait of William F Buckley, Jr. in the front room that doubled as my bedroom and my studio and my everything else. Because of the animals, to not be found out, have them seized and killed, and us evicted, I kept the whole place clean and odorless as possible. That was its own career I’ll tell you that.

And through much of those early years like that I never understood my child’s crying because I did not allow crying for myself. The life I was in I had somehow made and was I in it. And the child with me, in it.  And I didn’t know why I hurt when I hurt, or was angry or confused, or happy when any of those things hit. I’m not sure I questioned it. I had no idea how to care for either of us. I only knew I wanted to learn it for myself and being taken care of or married was not what I could stand, not deep in me, not that sacrifice. But I had put myself in therapy to reach it all, a slow grueling and liberating process. I had a rare and precious independence in all this isolating exclusion from convention. That I knew.

And in that night out under the benediction of starlight on that empty Brooklyn square feet of dust and quiet with Princey sitting beside me and welcoming my hugs and thoughtful of my agony I cried out to the universe

When will my time come.

When will my time for painting endlessly with all the supplies I need in a wonderful studio and house all safe and warm, a busy kitchen filled with food and color and life, a wonderful man who loves me and will raise my child with me, when will MY time come to paint and draw and write my books. How do I make that happen. I don’t know how to make that happen.

And weep I did.



“Isn’t being alive wonderful?”

Yes, we all take our own pathways, some very purposeful, and the more surprising and alarming: oh what the hell why not. But you know John, something both of us have worth keeping in mind are the frightened and incapacitated who have not moved from spot one to spot two in a lifetime. And blahs or hallelujahs, neither of us has been much thwarted by fear or conventional thinking. Worth celebrating. Yes. Really it is.

I suppose I am some evangelic about really living. I witness too many people stretching endless days into complacencies that kill them. You can’t always turn that around. And it breaks my heart. And keeps me at the trying

Oh John. Isn’t being alive wonderful. What on earth went wrong with those who are not and could have been. Well, we know that too. You have to make your happiness. I bet more than one of your students, including the one you nudged into Art History, are looking at your life and getting smarter with their own because of it. Many of them must have loved you.

I wish I had realized decades ago how much choosing was my own province.

Living Wild

“Wild, unruly, and mystical is good.”

It’s a steady job rejecting the conventional illusions, planted so young in us and reinforced continually. But only if paid attention to and not ignored, which is all the standards deserve. The friends I’ve lost to early deaths who clung to doing what was expected of them, horrific.

Don Quixote had it right, dear adventuring heart, but forced to cloak himself with insanity to be an explorer, a free spirit, instead of a dangerous challenge to the conventions of his times.

Observe the limits of those you meet or knew who ground to a halt in fear. Wild, unruly, and mystical is good. I do the best I can in it, glad to be here. Sometimes even proud.

I’m not sorry for the years I spent in cities but I stayed too long.

There is nothing to match living wild.


Make an Offering

“Make an offering of ourselves, like you said, to the life force.”

This business you mention of artists giving, it’s true, that impulse. Somewhere in my very youth when I was starting to know I was heading into a life of doing artwork and was standing in a museum, I recognized in myself the heart throbbing connection to beautiful paintings, the artists who meant so much to me. It didn’t cow me that I could never equal what the great ones painted, I don’t think I spent much time on that. What I decided very clearly was that I could do that for others like me. Make paintings and drawings that would do as much for strangers as these fine strangers did for me, and by doing so, reciprocate some part of what I was taking in because of them. I thought, look at what I’m being given.

I think I kind of forgot about it for years.

I was still very young, early 20’s and had started a portrait business. Some gallery owner I can barely remember had a couple of my paintings and actually sold them. And came one day with a photograph of a young man, a policeman, who’d died in the line of duty. His wife, from Germany, was heading back home and had stopped in and asked for her husband’s portrait to be painted. Well, so I did, and delivered, and went home with whatever was earned. He called a few days later and said the wife had picked it up. She had, he said, cried when she saw it.

That was pretty much life altering for me. I even asked him why she’d cried. I had no idea I could do work that would move other people and elicit that reaction, tears! And I hadn’t consciously been heading for it, I hadn’t planned it, I hadn’t remembered as a chosen path the insight in the museum long before that, but here I was on it, and it’s been important to me ever since.

I will get to a point with painting about anything when my eyes start to water. It’s not quite crying but it is I suppose, is.  And it’s become a kind of signal to me that I’m reaching something crucial in myself, and that it will transmit to strangers.

The Barbara Sparhawk Memorial Art Show

My work is focused on inspiring individualism, personal responsibility, and an independent spirit.”


Expressionist artist and published author Barbara Sparhawk passed away unexpectedly on September 4, 2018.

The public is invited to a Memorial Art Show being held in her honor at The Wild Goose Bakery & Cafe, 18 E. Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley, CA.

The exhibit will be open throughout the month of August, 2019. Cafe hours are 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, although they sometimes close early on slow days.

Ph: 831.659.5052. 

We would like to invite you to submit pictures as well as video of your visit to, who will attempt to edit them into a short documentary that can be viewed here on The Hawks Perch.



Let Us Not Forget

My name is John Hayes, and I recently received the following sad news which I would like to post for those who have noticed Barbara’s absence from these pages:

“Alas, your fears are justified. Barbara died in early September (2018) from complications of surgery. . . She had survived radiation for tumors behind her eyes, and her sight had improved. She was in the middle of chemotherapy. Evidently, however, her cognition and balance led to a fall and immediate hip surgery for the break. She aspirated during surgery.”

I “met” Barbara online in 2012 while reading her book, The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories. We shared a love of art and writing, and over the next half-dozen years our email correspondence would grow to ¾’s of a million words.

From the beginning it was obvious that Barbara was special. Her observations and insights, her paintings and drawings, her bohemian life as an artist – in so many ways Barbara defied the norm and approached greatness.

In 2013 I described Barbara’s life in a blog as:

  • A life lived on the edge where the risks are greater but the rewards are priceless
  • A life spent saying ‘no’ to compromise and ‘yes’ to distant horizons
  • A life bristling with the ‘courage to be’ and practiced in the art of joyful engagement

If ever there were a biography as yet unwritten I would love to read,” I noted in that same blog, “it would be Barbara’s.” And toward that end I urged her many times to sketch her life in words, as well as to let me photograph and document her canvases. An artist of her caliber should not be forgotten.

“The only impulse I’ve had is to try and organize and solidify my papers and work, to make it easier on historians to keep alive, and still have some control over what gets selected out. Whoosh. I want some legacy, I think about it.” 

– Barbara Sparhawk

And yet, two months after Barbara died her body still lay unclaimed in a morgue in Carmel, California. I do not know if the situation has since been resolved.

If anyone has more information or thoughts they would like to share, please do.


“So we shall have at it and write for the sake of, and see where it leadeth and be happy and full in our souls from the splendours of the language, shall we not.”

– Barbara Sparhawk


Jim Jensen













Salvador DALI  stopped by.
APRIL 8, 2018
 DEAR FOLLOWERS   &   FRIENDS OF Barbara Sparhawk, my friend:
For the past 2 month she has  been battling the sudden appearance of brain tumors,  out of the blue and devastating, crippling a diagnosis connected to blindness which has radically affected her  entire life.  The tumors are being successfully  shrunken, a miracle in every way, (and in one of the most  beautiful places on earth) near her home.
Before long  she will be back to her  creative life which has governed who she has been since birth. 


FROM SPARHAWK:   My art work on many forms such as cards and posters and clothing and all things is available from   REDBUBBLE
Please continue to visit, observe, and enjoy my  work, and comment.  You are all very important to me and I am so happy for your presence in my life.
Bless you one and all, I’m winning this battle but didn’t dream it possible, rounding the bend, the little Engine who Could.
I have dozens of stories, novels, screenplays, children’s books, illustrations, and paintings and who knows what else left in me. Stand by!







Angels, Dancing on Treetops (2)






When I get up to the Pearly Gates, if that indeed might be where I’m headed, I will walk briskly (with a sinner’s confidence) to the Saintly vision of Peter, my arms extended in my fresh unearthly joy, and the Saint, who will know me, rising, flushed of face (and seriously annoyed) will, in exasperation, ask:
“How could you have missed THAT?”

I will be stopped in my tracks.
                           “The other day…with your friend… I heard you, and I find you did not know. You did not know? We pointed!”   he will continue.

 “We placed you in front of it, we moved you there, we poked and prodded!  Why, we even cast sunbeams and danced moonbeams on it. ”   Saint Peter turns for corroboration, hands spread wide palms up for emphasis to a cherub at his side–who nods emphatically, excitedly– “We had you live beside them. See them daily. Sleep by them nightly. We had you feed the horses there, right where they were, miles of them!”.   He will stop just short of shouting:  “In a line!”

“And here again just this brief while ago, bringing you into a new place to live so you could look down your hill into your valley below and see all the beauty, all the color…..HOW can you have missed that!”

Oh dear.

All this inspired by one of my last conversations, being told by an observant girl whose young  heart swells at the sight of the woody places, streams and trees….

“I love the Sycamore for that,” she’d said to me, “you can always trace a river or streams hidden in a forest by the Sycamores growing alongside it. Look down there, see?  Now the leaves all orange and gold; you will find the river at its roots, you will always find water….beside the Sycamore.”

It was mid December, we’d had two frosts, we’d passed the shortest day.
Honestly I was shocked.  With these  truths Saint Peter addressed to me, that everything at heaven’s command had been done to put me in the path of woodland habits, and it had all indeed overwhelmed me, an emotional feast I’d never finish, and sure I’d seen every particle…. yet I had missed this most ordinary truth.
“Oh! Of course. You’re right, you’re right!”   Hot tears leapt from my eyes.   “HOW did I miss that?”

And left me wondering how much else I’ve missed. Would the heavens be an endless scold from here through eternity. Well no, no that’s not very nice, and improbable. But what ELSE have I missed.  I thought I’d seen so much.  I’d boasted to myself of all I’d seen in my long years.

But if I failed to know the Sycamore and what they mark, and  I had lived among, then…..
…..What colors have I failed to observe. What minute’s turning to me of a friendly face, a smile I abandoned too soon. What bright light from a baby’s eyes sent to me like a piercing message I must never forget — yet did not let register. What music, what delight, what pain, what love. What gentle brush of a wagging tail. What barely felt breezes stirring from the crow’s wings. The kindness of the bus driver who stopped at the patter of my running feet. The twice-warmed coffee, the special dish, the hearty greeting. The rising sun’s heroics….. from which I had driven west.
How could I have missed that.

I think we can experience everything, you know, have it all.  We have so many receptors, unused, untried, even unknown. So that walking forward with assurance that every nuance be seized, filtered in by hair and smell and dangerously opportunistic raw flesh… to all of it, because knowing is living.

I’ll try.

I mean to say, the thought itself  must be a poke from heaven, must it not?

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to surprise the Saints and ourselves simply by paying attention a bit more.

Happy New Year.  Here comes 2018.




This could never be done today, the risk of too many offended in a world that forbids laughter.

But from long ago and far away Andy Kaufman, here in his prime, on Johnny Carson’s TV show, returns to clear our minds of short fat dictators, the latest drug and porn saturated celebrity popping up naked on the news, or Stalinist show trials in DC.

Sit back, do your heart good.




Once upon a time and last century, actor and author Sir Peter Ustinov himself (5/16/21  –  3/38/04)   ustinov    (or someone equally delightful) had the brilliant idea of Ustinov’s going to Italy to interview opera sensation Luciano Pavarotti  (10/12/35 – 9/16/07)       Pavorotti

in his backyard ~~and swimming pool .

The link below is a filmed account of their time together.  I don’t know where we might have more fun watching people we may not know personally while away an afternoon in the most endearing, funny, clever, masculine, exchange between two accomplished human beings who are enjoying one another.  This took place in 1994, via BBC.  There is no mention of the politics of either men.

EXQUISITE SOPRANO  JOAN  SUTHERLAND  (11/7/26 to 10/11/2010)  sotherland  (I’m about 95% sure it was she),  Luciano Pavarotti’s frequent and beloved singing partner, once said in an interview (when she could stop laughing) that the tenor was famous for his on-stage tricks, you never knew what he was going to do except that you could not fail to sing through it, not let the audience in on the audaciousness.  Pavarotti, she said, would walk up behind her and slip a warm sausage (likely Italian) into her hand.

New York was insane inlove with Luciano Pavarotti in his prime and regularly at the very fine Metropolitan Opera House. I was working for ABC TV, evening news writer, in 1981, and got sent with a camera crew to get some “B” Roll background footage, no talking, just the bows, too fabuloso when he appeared with Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall. I remember the red peep-toe leather heels I refused to change from and my blue wet feet from the ice-slush streets. Sigh.  Some moments are worth sacrificing terrific shoes for. I never forgot a second of it.

There is such a thing a sexual fun between the genders, if we may still recognize and appreciate what genders are…..and enjoy each other for our differences, remember happiness, a love of life, and each other, and be assured…remember…that not all humankind is cut from the same sadistic cloth on display in the daily news.


>Take it away, Peter and Luciano<<.

>>And more Peter and Luciano…..<<

peter us.











FREDERICK L. GREGORY, Granite Sculptor, R.I.P.

JULY 19,1938  ~  JULY 23, 2017

FREDERICK  (Rick) L.  GREGORY,  Gone too soon.

We (I mean the country, the world, the mortal universe) just lost Rick Gregory who held on through a rough year and made it by 5 days past his 79th birthday.  This was some singular, remarkable guy.

I did this oil portrait of Rick around 1999.  I wanted to give him a kind of Apollo look, unlimited skyward eyes, and blueprints clutched in his powerful, workman’s hands.  The only thing I left out was one of his famous bandannas, never without one.

One of his early jobs was in a huge laundry, hauling wet washes through and around machines in Fresno,…..same thing Jack London did half a century earlier in roughly the same neighborhood (Valley of the Moon describes it, Oakland).  Rick called himself a “hod-carrier, the sonofabitch who takes huge wood trowels of cement up ladders”  to the construction crews.  What he loved most was picturing what a landscape needed then making its dreams come true…..water and stone and water and stone and plant life.

Rick was an American granite sculptor, from up Fresno way, who found himself racing sailboats and being on the winning Americas Cup team to  Brazil, some years back, staying awhile in Rio to learn from the famed sculptor Noguchi, falling in love with a gorgeous Rio beauty and marrying her, fathering a spectacular daughter (Alexandra) who came to California to be with him, and in his long fabulous lifetime Rick was building gardens and water works all over the world, represented by Big Sur, Rio, Carmel galleries and in fabulous homes, estates, industries.  His religion, he said, was Landscape.

Rick Gregory in front of his Sculpture Garden in Carmel Valley, Central Coast, California                           Pen & Ink by BD Sparhawk


Rick’s  daughter  hosted a spectacular and touching memorial for all his friends this last Sunday, and I gave her the portrait of Rick, which she’d seen and loves, bless her heart. So many friends wanted a picture or poster or card, I’ve put it on my Redbubble Sparhawk Site so you can order things with the image, for those of you who’d like to do so.  I hope I’m not embarrassing you good buddy.  Rick.  You always had a very healthy ego but you were never vain.  Wonder if you know how much you were loved.





You can email me at


BD Sparhawk



RUMER GODDEN, the one and only


The Golden Cat on Silk



Definitely one of my favorites, the endearing Brit authored children’s books, novels, fiction and non, and gave us movies her writing inspired. The images she creates!  I am swept into a rare ship at sea by her, only to be kept in sight of shore, not to be released from her spell of lulling waves or violent shipwreck passages when I might close her books and tear free –until I collapse in reluctant hallucinatory exhaustion.

Rumer (also a professional dancer, and dance teacher; named after a beloved relation) and her sisters were raised in India and this rich banquet she kept exploring (not leaving for England til 12 years old then back and forth, raising her infant daughters in Kashmir before and during WWII) is the setting of her many stories, including, most especially, the miraculous “BLACK NARCISSUS”.  Indescribable. An order of Nuns are gifted a former Indian General’s brothel perched 10,000 feet up on a cliff in the Himalayas, where they intend to heal the sick and tutor the unschooled; the view and ceaseless winds of this oddly beautiful castle prove a stunning unsettlement to all who dare take it on.  The movie, (made by the Archer’s team Powell and Pressburger”  is extraordinary, worth seeing a dozen times, potent in color and form and acting, very rare in every way with a superb cast, delightful; frightening; brilliant.

But it is this RUMER GODDEN  passage I want to bring to you, and it is from her memoir, A TIME TO DANCE, NO TIME TO WEEP”, which is bloody marvelous and full of fearless originality, independence; courage and joy.  She speaks so honestly and directly, describing the sheltered child’s ritual expectance of palatial indulgence —and then wrenching poverty, surviving in strange and dangerous, hostile worlds. She has an endless curiosity for life, people, and how to survive. She knows early she will be a writer, comes late to success.

What I loved about this small Rumer Godden inserted mid-book is the kind of thinking we, the reader, are invited to take on as our own.  It’s all full of  knowing that any and all things are, after all, possible.  There is here a life to lead, apush out of complacency,  start and do things we never dreamt before.

This, page 164 from Godden’s “A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep”, is it:

Pfeiffer Beach, Crashing Boulders


“Once upon a time, perhaps when Noah lived and perhaps this flood was Noah’s flood too, in another time when the earth was filled with violence, the waters of Teesta river in North Bengal, India, began to rise int he valleys of the Himalayas, whose ranges are higher and more terrible than the Andes.  The water rose higher and higher, past the foothills and the lower hills, past the villages of Riyang and Teesta and the people began to be seriously afraid that their retreat would be cut off by the sky.  Only the spines of the ridges showed in the water, spines of monsters and dragons petrified, with their colours hidden in the Teesta that today, after the rains, is that same milky blue.  The prayer flags were snatched and carried to the to the ridge, horns blew and the drums sounded, while behind and inaccessible, the line of snows that not even a flood could reach, reared themselves into the sky.

Down below them the consternation continued and the water spread and rose and spread.

In a temple at the top of one of these ridges, a Lama was saying his prayers.  The people went in and disturbed him, but they disturbed him quietly; the horns stopped blowing, the drums were not beaten, and the people stood still as their headman went to him.

‘Well, what is it?’ said the Lama.

‘The water — the water is coming up.’  It was.  The people were standing in it; it was lapping the temple steps.,

‘Tell it to go down,’ said the Lama.

‘Tell it?’ 

‘Yes.  Give it a positive order.’

‘But it won’t pay attention.’

‘Won’t it?’ said the Lama. ‘Then I must tell it myself.’   And he came out from his prayers and put out his hand.

I think of him as looking Chinese in a stiff robe, with a Chinese absorbed and peaceful face. He looked at the spines of the hills and the water swirling round them and the jumbled colours of the people and their frightened faces and silent horns and agitated flags; he looked up at the sky and the unmoving snows and back at the water, and he put out his hand and said, ‘Rungli-Rungliot. Thus far and no further.’

The flood immediately stopped; the water went down and the Lama went back to his prayers.

The words that he said stayed there in the place, as its name.”                                            (End of passage)

 Rumer  Godden adds:   (“Rungli-Rungliot is a real place on the spur of Himalays, facing south above the plains and the gorge of the little Runglee river that they say was left behind by accident when the Teesta water fell.”)

======================================            ===========================

Original oil painting above is by Sparhawk. “Pfeiffer Beach, Crashing Boulders’, it was sold to a family visiting my Big Sur gallery from Japan;  the photograph of author Rumer Godden is from the internet unattributed;the golden tabby cat on top is the marvelously beautiful Tommy Jefferson.


CHARLOTTE, or: Girl With Apple


Charlotte:  Girl With Apple  (oil on canvas, c. 12X12 inches. Portrait by B Sparhawk)

DSCF8496Detail 1, Portrait of Charlotte

And whom, you may well ask is this heavenly Charlotte?

She is the love of the sister of a friend of me the portrait painter.

DSCF8504Detail 2, Portrait of Charlotte

And you may well wonder too what is the apple doing next to the beautiful dog.

There is an explanation of sorts for that.

DSCF8502Detail 3, Portrait of Charotte

It arises from a painting of a boy, (not (so you know) by Czech master Johannes Van Hoytl the Younger ~~who does not exist~~ but by the lovely English painter, Michael Taylor, who is alive.  With an apple) known and feverishly described all over the internet as “Boy With Apple”.

DSCF8497Portrait of Charlotte, in the Studio

Has any painting we may wonder had such an effect on the public since the spark of life between Adam and God, or that interesting Dutch fellow’s sunflowers.

I was amazed, when I looked at some point, that it was definitely not just me taking note but a chunk of the universe.  Do you know this work?

OR IS IT POSSIBLE  that some one or 2 among you may not have seen the marvelous “GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL”  movie.

A Wes Anderson film with a fabulous cast (listed below in tags) and thrillingly delish story acted out in a kind of Chaplin-marionette brilliance of unreal people borrowing randomly from history and human behavior, an emphasis equally on: purity, rough fellows, innocence, crippled shoe-shine boy, attentive clever lobby boy and servants, a funicula, politics, soldiers, and wicked gangsterism.

And luxurious settings but also a harsh prison.

And money coming and going.

Of course a nicely done painting.

And pastry to die for (plus the recipe).

The movie’s underlying roundabout goes dashing in and out of the inheriting in, thieving of, related murdering related to, loss and gain of loves and lives and property and most especially…focused on a portrait done in fine Renaissance style  by a modern artist, called:  “BOY WITH APPLE”.

At first blush I  fell in love with the movie and the painting.  I have checked it out of the local library DVD collection to keep watching it,  about 25 times so far.

That painting effected (subconsciously and quite out loud) any number of canvases I painted afterward for months, but none so especially or delightfully or movingly or filled with pleasure for me as this ~~suddenly (in real-time and real life) by surprise commissioned portrait of Charlotte.  Who is, as said earlier, the love of the life of the sister of a dear friend.

I was struck at once by Charlotte’s medieval cathedral palazzo civilized wavy elegant good looks.  I knew that there would appear stone walls and columns and breezed-up draperies and lace hankies and dragonflies in profusion and twilight glow and small romantic freshly plucked bouquets and an offering on a Merano hand blown glass thingy which turned (very nearly of its own accord) from a toy ball to an apple.

Here is a bit more on the portrait & principals.   Click here

And about the film.  Click here.

And about Michael Taylor, painter:  Click here


…If anyone is interested in a storytale portrait of their animals or offspring or loved ones or something fancied, do let me know.  

It’s what I do.


will do the trick nicely. As with Charlotte I work chiefly or entirely with photographs.

I promise to respond.

Tickled pink you’ve stopped by.







Sparhawk oil portrait of Van Gogh, c. 1999



Vincent Van Gogh’s letter to Theo Van Gogh, 1883, from the Hague, on his third year of having begun to be an artist.

I’ve been years writing my autobiography. In it Vincent Van Gogh comes to visit me this one anguished young painter’s night in Brooklyn. I ‘m in my early 20’s, in the clutch of death by brush, not knowing enough to translate my visions to canvas and I have conjured him up. He stays and advises and the most marvelous grand adventures happen in the following year. During which my own story unfolds. My book begins when I am packing up and leaving Yosemite, remembering back decades to that midnight I first saw him.

Constant warfare my whole life.  Like an old soldier now done with war. What were the whirling years, to whom did they  belong.  Not a stranger, no not a stranger.     An earlier me.”

to be continued…………




APRIL 6, 2017

I came very close to missing this muscular display.


                                                                    There had been inexplicable crashing outbursts,  sounds of fury signifying who knew what….things carried off my deck by wild winds?   Hurtling through the air endangering aircraft? Planets?

How were the birds reacting?

 Could  my apple tree still be covered in blooms?

DSCF8145I wandered to the great valley windows, then into the larger outdoors… discover a sky like I’ve never seen before in my life. 


It lasted through dark of night, releasing brief  shots of brilliant moon before going black again,DSCF8157 and by dawn had become mist and rain.


Everything got a good blast of the elements, all of us better off for it, the senses pummeled and thrilled.Apple Tree, Hilltop, early April, 2017

“THE NEW HAT”~ Sparhawk painting



I painted this years ago in one hot humid summer week.  I was exploring me, testing my mettle on 60 desolate acres in the log cabin I’d rented in Blue Ridge mountains alongside Harper’s Ferry, where I feverishly filled canvases with pictures for a gallery I found that said they’d take me, and filled notebooks with words for the bones of a novel, for which the publisher remains unfound.



I needed a break. Too broke to shop for real (and DC was about 2 hours east), this was the substitute. Okay, imagine with me: speeding off in a fabulous little (Robin’s egg blue) Sunbeam Alpine convertible (my dilapidated old Ford on its last legs) to an unbelievably divine shop (somewhere) and buying a hat! matching the dress! Not a farm hat but one incapable of protecting from wind or rain or bees, simply THE superb bonnet made for late afternoon drinks in an incredibly gorgeous famous old Washington bar with a handsome poet who just phoned he’d be landing his seaplane on the Shenandoah especially to meet me ~~4:30 sharp  ~or thereabouts. Be there! He could only stay til Wednesday. Before which he’d be ripping off said new hat etc. and we would be lost to lust. So here in the picture, rushed home to try it on, all the bits around including the hatbox and tissue it came in, getting ready for my quick dip in the pond then roaring off on the long and dusty trail to my rendezvous. Oh what a life!

Well, I thought about it all week while I worked on this, and the marvelous fantasy embroidered itself in. Big canvas too, about 7 X 4 feet. It went to the gallery in Middleburg,  Virginia where it did not sell.

The following fall I moved west.  The New Hat  went from east coast storage to garage to covering a broken fireplace flue above the mantelpiece in some godforsaken cottage; then across America in moving vans to horse ranches and eventually slotted into the back of a 1974 Chevy & up the mountains of Yosemite.  There, 7  years later on the day before I moved back to the coast The New Hat sold to the Yosemite gallery owner who’d exhibited my work and fallen in love with it. Which happily covered gas and my first month at a fellow artist’s house in Pebble Beach, a room of my own en suite, the smell and sound of the sea, and the sight of the breakers  below. And some sweet romps with an interesting surfer who never read poetry or wrote it, preferred beer to Benedictine, couldn’t pilot a plane, didn’t like being indoors ever but knew how to handle serious waves and me, and did nice work with fish on a campfire, too.

There’s never any telling where a new hat will take you.














2003 to 2004 I lived in two places and both, though separate, were the gateway mountains  of Yosemite — The High Sierras.  The first place up at 5200 feet is the subject here.  The second was a peculiar old gold miner’s shack at a slightly lower elevation, a place of equal  peculiarities and dangers    (detailed in my splendid story collection: The Gandy Dancer and Other Short Stories, (Amazon et al) which Robert Redford absolutely fell in love with and told me so but for some reason known only to God has not purchased–yet–for movie-making,  because he’d be marvelous in or directing any one of them & I could use the bread). (Also Mr Redford if you missed it read  Charles, The Man Who Lived Through Wars  here, it’s terrific!)

But I digress.  The FLYING SAUCERS OF YOSEMITE are not uncommon.  In fact they’re so common it turns out nobody much says much unless it’s about the one last night on my roof, or did you catch the three in a row doing flips and hurling pods.  There were especial frequencies of the huge triangle-shaped ones blotting out the stars of the spectacular night skies.  That’s how you knew.  You’d be looking up, pulled roadside spooning with a loved one, or solitary–spooning Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough from the carton–and say, “Hey, what happened to the stars over there?  It’s like a big black triangle thingy the size of a football field chewed up the stars, oh wait a minute, that’s one of those flying saucers everybody sees,  all the corners are blinking.  I’ll just leave before they see me…” 

On a lovely day, a day this very same week in March in fact but 14 years ago, I was meandering around the cabin I’d rented.  It was near sundown.  It had been warm and gorgeous. A night of spectacular clarity with a big full moon against fabulous clouds was on its way.  And I was on living top of the highest mountain around, facing west, Bass Lake down below, up higher than Ahwanee.  And this appeared in front of me. Silent.



This phenomenon unfolded from the start of sundown into the dark of night, a rising moon in cloud cover, and a flying saucer drifting across the sky over a period of easily an hour.  Slow as can be. Stayed pure horizontal no up or down. No sound.  Enough time for me to call a friend from down the hill in town who took 15 maybe 20 minutes to close her shop and arrive.  I took pictures. Here they are. What is it if not a spacecraft from some marvelous place where Earthlings are adored, slowed down to say howdy, headed to (or from) the mother ship.














I’d love to know what you think.  Or if it’s a message you got that night on your mountain, too.  I know, looks like a duck, flies like a duck. But it’s not a duck.





                                                                  HEY LITTLE GIRL !


                                                        ROLL YOUR OWN TAMPAX —


                                                                     10 SECONDS —


                                                                 NEAR ZERO CENTS  —




          (PS– You DO NOT need a College Education or College Loan or HS Diploma to figure this out)


2. ROLL OUT APPROXIMATELY 24 INCHES OF TOILET PAPER (about 6 sections). (Adjusting length and thickness to heaviness of menstrual flow)
9. WHEN HOME-MADE TAMPAX IS SATURATED (just like the store-bought kind) it will come out all of its own accord when you next use the toilet. You DO NOT need some pulley string.

Now girls, really.  There seems to be a rising fetish in which shouting out body parts and figuratively rubbing bodily function in the faces of innocents has come to be considered fun.  And crotch-grabbing. (And yes by the way, I too am sick to death of hearing all the jolly updates about erectile dysfunction).


Many moons previous (1967) there was a clever movie made called  “TO SIR WITH LOVE”  which saw to the education of rowdy, troubled British high school students. One of them, maybe LULU the dear Brit singer, heaved a soiled pad at the teacher, Sidney Poitier, who did not take kindly to that.  And whereas he did not teach the girls what I have just taught you on this page, the lives of the kiddies was improved because a grown up called them out.


Vulgarity does not necessarily rule supreme unless it’s ALL you ever expect for your life.

And forcing tax payers to cover your every expense from cradle to grave is not a sign of cleverness.  Indeed it will cost you more dearly than you have stopped to calculate.


The whining feminists of 2017 exhibit a stunning lack of inventiveness, along with the fine American pioneer spirit to be bold, independent,  and resourceful.


I ask you, if this is feminism today…why did my mother’s generation fight for the right to vote and wear trousers, and my generation burn our bras and panties and leap through the glass ceilings?

If you want to do some global good for the vagina, fight the female genital mutilation being practiced.

Now THERE’S a cause for a generation.


Using the glorious freedom of roll-your-own  —  I have happily worked construction jobs, painted billboards high above Times Square, painted carousels and rides in Coney Island, camped in the woods, sailed in boats, tended bars, climbed pyramids, danced on pianos, ridden horses — and not bled all over myself and others even when I was dead broke and couldn’t afford somebody else’s equipment for my hygiene.  And NOT ONCE chatted up strangers about my private parts and life.


Grow up, honey.

If you think you can stand it.

Shut up and roll.




I just found this movie at the local library and really, you’ve got to find and see this as it will rearrange your brain.  But in a good way.


Adapted from the runaway international best seller: ” THE 100-YEAR OLD MAN WHO CLIMBED OUT THE WINDOW AND DISAPPEARED”.   The biggest  grossing Swedish film of all time.

Directed By FELIX HERNGREN, 2013


                                       Last night as rain relentlessly poured down on droughted old California I was cozied up and eating a fabulous dinner I’d made, awash in a lovely Australian Ruby Port, trying to not roll off the couch laughing because of heretofore unknown, unseen, unheralded (to me) Swedish (heavily subtitled, part in spoken English) movie, featuring the  hysterically funny escapades of my new hero, Allan Karlson, The 100 Year Old Man.

He’s a kind of Scandinavian  Forrest Gump whom we meet as he escapes his boring retirement home. The candles for his ho-humish 100th birthday cake are being set alight in the room next door.  Allan is a long way not finished with living. Out the window he goes.

His past unfolds before us in remarkable flashbacks. There isn’t anything he hasn’t done, improbably unscathed, though –like Forrest– is sort of someone you might not want to spend time with so much as get to know from a distance. Allan loves dynamite more than life itself and most especially blowing things up. The pursuit of which over the course of a hundred years variously gets him locked away,  drafted into world wars, cajoled into fighting the Spanish Civil War, a comradery with Franco, building skyscrapers in NY, a fabulous prisoner of war bit with Einstein’s idiot brother (I know, me too), instructing Oppenheimer on the Manhattan Project, advising Stalin, becoming a daring double agent in the Cold War, and  now ~~in present day~~ being chased by a really mean filthy lot of killer Swedish biker thugs called the “NEVER AGAIN” Gang (I know, me too).  Out of necessity, Allan is killing people (only the bad ones) and blowing up a lot of things along the way.  Citizens and cops in pursuit.

Allan has sort of inadvertently stolen millions of dollars from one of the Swedish bikers. Which rightfully belongs to an Aussie gangster. Who is living la vida loco. In Bali. By the time we learn this, Allan’s fallen in with 2 odd fellows with time on their hands, and a really charming pretty young woman whose otherwise useless ex-boyfriend (one of the bikers) shows up hunting for the moolah, then wants to rekindle their romance (he had somewhat redeemed himself once when he rescued a circus elephant for her) (but he’s no longer worth shit). She keeps the elephant, named Sonya, in the barn.

All the wrong people get credit for things they didn’t do of course, the bad guys are sorted out from the good ones, the heroes are made accidentally, the animals do very well, and there you are, it’s worth the time just to be reminded how remarkably we can live without hardly trying. And no it’s not the Mel Brooks 500 year old man which I’d thought in the first place when I took it home.

The filmmaker, director, book author and whole unlikely lot took two years making this strange Swedish opus.  You can’t hardly tell you’re on the planet except everyone’s so human. It’s kind of like you’re somewhere being fed somemores, hearing the story told and you can’t wait for more, and you never have to leave the campfire.



click here: TRAILER ~~ 100 YEAR OLD MAN



THE DEAD OF THE OAKLAND GHOST SHIP. Blood on the Hands of the Multiculturalists.


                                      THE DEAD OF THE OAKLAND GHOST SHIP FIRE 

920x920   Blood on the Hands of Multiculturalists.  No Sanctuary City for Independent Whites.


I heard of dead youngsters hauled from Oakland’s inferno, who then were identified, whose faces then went to broadcast. I saw the dead artists. I said aloud:

                         “But they’re white. No one will feel their pain.”

Suffer the little children. They could have been me. I am sister to Oakland’s Ghost Ship Corpses and I must speak.

Who is San Francisco.  Yes.  And who are the  sidewalks and Universities of America, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany……..where Diversity is code for Not Safe for Whites Here.

Did Black, Asian, Middle East, Hispanic Oakland City Inspectors get orders to ignore Whites in substandard housing? Will we ever know.

Few crying the horror of exclusion, who rage and fury at exclusion as a philosophy or business practice, in a government…..few may be counted on to be welcoming to Whites.

I speak with some credentials and experience.  I have been painting, drawing, and writing since infancy and never gave it up and it even earned me a living wage during interludes from salaried jobs.  I still gauge the merits of studios based on how often my nose goes red and runny from the cold. I’ve done the tribulations and glories of creative endeavor in France, London, and East Europe; Mexico City, Cuernavaca; Quebec; NY’s Chinatown, Lower East Side, Brooklyn; the Blue Ridge Mountains, Big Sur’s redwood and sea salted air, Yosemite’s High Sierras, and crossing America north and south 3 times.

I’ve intentionally moved into hovels and shacks, filthy lofts, log cabins, stables, condemned basements, attics, garages, root cellars. More than some without hot water, without running water, without heat, without air, without windows, without electricity, without safety, money, food, or allies. I’ve moved into tents, trailers, trucks, and cars without without without. I’ve also lived in stunning scenery, endless skies, dramatic weather, and some totally…..uhm…..unique, low-or-no-cost housing because of hallelujah privacy and space to paint, sculpt, write a book. It’s a miserable, magical, thrilling horrific life as anyone knows who’s tried.

After all I left home at 17 because I sought bohemia, life outside of convention, endless experiences of being alive, music of the spheres, and glorious independence. And I did not, nor did my White generation, seek the exclusion of any race sharing that journey.

In fact we of the sixties, we still alive today of the flamboyantly inclusive equality-demanding outrageous generation, (much to the shock of our elders, and in danger from it, and not giving a hoot) wanted everyone along for the ride. You amongst us may note, as I have, that despite attaining 72.5 years, born in 1944 near-post-WWII, not a single person of color in any part of the world I’ve ever been, spanning over half a century now, has looked me in the eye and said:  Oh right, the 60’s! Good show! Thank you for that, let me shake your hand, we’re all better off for your revolution.

Indeed Whites are now blamed for every trouble the world has every known, by everyone.  Including the twice elected Black President who says: ” All Whites have racism in their DNA. Up yours.”

I devoted 5 years of my life, gained praise from every race and religion of individual NYers but lost my shirt trying to sculpt a memorial for ALL slain police officers in NYC in a year monumental for so many killed.  I was told by a predominately Black NYC Arts Commission, a Black NYC Chief of Police, a Black mayor that my work had no merit because the dark bronze figures were merely human. Not Black. The Vietnam Wall was heralded for not (choosing or daring — I don’t know) representing figures.  The Air and Space Museum finally approved a sculpted floating astronaut in space suit at it’s entrance~~ visor closed ~~ which neither identified or glorified any race though all our astronauts then were white.  As were the guys who designed and built and shot the rockets and brought them to earth again.  No matter.

In the early 1990’s, a person of great authority at the Corcoran Museum in Washington DC, our famously “American Artist” museum, told me to my White face they could not possibly find interest in my art because as a White American I had no culture whatsoever. They would exhibit African American and Native American and homosexual artists who contrariwise had culture to brag about.

From the 1970’s to this 21st Century, publishers print up authors of confession, self-help, self-pity, victimization, obscure/profound/common sexuality, and most loved of all, racism. Publishers are reluctant to print up White heterosexual women standing on their own 2 feet. Who apparently in these times have no point of view, no life to notice, no merit, up yours.  Oh, I said that already.

Look at the relentless defamation of marvelous individuals who invented, described, built for the benefit of all humankind, being re-written out because they are Caucasian. Please, on behalf of art everywhere, turn from the movie “Turner” which grinds to shred and dust the brilliant artist who was a revolution in a waistcoat all by himself until the politically correct Brits in exhaustive humiliation at their own White skin, who are not worthy of pronouncing Turner’s name, shamefully corrupted the dear man’s history because he failed to be Black.

Oakland’s White Ghost Ship Fire is your payoff, you racists of San Francisco and beyond who have been shouting from the rooftops that anyone with White skin does not matter to this world, to your Sanctuary City. Do not apply. Get out. Get lost. We hate you bad Honky.   Burn baby burn.


 click here for SF GATE, movie tribute








A great many years had passed in my own life before I understood the desirability, the sanctity, the glory of a studio of my own.  years lost to imagining that, despite drawing and painting from an admirable young age, I did not deserve such a thing.  A special place.  My own private study.  A workshop, a room, a corner of my room, a ten square foot holy land where my mind and my hand might partner up in adventuring the unsurveyed.  no one else in my house thought I deserved it either.  I did, at long last, have my own studio at the advanced age of twenty-two years which I, at long last, made for myself. Curse the wait. I should have done it age three.

Georgia O’Keeffe in Her Studio georgia-okeeffe-studio

salvador-dali-studio Salvador Dali in His Studio


I was living on the lower east side of Manhattan, street level old apartment house with one big room, tall barred-up windows in front, tub in the livingroom and half a partition with a bed on the other side.  It was on the corner of Avenue B.  Opposite Thompkins Square Park.

e-9th-st-nyc-c-1964  Six months later I moved a block up to Ninth Street between Avenue A and First Avenue into a five floor walk-up on the fifth floor. It was long and narrow, half the building’s width of about 12 feet, full length of about 35 feet maybe with windows on both ends, what was called a railroad flat. It cost $36 a month. The first place had been $26 a month.  I was working steady now and could afford the extra ten, though I confess, it took my breath when I decided to move. $36 was a lot of money.  Mostly I was enchanted by the back-most 5 X 10 foot, glass enclosed ‘extension’.  I’m coming to that. I promise. I just want you have the whole picture.

Like a lot of New York City, neighborhoods were defined block by block and the nationality of who mostly occupied that street.  This was Italian.  Shining Cadillacs lined this part of 9th Street. No spotless windshield ever sported a parking ticket, no fingerprints on the chrome.  The block I’d left behind was Polish, Jewish, and Russian.  If they had cars they got tickets. But it was the lower east side and nobody was rich and if they were rich they already left.

e-hopper-studioEdward Hopper in His Studio

My multi-locked front door opened into the kitchen, tub and sink on the left, stove and fridge on the right, the water closet in the skylit airshaft next to that.  The middle room had space for a narrow bed and table. The front had two windows looking down on ninth street. The tenant before me had pulled up the old-timey linoleum and polished that sucker to its high shining gorgeous broad planked wood grained oak self. nyc-e-9th-st-apt-c-1964There was an exposed brick fireplace too hazardous to use.  Mr Neri was the landlord. He was crazy about me.  He brought in a really fine near-new stove for me.  E 9thSt Apt NYC1964.JPGAnd a couple of months later when the old refrigerator exploded Freon, the firemen rushed in and carted it up the narrow flight of stairs to the roof and left it there. Mr Neri got me another one. To do that, Mr Neri called up his friend “The Humper” who showed up within a few days, early morning, lifted the fridge off the back of the truck parked in the street below then carried the new refrigerator up five stories on his back, held in place with a mover’s strap and stopped one time only for a breather. The Humper was about 6 foot 5 and something in the neighborhood of 275 pounds. I never saw anything like it before, and not again until I met Barefoot Adam of big Sur who is a slim vegetarian-farmer with dreadlocks and can lift about ten times his weight with one hand.


thtvdb0995You know whose studio,

55fd2c0ffb9196654faa27313afa34ee and Claude Monet’s.

But back to New York in the Sixties and MY STUDIO.

doug-uranek-kitchen-sink-e-9th-nyc1964 With visitor.

It turns out they kind of build themselves. Trust me on this.  I was too self-conscious to think I could make a studio –do it–just like that. But here was this beguiling wide and narrow place at the last drop end of the back of the apartment with about floor to ceiling windows and a wood roof and a door of its own, facing clothes lines above concrete courtyards filled with a lot of crappy New York millions of people’s left over and forgotten and thrown out the window stuff.  But screw the view.  If you’re not familiar with them, and they may no longer exist, an ‘extension’ at the far end of a New York apartment is a very chancy deal.  Most likely entirely illegal, really old and unstable. It hangs out over the back of the building, nothing below, usually only on one or two floors above the second or third, no heat, no electricity, and built of wood planks, old window glass and other questionable materials by the mother-in-law’s nephew around the turn of the last century.  Why it didn’t fall off with me in it I will never know. But it did not.

It sang songs to me every time I looked at it from the day I moved in.  first just folksy chanting bare melodies, then serious pop songs about love and glory, and then full-blown opera that was very loud in my heart and ears and bursting soul and I thought OH! Wow.  Is that you?  Might you be a studio?  My studio?

And all I heard was yes I am.

Come on in.  me-9thst-studioc-1964 Which I did.

Kamenstein’s Hardware was a block off, facing Cooper Union Square on Third Avenue and Ninth Street.  They carried everything, and in the heady mix of serious tools and lumber and nails and electric and plumbing supplies for the landlords, were things for the artist.  Kamenstein had easels and palettes and brushes and paint.  He had palette knives and linseed oil, turps and varnish, and sketchbooks. He had canvas stretchers, brass tacks, and gesso. One day I walked in there and bought a huge redwood palette (which I still have) and a seven foot high huge easel on a square base with wheels (which I left with Misia in Virginia).  I wheeled my bold declarations of my trade one block home and lugged them up five flights and opened the front door then walked straight to the back extension and put my new life inside.  I brought in my brushes. I put a slim bookcase against the wall, filled my big glass jar of turpentine and set it on top, and rags, and boxes of charcoal, pastels, pigments.  I laid out the new palette with all the colors I had.  Then I stepped back and look at this wonderland and I whiffed it in deep and long and then I cried. It’s very moving to do something like that. Here I am world. No more guessing. You will recognize me from a mile away by this aroma.

The cheapest white pigment to buy was Lead White (likely outlawed in public and private today).  I’d get it by the quart can.  It was actually heavy, good heft to it.  It covered really well, wonderful texture but had a serious propensity to go yellow, and that meant the solid white places and all the colors you mixed with it too.  Friends from Goddard would stop by my place to crash the night, have a bath, eat spaghetti en route to elsewhere.  Part of the deal on a good day was helping me get the huge canvases I was painting weaving it around a short staircase to the roof to lay out flat in the sunshine in the hope it would bleach the yellow out of the white lead. I’m not sure it actually worked but it was entertaining to do and made me feel like I was on a blue river green grassy bank next to an impressionist’s rowboat living the life, taking advantage of the great outdoors. Fantasy is an important component of surviving slum living.

there’s the business of joining a, well, what….a kind of….way of living, that all of a sudden you’re doing something other people have struggled with and loved for centuries. You are a part of all that, is what I mean.  Like understanding mathematics, or how the stars turn, or a leaf grows, or fixing a motor, is this experience of being inside something magnificent bigger than just you and crowded with fantastic people since the beginning of time. You have to love it to get there.  Love is what does the trick. You can hate it later but at some point it really has to throw your spine out of joint so that you’re never the same you were, only better.

I lived in that apartment about two years, and painted like mad whenever I could. It was a thrilling, freezing, airless, roasting, terrific first studio. I can’t believe I only have one photograph of my first studio, but that’s it, maybe due to its sacredness, the privacy, the wanting it to remain inscrutable, a thing of spirit, untouched by historic actualities.

east-broadway-chinatown-nyc   East Broadway, View to Manhattan Bridge

I moved to a Chinatown loft when I left Ninth Street. chinatown-loft-e-bway-1967 It was on East Broadway next to the Manhattan Bridge, third floor, and by then I knew who I was and what I was up to. I was in the animation business and making a lot of money though irregularly. I never have learned how to budget anything. The rent was $75 a month.  And that was really a lot.  But I did it.  And applied to the city for what was called an ”A.R.T.” Permit.  ‘Artist In Residence.’  It became a law when artists started to lust after big empty spaces. Light manufacturing buildings housing people needed to alert the fire department in case of emergency. It was an enormous badge of honor, not easy to get.  You had to prove you made your living painting. Oh ha ha.


I had 7 rescued cats by then, not one with sense or training to stay out of my palette, not scratch my canvases, not get fur in the portraits.  Sylvester, Brownie Golden Swallow, their babies Theophrastus, Jasmine, Orion; and Muffin and Pennywhistle. So I built a room out of 2 X 4’s and chicken wire that the cats could climb up but not get through. I had an unhindered view of Chinatown and the bridge, and protected my ever-increasing emotionally connecting output of paintings and drawings.  The loft was huge.  About 50 by 100 feet, fifteen foot ceilings.  I remember more than ten floor to ceiling windows. The windows were huge. I was in half the corner building’s floor. There was another artist on the other side of me who was a successful fabric designer and related to the Impressionist, Prendergast. the floor below was storage.  The floor above was occupied by a Chinese guy who made leather coats. His forty workers showed at 8 and left at 4. I have no idea what else was in the building. All eleven windows rattled when subways traveled across the lower part of the Manhattan Bridge.  It was a hell of a lot of glass.  Huge sheets, only two sections the top and bottom, and about six feet wide by ten feet tall. They never shattered or cracked. Old stuff. Great light. In a couple of weeks the shake, rattle and roll was no big deal.

Chinatown was likely the best place I’ve ever lived in a city.  The colors and words, the architecture, shapes, smells, senses electrified at every turn. Friendly people. The Tongs ruled and made the streets incredibly safe.  Most everything ran 24 hours a day and I’d walk out of my loft the three blocks to shops, get some fabulous bun or noodle thing at two in the morning cheap and good, and walk back home, happy for the freedom. Around the time I moved out a couple of years later the young, bloodthirsty and ruthless Hong Kong gangs were doing the impossible by challenging the Tong leaders.  Blood ran red in the streets. Wholesale murder came to Chinatown. It was wild and dangerous for the first time since maybe the 19th century, maybe ever. But it was spectacular to me when I lived in it. If I forgot to say it then, thank you all for the good time.

It’s the same with most things in life.  Better remembered for the precious moments, the brief spells or unexpectedly extended ones.  We get touches, glimpses, episodes, departures, arrivals, enter stage left exit stage right. Home fires burning around heady, productive fires in the belly.  Unforgettable decor. Fabric that looked just so in a certain shadow or brightness.  The hat hanging on the peg. The broom in the corner. The orange ladder-back chair from a Vermont farmhouse. Sketches pinned over the sink. The palette empty, full, the easel on wheels. Peculiar lights. The smells of heaven. Build you one. The studio.

The End

Copyright October 23, 2016 BD Sparhawk

PS There seems to be some trouble correcting typos–especially capitals at the start of sentences.  It has something to do with doing a copy/paste from another page that’s preventing doing the change. Sorry for that, still working on it. Thanks for the visit. Sparhawk.


CHARLES, Who Lived Through Wars

CHARLES, Who Lived Through Wars 

An Illustrated Short Story

©2016 B Sparhawk

His name wasn’t  Charles but it was how he introduced himself to me and it was all I ever called him.  I didn’t care, I liked secrets. I’d go so far as to say I admired secrets though Charles shared few. He sometimes slipped up, well it wasn’t a slip, a man like that doesn’t make mistakes, he’d refer to himself with a variation on Charles that was an endearment in another language.  He spoke, what was it he said? Seven, I think so. Yes,  fluent in seven languages. Several dialects, Bantu naturally. And he was aces at telling jokes and knew a thousand, and Irish was his best accent. Did he ever tell you the one about the twins in the bar in Dublin, the brothers?  How about the nuns and the cobblestones. Really, no kidding, Scots, too, very fine imitation Scots.

We spoke French to each other, well mostly English of course.  He did a native’s job with both and I did a fair job with French from living in Paris, I had my one year high school vocabulary in German, and about sixteen words of Russian and oh God but we laughed and laughed falling off the table falling over backwards right off a chair laughing and having such a good time. You know honestly I fell on the ground more than once in bust at the seam hysterics with Charles, I really did, on the ground, pounding the dust with my fists.


He was older than me by a few years but looked so much older than his age because of war wounds making it damn hard for him to walk, more every year, worst at uphill. He was handsome blue eyed blond German stock~~ South African~~ and he was hiding out in Carmel from enemies of a war few in America might recollect, the civil war in Rhodesia, the cruel, violent, dangerous, costly of man and treasure Rhodesian war. The old enemies were still living and still looking for Charles. His eyes would red up.  Here was this tough fighting man and the war fought was a part of him, he’d been deep in about as far as anyone could go, the memories made him cry because it was war of incredible meaning to Africans.  It was  his country, he had been born in Johannesburg, and grown up in it, and loved it.

He told me in that war, racing flat out on the desert sand between camps, three of them in a jeep, and they knew they were being pursued. Him and another soldier and a woman too, all of them Intel. It was dusk, almost dark, where the hell was the road. They hit a mine. The jeep blew sky high.  Charles got thrown twenty-five metres off. The other guy was dead on the ground in two pieces.  The woman was alive crumpled in a heap, bent half over trying to lift her head, calling to him.  Come here, come now now……. now she said. Charles pulled himself over, then  to standing next to the upturned vehicle, vaguely aware he’d got hit, that his back was full of shrapnel, shock does that with pain, then seeing his bleached desert khakis go dark, as he stood looking, like a goddamn red tide coming in over him and that registered…oh…yes I see….because his blood was pumping out of him, fast.  They could hear  vehicles coming up behind them. The enemy rounded the closest hill.  He had staggered to the woman. She said, ……shoot me, for the Christ’s sake shoot me now, you know what they’ll do with me, you know what they’ll do, you…….  And so he did.  When he told me he cried.  His faced moved only a little but his eyes poured out like waterfalls.  I think he loved her but he didn’t say.  I bet in a war with the constant state of crisis of unseen death lurking beside you, of course you fall in love in a damn second, of course you do. And the human heart responds to courage in people we know. So there on the desert alone, the sole survivor, wounded, in the hands of the horrific enemy, Charles managed to live.  He got beat up, kicked and interrogated and would not talk.  He told me he lay there with his arms wrapped around his chest trying to protect his heart, a boot against the back of his head pushing his face into cinder and metal and soft beige sand while they discussed  (in an African dialect he knew well) what to do with him. Rifles locked and loaded.  He told me he was glad for the hurt helping him fight drifting. He felt so wanting to drift.  He was getting the most beautiful pictures imaginable behind his eyes, as if someone had made him a movie just for him of everything he loved and he was aware of beginning to smile for it…… We are warned against that, he said to me. Stay conscious, stay alert, force yourself…... He was dragged to a hospital where a lieutenant identified him and after that he was treated with care. They put blood back in him, three litres (half the six, said Charles, of what his Jaguar took.) He got his rosy cheeks back.  He was valuable, an asset. He could be exchanged.  He didn’t say anything more about it to me.


“The climate here in Carmel, in Big Sur, Monterey, Marina, it’s the same, you have a Mediterranean climate on the central coast, there are only seven places in the world with this climate, like Capetown.  You need to see Africa. But this, look at that sky, look at that ocean. What a place, I love it. Come on,” he said, “get in the car,  I’m taking you for lunch. Deetjens.” I looked down starting at my workboot-covered toes and sagging blue socks; the white linen Bermuda shorts needing a stitch and a wash, and then my billowy pale yellow shirt that had red paint on one elbow and green alfalfa smudge on the collar from feeding the horses and getting a muzzley thank you nudge.  “Don’t be a fool,” he said, following my inspecting eyes.  “You’re perfect.”  Bless him, Charlie cut a lot of slack for tan, leggy blonds.

When I broke my leg it was Charles who picked me up at the Monterey hospital after the third day, slapped a blue pack of Gauloises in my hand, laughing at our French soldier joke, and had already lit the first one in his mouth like Casablanca, leaned over  and I let him roll it between my lips, me sitting next to him in the front seat; he piped Edith Piaf up and her Vie en Rose and off we went over the reeking air of camel dung tobacco, regretting nothing. He used two fingers to pull his silver flask out of the door pocket and toss it into my lap; his broad, cheering, blue eyed smiling tan face beyond it. Benedictine, our favorite brandy. Sacred, made by the monks. Let the good times roll. We knew each other.  At least, I knew as much as he allowed of him and he knew me, and what kind of rare joy that is in a life. Shit.

Those were the early days when being with Charles was feeling, as he allowed, perfect.  He changed in his last years and by then you couldn’t stand being with the man for constantly dodging rockets he’d shoot off at you aiming to kill, but most of the time I spent with him was just great, to near the end.  Pain made him bitter. Memories, lost loves, abandonment by an entire nation made Charles bitter. Being hunted. Running for cover. A pricey divorce, not seeing his children again, only knowing they’d reached 3 and 7 and 9, followed by forever’s silence. Then America’s endless surgeries on his back when the Stanford doctors dug around for the shrapnel alongside his spine, and his ribcage, and inside his leg muscles. Later they tried treating his thyroid for the cancer but the radiation didn’t work or they got it wrong in the first place, or both. For almost a year he practically lived at Stanford. He had to give up Camels and he had to give up cognac, and he started wearing a scarf around the multiple scars on his neck. But worst of all he stopped telling jokes.

I knew him nearly two decades here and he made life worth living, he did.  Charles. We were never lovers.  I was still too screwed up from my son’s death, my life started all over again moving from New York to Big Sur.  I told him that:  Unh uhn Charlie baby, no way, in case you haven’t noticed I can’t see straight and I’m lucky to thread words together into a sentence just now.  And you, sweetie pie, are way too dangerous, but I’ll visit all you want and hang out all you want and do silly serious anything together between dawn and sunrise you’re always welcome to my barn.  Charles said okay. But after that he never let up teasing me about other women or flirting outrageously with any bon bon crossing our path.  Which really got annoying.


He’d drive the ten miles out from the coast to see me. Corozon at Barn Studio I had a studio at Holman Ranch in the big red barn on the hill.  Carmel Valley –just past the village.  Holman, up land, 1

400 beautiful acres around me and 150 horses in the pastures. Dorothy was still alive and owned the place then, she had let me turn the tack room and the first two stalls into an apartment, and we put in a bathroom at the very end.  Geez that was great.  Skylights, concrete floors, I made a studio and kitchen, we built a four foot open shower out of river rock and the sink was a fabulous bird bath I had piped with copper tubing and red outdoor garden faucets, and filled the bottom with grout and colored glass bits. Geez that was sure great.  The bathroom ceiling was marcelled transparent fiberglass sheets and I jammed every square inch with plants. The two donkeys, the mule Corozon, the goat Rambo, and a couple of sheep whose names I never knew got tucked in for the night in the paddock next to me and the last three stalls.DSCF4378  Everything crashed off my walls when they butted heads.  Charles showed up with lumber for bookshelves poking up out of his top-down front seat. Sometimes he brought a working hot plate, electric kettle, boom box,  a stunning chair from a Pebble Beach dumpster. Dorothy raised my rent $200 a month. She said because the bathroom got added but I think she was jealous.


I was working, you know.  Five days a week in Carmel at the marvelous Little Swiss Cafe, off Dolores, favorite for locals, best food on earth, open breakfast and lunch that’s it.  Stevie the surfer and his incredible Dad, Hank the Dutchman, and Forever Carol of course.  Charles came in for early lunch, split pea soup usually, sometimes oatmeal.  I’d see him at the door and run up and simultaneously our hands clasped and our cheeks slid together and off we’d go in a tango up the aisle.  The customers looked away or clapped, depending. How did that start anyway?  I have no idea.  Then we’d speak French and he’d eat and leave and I was off by three-thirty and a lot of days during the week he’d drive his beaten up convertible up the hill and park in front of my barn door.  The name of my studio was his idea, by the way, that was Charles being brilliant and right on the money:  The Hawks Perch.  Yup.  A gift of a name from Charles. I’ll never call it different.

He was a painter too, he just took it up as a kind of innocent empty-headed disguise that would add to his incognito and give him an edge with the ladies.  He was a good painter though, original, scenes of the Africa landscape.  Life Is A Dance Studio he called himself. And oh but he had an eye for the girls. The older he got the younger the girls got.  Everybody pretty much adored him. He really had that nailed, the charming-adorable thing.  What was not to love.

Charles had this fascinating photographic memory and an impeccable ear.  Well what do you call that, total recall of anything you hear, has it got a name?  The son of a bitch never forgot a single word you said or where you said it or what the weather was like or the time of day or the song on the radio when you said it.  You ever know anybody like that?  It was amazing, kind of like watching a magic show to be with him and see those rabbits pulled out of a hat.  It could really get annoying too, I mean you wanted the average dish for everyday, a little leeway with a memory, something commonplace, didn’t you?  I thought so.  But it was fascinating.  He was in espionage of course, an intelligence officer.  So bright a guy, and a scholar, and a linguist, and he, to hear him tell, could run circles around ten country’s spies at the same time in the same room and even Henry the K. if he happened to be in town talking about what kind of weapons who had where and tease with what the fuck was on the plane. That’s what he said.  I believed him.


Wherever Charles lived, nobody ever knew.  I mean nobody.  We used to ask each other, ones who knew him: You ever been to Charles’ place?  Charles ever show you where he lived?  No. No. NO. No.

Tucked up away somewhere in some craggy den. I think he wore clothes til they got too dirty then threw them out and bought some more.  He did that with phones. He used them a few weeks and threw them away.

I think he had millions in all kinds of currency and precious metal socked away in twenty places in forty countries on ten hilltops in empty cans buried three feet under a rock he’d marked in chalk with X.  Charles knew every bank on the coast and the name of every manager and president. He conducted a lot of business.  Out of a briefcase. Or his army vest pockets. Or cargo shorts pockets or from shoe boxes side by side in the trunk of his car.  He had drops.  Places where messages were left and exchanged, and using a couple of different names, mail boxes and message centers, that kind of thing. I know that for a fact because he took me along to one once, it was kind of not on purpose but I was in the car and he needed to find out something. A little post box place off the beaten path by the wharf, dark and narrow, a bright eyed guy alone behind a counter, like a bar in a way. How cool is that. So Charles.


He instructed, this man who knew how to survive combat.  THE BLUE THUNDER“Check the fluids. No, I mean it! It’s not some goddamn joke. Get out of the car. Goddamn lift the hood and check the fluids! You don’t ever take off in a vehicle without checking the fluids. It takes a minute. It saves your life.”  I was lazy, it used to burn him up, so I learned, now I do it unfailingly.


The last time I saw Charles he was moving half an inch at a time leaning on a walker, coming out of the River Inn in Big Sur after lunch with Abby.  She’d been in charge of the stables at Holman Ranch.  Her husband and Charles had been close, too.  She was driving him around now when he needed it.  He was nasty, angry, furious.  Abby couldn’t put up with him long, nobody could.  But he was sweet that ten minutes he came and went inside my gallery in Big Sur he didn’t know I had opened. I was selling my paintings and drawings. He only looked at one painting, a portrait I’d done of Van Gogh. “That’s world class,” he said.  I smiled. It had been a couple of years since I’d seen him.  He was sweet, he was the old Charles. He told us a joke in a thick brogue that took him five minutes to land on the punch line, and it was damn funny enough that we were laughing til we cried. Sparhawk Pt Lobos  Like the old days. Then they left.

I saw Abby a couple of years later.  She came to the gallery I opened in mid-Valley and wanted me to make another cloth rug for her, this time with her Siamese cat. Gallery new photos July 16, 2011 008

The first one was a leaping kind of Navajo horse deal and fifteen years later, well it got more beautiful every year. That’s the truth.  She said Charles was living in a hospice in Carmel and could no longer walk.  Then a guy from the village stopped in maybe a year after Abby, and he was on his way visit Charles, and it was rough he said, seeing him like that. Did I want to send a message. Did I want to go along to see him. Come with me, he said.

Tell him I said hello and I love him, I said. Tell him that for me. Please.

I pictured him, you know I did in part from the descriptions and part imagining, the warrior curled up with his back to the world in a small dark room devoid of class or luxury or worldliness, curled against the light, and not all the pain killers on the peninsula enough to ease the hurt so he just took it and shut up though sometimes a growl came out, his eyelids pinched tight against those brilliant blue eyes pinched tighter on the face no longer tan, hair not sunbleached white blond and thick, and the beaten up body all that was left to live in, it all made him a little less gorgeous. I couldn’t have cared less about that part, who cares, the Charles inside is what I cared about but man oh man he was hard to reach before and now forget it. And I was older too by twenty years, and he hated to see a woman whose skin was no longer a girl’s smooth, who looked older than 25.  Jesus Christ.  I’m sorry old buddy. I can’t even comfort you, can I.  What the bloody freaking hell did you go and arrange for your departure from the world.  Nobody admitted entry, nobody home.

Then he died, which I knew when a friend handed me his obituary, torn out from The Carmel Pine Cone.  And it was a sanitized white wash of the briefest thing written either by somebody who never knew him or had copied down a dictated version out of the mouth of the mystery man himself.

Charles had lived at least a year with his back against intrusion, hardly able to move, feeling fired on by strangers for their touching him, strangers who could not imagine his journey, strangers who tended to his pills and fluids and did his washings up, strangers with never an idea what secret brave history moved inside the man on the bed who stayed true to the cause, who refused to talk.  Charles, the soldier who lived through wars.