Good Samaritans

       Oh America.  I’ve never in my life hated the mix of people here.

Here’s an odd and funny 9-11-2013 experience I had. . .

I think I mentioned that the Miata’s front bumper had popped loose and was kind of dangling, and I went into the shop down the block and asked them to look and the mechanic, one of two brothers who run the place, fixed it with a twistie baggie tie.  It’s held good as new for months! I was delighted, they wouldn’t take a cent.  I have to get the Miata smogged this month and was thinking well I’ll go back in there for it and give them some proper business.

Barbara’s Miata

[after being vandalized w/ a rock]

Over the past couple of days they’ve had a cyclone fence with signs erected around their gas station. They only do mechanic work and they never sold gas.  However, the gas tanks are being dug out of the ground. I suspect there’s some idiot California law that you can’t have an empty tank or hazard hysteria something. 

Well I saw them out this morning when I drove by, putting up tiny signs every couple of feet that declared, OPEN!! and you could hardly read them. I drove in and said, Hey…you need a sign! Give me a couple of hours. So I went to the gallery and made them one, painted a big piece of wood I had white, and blue letters, OPEN FOR BUSINESS, then AUTO. REPAIR. SMOG. and painted a nice picture of a pick-up truck on the bottom. I’d been working all morning on the blog and swept up in 9-11 reports and feelings. I brought the sign over to them. They loved it, they were so pleased and excited, I found the brother who fixed my bumper and put out my hand and shook his and said, Now we’re even.  It was lovely.  Happy moment.

Here’s the interesting thing, they’re a family of Sikhs. Turbans, beards and all. But flying a good-sized American flag on the wall outside their bays. Sweet guys.

Oh America.  I’ve never in my life hated the mix of people here, it was always what totally thrilled me about New York.  I’ve loved that exposure to a zillion cultures, food and smells and styles so different from my own experience.  I figure if you’ve lived any length of life or been anywhere or seen anything else you get an idea of how precious if imperfect this country is.  People hating America bothers me. I find it beyond understanding.

I’m really glad I told you about the experience I had with the Sikh garage mechanics, because Chapter Two unfolded today.

From the easel in the back of my gallery I saw one of the Sikhs walk by and halooed.  I went out, he had come to see Moses next door, who’s his friend; Moses was closed today. 

He said it’s slow, he’s been walking around the neighborhood visiting his neighbors. The Pizza guy, the restaurant guy.

I invited him in to see my work.  He thanked me again for the sign and said it was unusual for people to do things like that for each other. And that it had helped to bring him business. And could he have cards from me because people ask about the sign and really like the truck I painted on it.

I said, Well you fixed my bumper! and it was a great opportunity that I could repay you with the sign.

In fact another (professional) local sign maker did a big Open For Business sign for them too! What a neighborhood.  They’re having the old gas tanks removed from the ground, major dig, because California charges them $7,000 a year just to have them unused in the ground!!

I said, I have to get the car smogged later this month and I’ll come to your place and give you some real business.

Oh, I’ll do that now.  No charge.

Well, I looked at him: No you can’t do that.

Yes, I can.

No, it’s too much.

No, it’s not.  You brought us business.

I was almost in tears by now because this and the coming registration due in a week were weighing heavily on me.  I mean it has been slow. But I got him the paperwork and handed him the key and thanked him profusely and off he drove.

My God.  Imagine.

He drove back a bit later and said the car passed smog but it was close because it was a little smoky but it’s okay, and handed me the paperwork marked N/C.

Then he said, And by the way your rear brakes are shot but I didn’t know if you needed the car right away, if you have time I’ll do the brakes.

You can’t do that!

Yes, I can. No trouble no charge, don’t worry.  I want to do it.

That’s too much.

No no you brought us business.

But then tell me how much it costs so I can at least repay you at the end of the month.

Well it’s about 89 dollars for parts, but don’t worry, it’s not a problem.

(He was very firm and serious about this, that it really was okay by him.)

Would you like a painting? Is there a painting here you’d like?

I’m really floored by what’s been said, had no idea the brakes weren’t good but suspected so, and just so touched by all this and he’d admired my art work.

I’ll bring my wife back, she will pick a painting.

I don’t know if there’s enough gas in the car to even get you back! (I’m driving on fumes and a prayer.)

It’s okay, he said. I put gas in the tank. (Me–near a faint!).

All of this was pretty transporting and I’m not sure what happened next but I guess I gave him the key back again and off he went.  He returned at ten after 5 with everything fixed.

Promised to come back with his wife for a painting.

Oh John.  Such goodness in people.  All started with a baggie tie on my bumper, no charge.  A sign to help their business, no charge. The rest is history.

What a day.

(IV) A Mother’s Loss: GRIEF

It’s very hard still to describe accurately what intense grief causes.

Now that we’re talking about it, I remember some visualizing I did about coming back to life and it was this…

I saw that I was kind of on plateaus I had climbed to, pulled myself up to from a very foggy bottom. There was almost always a rope bridge to cross, there was nothing about the trail leading to the new level place that did not involve fear and danger. But then I’d be there. And realize I had got there. And look back and see the place I had been, below, and that I was no longer in it.

It was an enormously pleasant, rewarding thing to see. Most of the time for especially the first two years I didn’t think I was leaving the insanity at all or getting better, yet was on some level very determined to be fully functional again.  It’s very hard still to describe accurately what intense grief causes. It’s different than depression. It’s different than sadness. It’s different than a deep neurosis or psychosis. It’s grief and has it’s own defining and I still can’t describe it well. It’s very out of body, very like being on another planet, a loss of normal references, information, history.

I wasn’t sure I’d write Edith’s Story at all. But you know, John, it was a new place for me that put me where other human beings have gone before or are going through now, and for that reason I thought well damn, record it.

When I decided to write that story it was in part to remember my child and in part to forgive myself for some of my very bad parenting.

Edith’s Story is published in The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories.


Part 4 of 4

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at]

(III) A Mother’s Loss: THERAPY

All of a sudden I start to paint a child, about 7 or 8 or 10. And of course my head’s already at war, pretending there’s no significance. Oh just a child. I think I’ll make it a little girl. Feeding one of the birds on the steps. But all that’s crap because it’s not just a child and not a little girl it’s my son, and there he is.


[From a letter addressed to South African painter, Jolande Hesse]

“I would like to suggest something, which has taken me a long time to discover about painting and I would like to pass on to you.

It is possible, in creative work, to change and alter realities. It’s useful as a fundamental source of experimentation, but can go beyond that into the realm of self-fulfilling prophecy. Not too many years ago I was doing a great deal of traveling, living rough, and all my things were stored on the other coast. I was heartbroken over the separation. I started a painting of a wonderful big studio with me in it, in a fabulous bed, with everything I owned and missed around me, including the spirits of friends and animals. Studio and Spirit Dreams was the result. Afterward I ended up moving into several very similar places. The painting was cathartic.

Sixteen years ago when my son died I was swamped in grief. I have literally been unable to paint him at all. Only this past week I started a painting (without knowing where it was heading) of a wonderful garden island paradise, filled with birds and insects, flowers, sailing ships, a jeep, beautiful skies…then suddenly at the end of my brush my son appeared in it, and it was his. It is, in truth, the way for me to picture him still growing up with all the delightful things around him that I would have wanted him to have, to play and explore. It has certainly produced a great deal of emotion in me to paint it, which has turned from tears to delight in short order. And a sense of making something right over which, gone so wrong, I had no control. I’m suggesting this in part because . . . of your own story. You are new to painting, and wonderful at it. Instead of years usually wasted in developing technique that is ultimately discarded in favor of originality, you went right in with your heart in your hand, and it’s wonderful to see. I suggest you consider this skill as a playground for your imagination, to use in a way that will liberate you, and the subjects you paint, even more.

Artists have it in them to absorb and feel the depth of despair of life, and also to walk, with the viewer’s hand in ours, to imagined wonders that resonate with hope.”


The memories of my son always lurk, hover. Sometimes surface, sometimes a surprise arrival. wHOOOOOSH! I still cannot fully resolve the experience in me. I don’t know why. Maybe it never leaves anyone. But I want to somehow conquer the despair, to end the despair.

I get fairly trembling if I go into it all. And that scares me because it led me to a very bad place when he died, those first couple of years, not any place I want to go again.

So I’m back in the gallery painting on the landscape. I know it’s lacking. I’m adding some interesting things but there are still big open spaces I don’t know what to put in, make it more, make it better.

All of a sudden I start to paint a child, about 7 or 8 or 10. And of course my head’s already at war, pretending there’s no significance. Oh just a child. I think I’ll make it a little girl. Feeding one of the birds on the steps.

But all that’s crap because it’s not just a child and not a little girl it’s my son, and there he is.

So I’m getting very shaky and starting to cry, thinking what the hell am I doing to myself. And then I thought if I make it right maybe that’s precisely what I’ve needed to do. I haven’t been able to paint him at all. So I make myself keep at it until the form is right. I add a big Labrador. A jeep. Now he’s got a dog and toy. And the animals. And the garden, and off in a wild place with a wide open sky. And the bird, the hawk I started painting two days ago is really a sparrowhawk, wings spread, soaring, and Trevor’s on the steps under the sparrowhawk.

Trevor’s Treasure Island


I started thinking today that I’m not entirely pleased with the way I’m painting, almost as if everything I’ve done up until now is not right, or wrong, or off, or problematic. I end up with colors on the brush I don’t want, and then work and work on it and suddenly there’s a combination that’s so right it makes me cry.

I’m also doing essentially the first portrait of Trevor. He’s not the center of the painting but an important part. He’s a young boy on this strange bit of land, he is leaning forward feeding crows. I know much is coming from my subconscious. Without specifically planning it he appeared under a large protective sparrowhawk. It was going to be only a large sky and landscape, and there are massive flowers front and center, then I kind of started creating a treasure island, for Trevor, and oh God the things that have come into it, birds and emotions and sailboats and a jeep and more birds and dragonflies and crashing waves and trees and it’s getting very Hieronymus Bosch-y actually now I write this out.

I have likely studiously avoided delving very deep into anything, imagining I’d return to shaky ground. It’s so interesting to have you to write to, I swear. It helps me understand myself.

But the problem with not delving is a run of superficiality, which I don’t care much for either. I kept painting, saying, it’s not beautiful, it’s not beautiful….and then there’d be a start of something that worked, that was.

I think I may be having some rush of feeling to put everything in it that didn’t get done, know what I mean? It’s some kind of completing thing. I worked hours on Trevor. I wanted the physical to be just right, he’s leaning forward, in curiosity not a boy’s mischief. I want it sweet. There’s not much detail on the face and may not be, it’s the posture that says it, the position of the hands and legs. It sure is a major challenge of portrait work, and I’m about to start yours. There is so much in an expression, so much subtlety to get right so that it is what I want to say, unmistakably. And I am finding much fault with myself. It’s not flowing.

Well, I’m obviously consumed with all this. I will eventually have a breakthrough, because that’s the way it happens. If I can let it all sort of play out by itself it will paint itself.

The central flowers were initially on stalks, a very crowded base of leaves and stalks, and late today I set them all free as if they’d taken off in the wind. Some metaphor.

I’m sorry to be so preoccupied. Bless your heart for listening. And how I love thinking of you with the straightforward, wholesome work with feral creatures and big open skies.


I suddenly began to re-work a portrait of Trevor I started in 1996 and it was not good then. I have had the past two days of fluent emotional peaking and am finally getting into it in unexpected ways. It’s very different from the way I normally paint.

Trevor was born February 27th, 1972 and died January 27th, 1996.

I will say this for being a parent which I can only guess at with my own or other parents but I have the feeling it’s universal, which is that there is never a day that goes by that you don’t think about your child. This may be very good for me, the portrait is evolving into something remarkable. And I am trying not to burden it with, and in the process free myself from, all the weighty memories.

And two hours later, okay. I’m okay. I didn’t go nuts or die. I started something likely very important, or it drew me in.


The painting of Trevor is getting fascinating. A great challenge, and very good to see. The act of painting is taking over. I’m inventing a face I don’t think I ever saw, with a slight beard, JH inspired likely. Trevor and the royal Princes could all be kin, he looked like a skinnier version of Harry. I’m working on your portrait too and the one of me and the cats.  Good painting going on.


I am having some fine metamorphosis with painting. I’ve tried a great many things in my life, and there is always a point where I understand and accomplish to a certain level and then it gets boring and I turn from it, on to the next. I note that painting is a singular experience. I am staying with it, a lifetime, and it continues to open new doors. Amazing to me. And my increased facility is actually making the experience more inviting, not less.

I spent several hours again on Trevor’s portrait today. Very pleased with the results. I still can’t stay beyond a certain point

I’m painting Trevor looking very alive and happy. It’s a good painting. Wait til you see.

Trevor Paul Sparhawk

I used to be scared of experimenting. I’d think, What if I throw some blue in there? I’d been meticulously building in one direction and was afraid I’d irreparably spoil what I’d been working on. Now I’m all gung-ho doing, and it’s incredible freedom. Turns out nothing is sacred in that insight and challenge are more important than the illusion of success by repetition.

Painting, any art, has always been like a laboratory to me when I’m doing it best. Which is why I never could bear commercial art for long, beyond earning a living and learning something new, briefly. It’s all style in preference to substance.


[Yours] . . .  is such a solid, valid observation. I’m going through exactly this with Trevor’s portrait, asking him about the things I don’t know, that I want his time on earth to be incredibly full.  He’s maybe older in my portrait of him than an age he ever reached, maybe not.  He had a beautiful little body as a child, and grown up.  I’m working on his neck and collar bone, face, eyes, background.  I was about five hours painting today, and it’s getting very good. I want no tension in his face, a laugh that’s pure joy in the presence of good company, abandoned to a near guffaw.  It presents challenges to paint, several of which I have not dealt with before. And this memorializing, it extends a life I feel. That and all the lefts unsaid. A friend told me once of his best friend who’d committed suicide, Oh God! He would have loved it now! He would have loved this decade!! which seems so true of so many.

I think of that all the time.


Painted on Trevor’s portrait about four hours or so. I’m trying to get the expression just right, the mouth.  I’ve gotten both eyes in very good shape, very pleased. More work on nose and beard. Teary of course, oh Lord. It’s impossible and wrong that he died, John. It’s so wrong.


I spent hours, all day, in the gallery working on Trevor’s portrait, and took some pictures, not sure if I got it right. Or if it’s actually finished.  I’ve become involved in the side and backgrounds, lots of flowers and vines, I am always so desperately trying to give the child bouquets.


Well, it has not been an easy go but I’m at the finish, in the vicinity. I want him immortal, John.  Then back fulsome to your portrait.  I never fail to learn so much with any painting but more especially portraits, and I will be adding that to yours.


Well, despite poverty at every turn I am buoyed by the fine work on the painting of my only child and that I will make him immortal which he was destined for and this close of reaching on his own. My little boy.


I suppose by divine purpose the portrait of Trevor will be completed tomorrow, his birthday. I spent many hours today, and had gotten the left eye as good as the right, and the rest has fallen into place and there’s not much left to go.

It has been spurts of conversation and despair and hope.

Part 3 of 4 to be posted consecutively

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at]


(II) A Mother’s Loss: GHOSTS

I couldn’t stop watching him. I think Trevor does send these children and young men to me.


I saw a young boy about ten with his dad in Safeway checking out right behind me, and in a flash got all choked up. I smiled at the boy and said it was a pleasure to see him there, and I wish you well, and a very good, fulfilling life. And smiled at his dad and said, Which I know you will have.

John, he just beamed. A sprout of a kid, nice dad who was tall and you could see the boy beginning to catch up with him in that elongated stretch kids do in growth spurts where they thin out and loom upward and you can’t keep up with clothes and sneakers or enough food. They were wonderful together, easy, comfortable. I started to cry and turned away and stopped, and a minute or two later said something lighter about the food, his basket and mine, and said goodbye. I didn’t have to say what moved me, seeing a youngster okay, well, alive. His dad knew. The country knows.


I was in Safeway this morning (jelly donut) and in line behind a young woman with her son, five. Named Malachi. Very shy. I was talking to him trying to encourage him to respond. Reminded me of Trevor so much, little shy blond child. His mother said they’d just gone through lessons about not talking to strangers, I said I was sorry he was growing up in a world like that, his mom said, It’s okay, you can talk to him, but to no avail.

I couldn’t stop watching him. I think Trevor does send these children and young men to me. Then I started to cry, tears just rolling down my face. I said to her quietly I’d lost my own child, I wanted to explain myself so she wouldn’t be alarmed but I hesitate because hearing it is alarming to any mother. The Safeway guy and bagger were so clearly moved after she’d gone, I mean I’m standing there with tears rolling down me and saying, I’m sorry, You never know when it’s going to hit, you think you’re okay then something happens and boom.


A couple of hours ago I went up to the gallery and passed a car next to Bob’s saddlery that wasn’t familiar. Young kid in the front seat passed out over the steering wheel. Frankly I thought he was dead. I shook his shoulder, he suddenly popped up, incoherent, I asked if he had overdosed on something, did he need an ambulance (I’m embarrassingly dumb), he didn’t know where he was or where he lived. He staggered out and peed over my garden then got back in his car and passed out again.  Well everybody’s gone, so I drove down the block to the ranch guards, they knew him, he comes to visit his grandfather and robs him. I asked them to call the police. No sign of law after 15 minutes so I drove to the gas station and called from there, help was on the way.  By the time I was back an ambulance (not needed) was pulling out and three sheriff’s cars and the kid up and doing perp walk back-cuffed and they know him real good. Out of jail two weeks. The sheriff said the whole family are into drugs and alcohol, the father’s a doctor, they live at Carmel Valley Ranch which is VERY pricey millionaire homes, the father keeps kicking him out, he gets arrested and bailed. 

It was upsetting. I finally cried. I figured I should have taken the keys, it would have been a nightmare with him on the road, he was near comatose. Why didn’t I bring him home and feed him coffee and eggs and give him a place to sleep it off. All I could feel was angry he was being so stupid (and stupid a long time) and kept thinking of him driving away. I did not feel protective or caring or motherly at all. But he was just a kid. I’d have felt more for a stray or hungry or sick dog.

I don’t understand myself.

When Trevor died it was five in the morning and he’d been at a friend’s house partying and was driving the friend’s car and wanted to get back home to clean up for an interview later that morning for a THIRD job he wanted and fell asleep at the wheel.  Maybe that’s the anger, or the immediate reaction Don’t Let Him Drive! and why didn’t Trevor’s friends do that. Or did they? Maybe he took the car without asking and everyone else was asleep. And I don’t know and never will.

Life is so damn interesting.

After getting myself traumatized with memories last night I find the morning has produced a sense of liberation after all.  I initially just reacted as another person, a stranger to that boy drugged up in his car. Later I transposed my son which flooded me with…way too much of everything.

This morning I feel a kind of abandonment of these years of weighty responsibility for EVERYTHING that ever happened to Trevor. I think I first saw the boy as a separate human who was making his own life and mistakes.

I’ll tell you this, John. There is never a loss from engagement. It is always a benefit even if on unseen levels. Eventually comes the new dawn.

Thank you for being there to talk to. The extent of trust and friendship between us is just enormous, I hoped shared, and means so much to me.


Speaking of children, Trevor unexpectedly came to visit just after I’d woken up a few days ago.  I probably had been dreaming of him.  We planned a breakfast, first of pancakes and then crepes.  He checked to see if we had all we needed and brought it out on the kitchen counter.  He set the table.  We were both so excited.  He was about four.  Then shortly after we planned a trip to Big Sur, the Andrew Molera park and walking along Big Sur River to the ocean.  We had to pick out clothes and stuff to put in the car.  He was about ten then.  I said if we could find an empty parking lot or back road, he could practice driving again.  He was very pleased.  A few hours had passed and he was 13.

I’ve stopped thinking it insanity.  If anything, it’s calming for me.  I get to say and do much unsaid and undone.  Or not done.  The tragedy is that the undoing can’t happen.  I barely remember ever cooking for us.  So I’m changing that. I rather like it.  I suspect it’s also part of the children’s books writing, talking to my child.


I go to Safeway for Thomas Jefferson’s cat food. I’m in line, long stupid line, and a woman comes up behind me and calls my name.

It’s a Cachagua friend I haven’t seen in three or four years. I’m very fond of her. She’s tiny, dark, Indonesian. Her husband’s a big Irish redhead. They built a spectacular winery out there, way out past Carmel Valley, gorgeous land, successful. Four years ago her son, 18, died in a car crash on Carmel Valley Road. He drove into a tree and died at once. She and I have helped each other when we talk. I like her so much, very solid, very bright.

As we’re moving through the slow line I’m telling her about the experience with the painting. With Trevor.

Maybe they’re up there, playing together. Your son and mine.

She’s a Buddhist. Amazing woman.

Part 2 of 4 to be posted consecutively

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at]

(I) A Mother’s Loss: TREVOR

It was three months before anyone found me to tell me he’d died.

Trevor died a month to the day before turning 24.  And he was born February 27th, 1972, a year after your child.

I so keenly remember the stunning difference between pregnancy and a full human outside the womb in my arms who needed so much. And going through that over and over, like when Trevor started to walk, oi! Babysitters. School. The changes that brings. And all the hurry and grow-up does produce a sweet dreamy longing for the hard and constant work with infancy to return.

Yes indeed there’s a lot to juggle with a new baby to take care of, all of it unexpected. Small wonder some families have ten and fifteen children just to get to the point where they figure out what to do!  The baby experience does go very quickly as you see with Tzuri. It’s as if each day she’s an entirely different person.

I’d be so proud at his end of the day sleep, the sense of accomplishment of tasks done, washes done, house cleaned, everybody fed, the quiet that settles over, the contented kingdom. Brief and blissful. And not every day.

We weren’t close at all at the end of his short life, you just think you’ve got so much time. He’d been living independently on Long Island for five or six years. I was not big on motherhood and not good at it. I didn’t know his friends. It was three months before anyone found me to tell me he’d died, I didn’t know until March, I’d left Brooklyn and headed to Virginia, there three years already. Funny you said about setting him free and I felt that too though can’t explain why. Why, what is that?

In the back of my mind I’ve wondered too if a girlfriend, pals would find him with the portrait I’ve posted.  So funny you mentioned that, very intuitive. I’ve googled his name over and over through the years and nothing comes up which always saddened me, almost outraged.

You know, he was so enterprising, pure entrepreneur. He idolized Ted Danson in Cheers. He took a bartender’s course, then started putting up flyers to teach bartending and had students. He had a job on the Staten Island Ferry tending bar! I think that’s incredible, too wonderful. And he was good with computers, he had a really good mind. But computers were so much in their infancy then, the mid- and late-nineties.

When Trevor died it was five in the morning and he’d been at a friend’s house partying and was driving the friend’s car and wanted to get back home to clean up for an interview later that morning for a THIRD job he wanted, and fell asleep at the wheel.  Don’t Let Him Drive! Why didn’t Trevor’s friends do that? Or did they? Maybe he took the car without asking and everyone else was asleep. And believe me my brain is chugging on that one.  I still don’t know, may never know, if he was helped or comforted or alone.

Valentine’s Day is always the 14th of February. (Trevor died on January 27th, and was born February 27th, 23 years apart.  1972. 1996.) What a wicked hard couple of months for me at the new year’s start, though it’s always different each year and sometimes the days come and go without my notice. 

I’m doing okay this year, right now, but January was hard.  I wish I understood all the parts of such things, the kind of reaction I have and why.  I get a kind of brain short circuit, when everything goes haywire.

Well, there it is. Back to normal or whatever I am.

Part 1 of 4 to be posted consecutively

[NOTE: A Google search yields no mention of Trevor Paul Sparhawk, nor can I find any record of his traffic fatality in NYC archives – although I may need to dig a bit deeper. If anyone reading this knew or knows of or has any information about Trevor, his life and/or death, PLEASE email me at]

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


39 BIRDS OF PARADISE, New Guinea, Cornell U.

The Birds of Paradise, New Guinea Rain Forests

Nice to report something genuinely spectacular a university is backing. (Link just below, lots to see, and you can download the bird songs!) In my search for the care and feeding of the plant, Bird of Paradise, I accidentally uncovered a thrilling quest by Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman who explore creatures which are so uniquely formed, their behavior so startling, it challenges the imagination.

Click on the link below, then hit ‘INTRODUCTION’ on the top of their webpage, and watch the short video. There is a lot more, too. And all this is a special feast for photographers. What equipment! If you’ve got a cat or dog in the house, watch them when the bird calls sound…..


 Cornell Lab scientist Ed Scholes and National Geographic photographer Tim Laman. 8 years and 18 expeditions to New Guinea, Australia, and nearby islands.


Oil on Canvas
12 ” X 12

You can’t see them coming but a peculiar swell will lift and rocket a wave far inland and over the rocks that have been gently washed a moment before. The skies must add to it, the tilt of the earth, the unanticipated collaboration of elements, gone as fast as it came, then back to calm, back to as it was.

The Rogue Wave
The air is its ally. It is a moment quick as a gasp found out of nowhere and lost into memory.

Picasso as Popeye (no foolin)

This is Picasso as Popeye. We all need a view of a more innocent time even if this mock Popeye is not a favorite of mine. In fact, I love this picture so much I think it’s the first time in my life I have actually even liked Picasso a little.


It comes to us all courtesy a site called   Retronaut.   He’s got every decade covered in fabulous black and white photographs, signs, posters.   I’ve only begun my delve, I recommend spending some time there, it’s terrific fun.

Retronaut’s trademarked  motto  is:                                                       The past is a foreign country. This is your passport.

Oh for the days of Popeye The nicotine-stained Sailor Man, beanpoled Olive Oyl devoid of implanted anything, nasty bully Blutto, needy Whimpy, mischevious Sweet Pea. A time when defense against the world was a good right hook, virtue and love on your side,  and a 16 oz. can of spinach.

I fights to the finich

cause I eats my spinach

I’m Popeye the Sailor–man. 

Toot toot.



It’s not quite accurate to say The Stones are back in the news as they’ve never left sight of us or us of them. But they’re off and rolling big time. The once and always rock and rollers. Years ago in l972 I worked on the mammoth New York Times Square billboard. A city block long marquee, since torn down. It was my first billboard gig, I did the MADE IN THE SHADE cover that was the first of a series to be added to the turbo eagle’s talons. Welcome back, boys.


For four years in the 1970’s I was the world’s only female scaffold-climbing/pulling billboard painter. Oh what a life I (still) lead!

Billboard Painter, 25 Stories Above 42nd Street

Most of the jobs were hanging 10 to 25 stories up, swinging in the breeze above Times Square, New York City’s 42nd Street mecca. We did cigarettes and booze and Broadway openings. John Belushi’s “1944” , The Wiz with young Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones 1973 World Tour. A bottle of Dewars sinking into the Manhattan skyline sunset. You had to work fast, we mixed all our colors on the scaffold, pots of pigment, Japan drier, linseed oil and benzine. Eyes were painted with four inch brushes. The standard billboards were 30 X 60 feet. Big. Sweet.

Rolling Stones 1973 World Tour
Made In The Shade (David Bowie in Drag)

Sparhawk painted the album cover, about 20 – 4X8 sheets of masonite. Huge. The remarkable Paul Chan painted the turbo eagle.

I worked for ArtKraft-Strauss and Villepigue. The companies never wanted women in the business but I was good at faces and they hired me. I’d get fired every 30 days, then brought back in, kept me ineligible for the union. The last job was 25 stories up. The street temp was 18 degrees and it was a windy November and I decided they weren’t paying me enough for all that and quit. During those years, I moonlighted weekends tending bar in a stinky little artist and biker haunt called The Barnabus Rex on old West Broadway before it turned into SoHo. While all the patrons were filling out grant forms for Guggenheims I was spending 40 hours a week with a brush in my hand mastering paint and having a ball. I was snobbed for selling out, to Advertising! Lucky me.

She Works Hard For Her Money

She Works Hard For Her Money oil on canvas, c.12 X 16 inches

Not an easy job but with certain freedoms, certain meals, and certain cash at the end of the shift.

The place is local, badly lit (they always are), and will become her high wire act of balance and negotiation between front door, kitchen, multiple personalities, tables in wrong places, uneven floors, empty salt and peppers, no napkin on table two, and a draft from somewhere that never quits.



“This is a very personal matter, not a matter of intelligence,” the senior U.S. intelligence official said. (credit Horowitz & Miller, Washington Post, 10/10/12)

Hoo boy they got that one right. No intelligence required.

Because we’ve gone through the looking glass, pal. One hot fireball of corruption after another has been nonstop hurtling through the sky at the American population for years. None of your breaking news is news.

We all know what we’re seeing without the usual falsified investigations, made-up timelines, pretend guilty parties, pretend innocent politicians, who picked the fall guy or why ~ all of which are no doubt on their way ad nauseum. Don’t get your panties in a bunch, Congress. Nobody cares.

No one in any governing body in this country is ever going to hold anyone of their kind accountable for anything, evermore. The American population may be properly exhausted by lies, but see all politicians for what they have become. We know what you’re doing to us.

One of the officials said Justice Department officials were unclear on what steps to take after they concluded that there would be no charges against the CIA director (Petraeus) or Broadwell and that there had been no breach of national security. “What was our responsibility?”   said one of the officials. “We were in an area where we’d never been before.” (credit Horowitz & Miller, Washington Post, 10/10/12)

Of course he doesn’t have a clue. National judgement based on constitutional reference or plain logic no longer exists. Our systems of highest security are fallen to the sea. The population is the first to figure it out and the last to be officially notified. Still, it’s a rare conclusion. I mean, who’s he talking to? A country of amnesiacs?

We made the bed we lie in from histrionic celebration of power/money-mad politicians who profit from corrupting their sacred trust instead of being put in jail. Who unequivocally malign or murder their inconvenient mistresses and never stand trial. Who fail their duty to disclose flaws of candidates giving them authority great and small over the governance of 350 million people…yet still hold office. Morality is now speculative. Truth, now subjective.  2 + 2 now = whatever you like.

Mitt Romney was the wrong opponent in a 2 party system because he surrendered with only 10 percent of the vote counted. If he’s not a fighter, he’s no good to anyone. I think we’re going to see state-wide secession big time, and a population that picks where to live for the political climate not the purple mountain majesties or shining seas. Then we’ll either have a civil war or avoid one.

As for the press, your capital has been spent. WE DON’T NEED YOU. WE DON’T HEED YOU. WE DON’T READ YOU. Where’s Bob Dylan when he could be doing some good again. Oh right, he’s just another old white guy.

(Note: Barbara Sparhawk is a former speechwriter for Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro; news writer, producer, & researcher for New York’s WCBS, WABC, FOX TV, and ABC and WOR Radio, and reporter for The NY Post. She currently has an art gallery on California’s central coast where she happily produces and sells her own paintings and drawings.)

One more, Flowers and Moth Caught by the Wind



I did this awhile back, and it’s been one of my favorites. It’s got a nice weight of paint on it and the colors are good, and there’s a fine activity to it. If I do say so myself.

The moth is in the lower right hand corner, not too visible and definitely not in distress.  This sold, last week in the gallery.

I overheard two musicians talking about the effect of wild climate on the landscape. Of course plants love the wind, said one. Otherwise there wouldn’t be poetry.

New October Paintings, Garden Starts to Come Inside

These are two new canvases just finished (still wet!). I’ll be listing prices for my paintings. Everything posted is in my Hawks Perch Gallery in Carmel Valley, still available, prices include shipping and handling, and will be mailed out to buyers within a day of receiving payment. The only way I have to do this now is if it’s picked up, or by sending a personal check (address below) until I figure out how to add a PayPal Button. I have a PayPal account, not sure how it’s accessed for sales.

Tulips at Window at Nightfall  12″ X 12″ oil on canvas $225.00 (USD~ price includes shipping, tax, handling)

Brilliant red/orange tulips with dark leaves in a green/blue vase, stand against a yellow wall. The room begins to glow with night’s interior warm light and the day pales and darkens at nightfall. The partly opened window stirs the thin white curtain.

The Single Bloom  12″ X 12″  oil on canvas              $225.00 (USD~ price includes shipping, tax, handling)

A solitary luscious bloom on a thick green stem rises in some mysterious sea-lapped land. Mountains far far away in a dark blue sky and mist haunt the slim horizon. And just beyond the massive blossom, a stand of flowering yellow green reeds.

Thank you for looking. You’ll definitely have something unique, my paintings are original, one of a kind, the colors are fabulously delish and look even more beautiful in the hand!

Barbara Sparhawk
The Hawks Perch

at The Farm Center

9698 A Carmel Valley Road,  Carmel, CA 93923

New Paintings, September 2012

Water Lilies Disturbed by My Rowboat
oil on canvas

I was a young child and we were somewhere, I have the vaguest memory it was in Missouri, maybe a botanical garden, and invite lay at the shore, a rowboat and endless beauty curving through reeds in front of the invitee.
I was at first frightened for this fragile brilliant color that sank below the surface at every paddle’s reach and wake. But there it came, returning to its cloistered place behind us, held by an invisible complexity of roots and trails and communicating life.
The ship was low and flat and broad and green. The water dark, so dark, and sentries of high stalks, reeds bound the bank in narrow stillness inviting us in and closing up where we’d been in black green shadow.
A strong experience of youth, a hot dank, a steam of perfume, sensual in every way, and the tremble of it continues through these misty decades.


The Levitating Bather, oil on canvas

The bather has found a nestled spot near home, and has the good sense to bring a chair to view the scene and when tiring of that, the ability to fly above or into the paradise. As do we all, actually.

There Is No Indifference Here

There Is No Indifference Here

oil on linen, 22 X 28

Awhile back, five months or so, a good friend discovered a skin cancer on her that was subsequently dealt with and healed. In the interim, I was afraid of losing her in my life. We’d known each other for about ten years through ups and downs, and as I said, she was my friend.

She’d long wanted me to paint a portrait of her but I hadn’t yet. Within a day of hearing the health threat, I started painting. It was a combo of doing something for someone I cared about, and worry of never seeing her again. It’s where I turn, to painting.

I wrote to her that the portrait was in progress, she was pleased, couldn’t wait to see it. I got updates on her progress and the good news of safe passage.

Around May, she arrived unexpectedly (lives out of state now) with her dopey husband, who tore through my gallery and studio like Grant through Richmond. The husband led the deprecations of my work in general, and most specifically the unfinished portrait of his wife, and then she joined in with him, both ignoring my effort, time, expense, and sure not the caring demonstrated.

I’m not used to that. People WANT me to paint them. My work is generally admired, people are surprised by their emotional connections, and tend to like what I do. And I’m sure as hell not used to it with friends. By the time the painful visit ended, I was gifted with homemade preserves, warned to be careful with the costly jars and make sure I gave them back.

Within five minutes of their departure I had tossed the frigging preserves in the dumpster, stormed back to my studio, wiped off the portrait and started to cover it with what’s turned into a rather nice floral.

And all the while thinking, what the hell just happened to me, what was that, what the hell happened with THEM.

And then, of course, I saw it for all it was. Indifference.

Likely it’s my least favorite human commerce. It’s a powerful weapon and most cruel, and I don’t put up with it much or often. I’ve kicked people out of my gallery if they display it and make strong efforts to defend against it, directed at me or at the work I do. It’s unkind. It’s their loss.

About a week later I started the painting above, THERE IS NO INDIFFERENCE HERE, in reaction. I’d thought about my own life, and the pleasures of simple things, the table laden with food I love, and a lovely napping cat, ocean breezes and starry nights and blooming plants, sand covered and sunburnt from my ocean. I can watch a blade of grass for hours on end. The way the sun and shadow change it, the wind talk, its smells and its relationships to what’s around it. I don’t need conventional complexities to be happy or society’s standards of abundance to be happy, and I know I’m not alone.

So I painted that. Simple pleasures, taking it all in, and no indifference toward the feast of life. Oh! What a life I lead.


Bulldog Frankie Sinatra, Ol’ Brown Eyes

Frankie Sinatra, Ol’ Brown Eyes

Oil on Linen, 12  X 12

Fine little fellow with traditional ferocious posture but not much to back it up. All sweetness and light, and named Frankie Sinatra.

I was going to put his name on a banner somewhere on the painting but decided instead to put some sheet music with Ol’ Blue Eye’s hits, an ol’ piano, and ol’ fedora on it. And, I can’t help it, the moon.

South Coast The Wild Coast Is Lonely

The south coast of California is empty/full, a hurricane on its calmest day. Once seen it is become mine. This one construction of flesh and bone and H2O particulate facing the massive power (of the very same flesh and bone and H2O) knows…it is who I am.

Ray Bradbury, RIP

Ray Bradbury: The cover of Planet Stories

(above) Cover of Planet Stories, spring, 1949 edition Photograph: Transcendental Graphics/Getty Images

Dandelion Wine, cover by Tom Canty

Ray Bradbury: A studio portrait of Bradbury taken in the 1940s has got one of the most beautiful obituaries in tribute to a writer that may ever exist, written to American Science Fiction genius Ray Bradbury who has just passed away, at 91, author of  Dandelion Wine; The Martian Chronicles; The Illustrated Man; Fahrenheit 451;screenplay and script writer.

The author is Kip Russell, (worth looking up just for that adventure) and his stunning words say it all.

Except for leaving out that I loved him too, and learned from Ray Bradbury, the finest proponent of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE, a national treasure for America. I’m making sure to copy it here especially for Billy Boy, and for all the grownups of today whose childhood imaginations launched them into the thrill of exquisite tomorrow.

This, from Kip Russell…….

“Somewhere in America, a boy tap-dances on a tuned segment of discarded wooden sidewalk, calling his friends to run over the hills by moonlight…

Out on the Veldt, the animals pause for a moment, as though something unseen had passed through their midst…

Somewhere on Mars, a new silver fire is burning to welcome him…

By the river, a Book stops it’s recitation for the day, to remember a fine man who wrote such fine, fine things.

Thanks be, for Ray Bradbury, who taught me that there could be poetry in prose.”

The Not Hot Plate

Okay, I’ve put this off long enough. I meant to send out an immediate warning months ago, alert my fellow man to disaster but I couldn’t bring myself to think about the damn thing past the kitchen counter. I can’t hold back any longer, it’s past bearing quietly in secret and it’s not going away.

IF you must use one, briefly, unhappily, out of necessity, desperation, for the garage workshop, for the kid away at college, or for the RV as a cooking substitute for an actual stove, DON’T BUY A HOTPLATE that wasn’t built before, oh maybe 1970. And definitely DON’T BUY ONE MADE BY BLACK AND DECKER!

In the olden days you’d see that brand on something and your breath would draw in and your eyes would grow wide with the assurance in your hand of something quality, something thrilling, something that was the high mark of the industry, it was American perfection, a beauty thing.

Black and Decker is now made in China and frankly, I’m guessing made by industrious but isolated Chinese in some remote farming village where they never heard of electricity but a factory cropped up on the side of a hill and not a single person in town knows what the hell they’re used for or why Americans want them. The eager workers just show up every day at five a.m under the cruel and watchful eye of whip wielding bosses and put the parts together and get them into boxes before committing suicide from overwork exploiting, and a llama drawn cart picks up the Black and Decker boxed hotplates at sunset and trots them into Beijing to be shipped to the idiots in the west.

I come to this fanciful conclusion after using the rotten thing for a couple of months. Here are its faults. There’s no on and off click or setting. Off is just the furthest part of the dial (must have been a contest making it decrease to left, increase to right). The red (I Am Plugged Into An Electrical Socket) light on the front stays on permanently.

And, here is the greatest infraction, after it has been on for a set number of minutes (I haven’t stopped screaming at it long enough to time it) IT SHUTS ITSELF OFF SO THE USER WON’T BE SO STUPID AS TO BURN WHATEVER THE USER PLACED IN A POT ON TOP OF THE DAMN THING IF NOT UNDER THE CONTROL OF UNSEEN FORCES IN A FACTORY FAR FAR AWAY.

Try bringing anything to a boil. Okay, if you start with hot water you can get a kettle to whistle, but forget potatoes, spaghetti, hooh hah try rice! You have to fool the machine, turn it to sort of off then back to sort of on.

At medium on the dial all the coils get red. On high, maybe one side of two coils. On low, well that’s the place for a burn. And the dial is marked unaccordingly.

There must be a chip in there that’s not just controlling temperature for MY SAFETY but is also collecting information about how often it’s used, and what is it used for, and is the user eating veggies or cooking fudge, and should the Twinkie Police send the SWAT Team to confiscate the appliance and arrest the user for attempting to get diabetes (thereby destroying the economy) by eating the wrong food and not having a compost heap. And TRYING TO CONTRIBUTE TO GLOBAL WARMING! And hurt little children within a fifty mile radius. And God knows what it’s radiating at nearby exotic snails and owls.

Sigh. The red light that never goes off may, come to think of it, actually be a hidden camera recording my every move and my regular scowling at the cute little appliance that I have willingly introduced into my private life.

I’ll put a small bit of gaffer tape over the little red light. No, there’s no chance the tape will catch fire. My Not Hot plate will shut down before I do myself harm…or anything actually cooks.



These are the best of times and the worst of times and a fabulous time to be alive on a planet whose fast altering human substance and societal upheaval are leaps ahead of whirling skies, hurricanes, tsunamis and volcanic errupts. It’s the year of inhabitant upheaval and the climate doesn’t have a patch on these tornadic changes going on.

It’s like everything alive stood on its toes and screamed We’ve had enough and We Won’t Take It Any More. A simultaneous outright war between access to better lives and the usual gang of idiot oppressors. Let freedom ring. Have a superb weekend and make good stuff happen.

God bless America and all the soldiers who’ve loved you so for keeping the expanding consciousness of our country going full speed and non stop.

And God bless the blind Chinese dissident for giving us all so much sight.

(Photo above from The Drudge Report, thanks Matt, too terrific.)

Heron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky Pfeiffer Beach

Heron-Otter on Wind, Night Sky Pfeiffer Beach

Oil on Canvas.
Bear with me here.
It was 2 years after I moved to Big Sur and was living there that I had one of those fabulous spiritual recollections of the first impact of that, my first night sky on Pfieffer Beach, the presence literally and imaginatively of everything in and out of sight, the overwhelming sense of plenty. No, of TOO MUCH and thanks to that revival, two years later when I could actually assimilate all that it meant to me, I painted this.
As near as I can tell, the flying oblong thing is part sea otter and part King Heron. The flying poppies are, sort of, self-explanatory, and if not, well you wouldn’t like this.
Starry starry sea otter flying bird flower garden in the sky kind of night.
It’s out there.
Some lovely fellow bought this just before Christmas.
Mwah, world.

The Gallery is Dead Long Live the Gallery

Delighted to report on things remaining the same…and VASTLY improved….along with the fine drama of change.

The new gallery, THE HAWKS PERCH III, is now up and running in beautious Carmel Valley.  Despite petulant volunteering of directions from the old Big Sur locale, I am being re-discovered in the new digs the intrepid and faithful. It’s wonderful here, painting sales are brisk, new students for the pen and ink classes, and a beautiful gallery to show my work and welcome visitors.

I’m off Carmel Valley Road by just a few feet, it’s called Robinson Canyon Road, six miles east from the splendid coastal town of Carmel. Lovely group of small old western wooden buildings painted barn red and trimmed in white. We’re bordered by meadows, Carmel Valley River, beautiful gardens, Buddhist Temple, Episcopalian church (and someone doing lovely call to the faithful chimes on Sundays), and Carmel Valley’s most famous asset, perpetual sunshine.

Come visit, see all the new paintings (dragonflies, hummingbirds, ladybugs, bees, butterflies, oceans, stormy skies) and stop in on Tuesdays 5-6 pm for the pen and ink drawing classes. I look forward to seeing all the old friends, and welcoming the new ones. THE HAWKS PERCH III is ready to rock. And it’s true, the really good stuff never dies.

Sunset and Cypress and Highway One

Last week, headed north driving a friend home, we both suddenly realized that a spectacular was in progress over our ocean. I pulled off the empty highway and we watched the sun sink in one of the

Sunset and Cypress and Highway One

most glorious goodbyes I’d ever seen.

There were close to zero clouds, nothing to catch the brilliant color against wisps and puffs, an empty sky but for that stunning sun. I don’t ever remember seeing that before, no clouds, only the slightest line of fog near the highway. And blazing unobscured sun.

Returning home was equal to it, a night of stars and moon lighting up the ocean, catching white wave tips.

In less than an hour I was at the easel to record the black and green cypress clump just above the beach that framed the orange orb with Highway 1 rocketing in front of it all.

Andy Rooney & My Culottes. RIP, You Sweetheart

Andy Rooney, everybody’s favorite curmudgeon and sardonic wit died yesterday at the impossibly young age of 92. If anybody should live into their mid-hundreds, he was the guy.

The first time I met Andy Rooney was 1980, in the basement of the old CBS Broadcast Center on West 57th. There used to be little candy, cigar, cigarette and newspaper stand on the bottom floor, and the raised up chair where customers sat for the shoe-shine man who worked miracles on leather. The building had once been a dairy including cows. It still had metal ramps, concrete floors…an industrial kind of interior that made a lot of noise. In fact in Murrow’s day, they’d develop their 35mm negatives in the left-behind water troughs. But back to Mr. Rooney. We bumped into each other, literally.

Andy was a perpetual motion whirlwind. A kind of combination of Alice’s White Rabbit, Davy Crockett, and Benjamin Franklin, who knew so much, who knew how to make the complex simple. Looking like a one man band, his arms were overfull, files and folders were caught tight under his elbows, an umbrella dangled from his wrist, suit pockets were jammed with lumpy recording devices, odd wires hanging out. Andy was always loaded for bear and mischief, eyes electric with the joy of life. His camera crews were the same, jockeying for position, trying to hold onto all kinds of equipment and keep track of the boss.

I used to wear a lot of odd stuff, even at CBS where I shared the elevators and halls and lunchroom with Diane Sawyer and Barbara Walters, Captain Kangaroo, Walter Cronkite, Bill Moyers…all groomed to the teeth for on-camera.

That particular day, I was wearing a favorite pair of light gray velour culottes, maybe a black sweater, definitely tights, and my favorite ankle high, high heeled cowboy boots. I was buying a pack of Camels at the little kiosk and Andy comes roaring down the staircase with a crew and the usual hubbub. He stopped smack in front of me, and looked me up and down with only the kind of wonder a guy confronted by his first view of culottes might possess; then with his bright blue all Irish delightfully twinkled eyes: “Say, wait a minute. I like your…pants! Who are you?” And I said, “Well I’m not much here yet, but you’re Andy Rooney and I adore you. The pants are culottes.” “Nice!!”, says Andy, good and loud.

Andy had his famous, much photographed office down there somewhere I think. We’d run into each other and he’d say, “Hey! I’m starting in on (something), know anything about it?” or, Who’s running the (whatever) these days, or how about… an improbable NYC related traffic jam, pot hole, or civic stupidity, He engaged everybody with his curiosity and enthusiasm.

When I started at CBS, the average age was 26 years old and the news division was partial to pretty girls and Harvard boys. They didn’t think much of Andy. He was considered rough around the edges, outspoken, never politically correct, and determined not to be caught up in the finesse that was everybody else’s bread and butter. He’d get scolded and fired and suspended by annoying the big boys. But the ratings dropped without him, and he had more fans around the world than any of them, except maybe Kurault, cut from the same fine cloth.

So I’m reading these dreamy CBS obits by guys who couldn’t hold a patch on Andy Rooney, and most likely wished he’d gone far away sooner, anywhere. They rarely cut him any slack, made him feel like an outsider and outright didn’t like him. But he spoke a lot of truth and did it brilliantly, and the public who tuned him in would get to the end of Andy Rooney’s stories wishing that channel and all the others had more decent people like him. Straight-shooters.

He was a splendid original. Bucking the system all the way and making it work for him. Like Mark Twain, these men get carried on the shoulders of a grateful public who love them for their humanity, and humor, and kindness, and truth. Even righteous anger. And darn it anyway, a willingness to get sidetracked by an odd garment that delighted his fancy. So very Rooney.

Lights are on but nobody’s in the House

I just misread a headline on the Drudge Report. It looked as if, first glance, someone managed to get legislation before congress in a brand new way.

Well it set me thinking. We are living in a particularly peculiar twilight zone of governing bodies in which bills are passed before they’re read because they’re too confusing to read…and it’s bragged about. At the very same time the treasury is declared empty, billions are spent on unauthorized wars, bailouts continue fast and furious, contracts for American goods handed to foreign manufacturers further drain an unemployed nation, and gifts out the wazoo continue for political allies, for Michelle’s shopping sprees, entourage-rich vacations, and french fries. The lights are on but nobody’s in the House.

Then there’s the cyberworld, replete with geniuses who manage the mystical. It’s been decades since Spielberg got Forrest Gump chatting up LBJ and JFK, anything’s possible.

Suppose someone made a virtual politician, let’s call him Congressman F.S. Foggybottom. (The initials are for Free Spender to make him universally adorable). Clearly you don’t have to be in Washington to conduct business and FSF is a conscientious homebody. Let’s locate him in, oh I don’t know, North Dakota. Except for the Coen Brother’s Fargo, I don’t think about North Dakota much, do you? So it’s remote and who knows whether the state’s blue or red. FS Foggybottom will be famous for his non-allegiance and zero party affiliation.

Let’s have FS Foggybottom write some really interesting bills, in the right format of course, and plop them by emails, deliver by page, or fly via carrier pigeon to his colleagues in D.C. and get them voted on and passed. Congressman FSB will start at the gate producing fine dramatic change on behalf of the American people. And as per normal all FS Foggybottom’s laws would be passed without being read first.

The first ones, maybe called NEW LAWS FOR THE NEW AMERICA I’d hope to see constructed would apply to all political office holders, and be this:

1. term limits 6 months;

2. no salary (any income earned by virtue of holding office is converted to cash and dropped by low flying planes over the entire USA, wind currents providing the only favoritism);

3. no office space (turn the House into a museum and put the politicians in Airstreams along Pennsylvania Avenue with PortaPotties), and

4. the only single requirement for elective office is that you ran a company anywhere for four years and didn’t run it into the ground, period, and who cares where you were born.

We could expand from there. And by the way, this is a winning platform for anyone running for any office.

To make it work…..Suppose all you mad scientists out there who are wasting everybody’s time creating really annoying viruses put your fine brains to use on something that will constructively create the government (here there and anywhere) without actually being in it. Just like the present government except powers will be used for good, not evil.

We’re paying dearly for incompetence so it’s time to start a new world order that will actually benefit the hosting body, i.e., the electorate. Let’s work on making ourselves happy since nobody else is up for it. We’ve been miserable long enough.

America the Beautiful, long may she reinvent herself. Hoorah!

©BD Sparhawk, aka Holycowgirl of Big Sur

Steve Jobs & What Genius Inspires

I cannot let the passing of an American who blossomed in my lifetime with such drama and originality go unmentioned here.

I am no part of the computer savvy community, don’t own a thing he made and never knew the man personally but I loved everything about him. Steve Jobs was the essence of American dreamer and doer, expanding like some wondrous and ever-changing bright new planet in our solar system. He made his own rules and made it work. Not just for him but the thousands he brought along for the ride from whom he also demanded the best, because he knew they had it in them. Nice work, Mr Jobs. Thank you for being here, for setting such high standards. That this man worked up until his last breath is not a vision of desperation. It is the personification of the unquenchable thrill of hard work on something he loved with all his being. I don’t see how he could do otherwise.

When I first saw DaVinci’s work I was a youngster intrigued by art. I still remember the hit, the gasping jolt his ink drawings produced in my very soul. And then I looked and looked and looked some more, and the thrill never has ended. At some point, still a child, I made words for myself out of the feeling I got from Leonardo Da Vinci, along these lines: Here is what a human being can do. This is the kind of work humans are capable of. I can reach this, too. I had a similar reaction to Rembrandt, whose stunning ability to portray life with deep emotion made me love him. What stands our heroes apart is that they are doing the most, the best they have got it in them to do. Steve Jobs is in that class.

It is nothing unattainable. It demands a willingness to risk everything, to stand by your own vision, to deny compromise. And be ready to die for any of it.

From what I’ve read, Steve Jobs was not devoted to his illness, but did what he had to so he could keep going. It was his work that drove him, the illness must have been incredibly annoying.

I believe that we have, among the really big choices, the opportunity to spend ourselves literally on what we love despite any hardship. And that is the best. Otherwise, reach for the nauseating countless modern examples of indulgences that just leave you wondering what those people are thinking with a lust for showy lives based on minor talent.

For most of his 56 years Steve Jobs made possible his doing what he loved to do. Michael Jackson did that for his adulthood. Countless others. Not all the world. The limitations produced by choosing to sacrifice what boils inside the human spirit are enormous. To exchange that for ease, for the illusion of job protection, for physical comfort, is choosing death.

The greatest legacy from the greatest among us is not that they lined up breadcrumbs through the forest to guide us to safety. There is no formula to follow. These are the ones who strode into the dark unknown, hearts on fire with the incredible impossibility of all they imagined; that they won and lost, that they hurt and laughed and loved. And most of all that they met the challenge of living a life fully. The legacy of genius well spent is simply this:  we have it in us, one and all, to do exactly the same if we but dare. Do it today. Do the impossible.

Big Sur Magic


this one extraordinary bit of land, this Big Sur, this sudden, rough mix of elements and hold-in-the-hand substance.

I see it with my eyes, I see it in the faces and eyes and bodies of strangers who stand to experience the shock, the embrace, the startling intake, the welcoming thirst to want more to never leave.

Do locals tire of it? Is a complacency reached, a saturation when all events turn non-eventful. No.

It is the redwood windsong that I hear, my neighbor’s halloo: Have you seen the flower on the river bank? Look, look at those clouds! The ocean was unbelievable this morning…at dawn. Come this way, stand here, look at the mist over Apple Pie Ridge, can you believe…it’s violet! 

There is no complacency, not in the eyes nor in the souls of all who come to this most west of western ground. It is perhaps the most welcome loss of innocence. It is perhaps the unmet friend.

Johnny Depp & Hunter S Thompson in Big Sur

Johnny Depp in Big Sur, buying paintings at the Hawks Perch Gallery. Anything’s possible as Lord Whimsy said.  And Depp is making The Rum Diaries, a Hunter S. Thompson book becomes film. And Thompson was a wild and violent eccentric in these parts. Big Sur remembers him with fear and loathing. 

This is an obvious progression of events. The movie’s done, Depp wasn’t around picking up local flavor except it’s all about Puerto Rico but what the hell. Maybe in pirate gear but we’d have noticed. Maybe. And of course Hunter S. Thompson isn’t around either. A lot of people are not saddened by that. I ran into a fairly young guy who caretook the writer’s property here and gardened for him. His first dramatic encounter with a drunk to the tits Thompson bearing and aiming a loaded shotgun, and insisting the intruder he’d hired and given housing explain himself. The kid quit. Prudent move. Thompson liked killing things.

Okay, back to Depp in my gallery (The Hawk’s Perch right off Highway One), a little bit of pradisical geography that’s drawn the likes of Steve McQueen (just finishing his portrait, come have a look) and Orson Welles (next in line) in the past so why not. I’d tell him I hadn’t seen every movie,  but I loved the Scissorhands one and the Don Juan with Marlon Brando, the Chocolate thing disappointed because it was such a blatant bad steal of Babette’s Feast. And Ed Woods is probably my favorite movie ever. Generally, I like how strange Depp is. Wouldn’t he like to commission me to paint his portrait. I’m good at reaching character in my painting, great with eyes. With actors it’s not easy to find that, the appeal of the stage and screen being the chameleon effect, so it’d take some long hard looking to find the brilliant machinery behind the flesh. But wouldn’t it be fine cool fun. Then too, art for art’s sake is okay, but life is more than sunshine, romance, Jack Daniels, and pigment. I’d want to get paid.

Surprise visit. Depp and his posse buy up every fabulous painting I’ve ever done that hangs (minus the sold ones) on my gallery walls. I spring for coffee. Dinner of salmon fish and chips at the Maiden Pub next door and their best Arrogant Bastard Ale. Or maybe cook them up some terrific Chateau Briand with Portobello mushrooms, garlic & fried onions. Wild rice. Mashed yams with coconut milk. Some green stuff. Pernod. Nice glass of port, Cointreau, Key Lime for a taste of the Caribbean, that sort of thing. Ready when you are, Depp and Thompson’s ghost. Welcome home. Turn a little more this way, that’s good, light’s good like that. Stop posing and sit still a sec. Expressionist painter paints Expressionist Actor.

The David Mammet Situation


I went to Goddard College in Vermont many years ago. Turns out David Mammet, movie director, and that splendid William Macy, actor, went there too not so many years apart.

I wrote a terrifically good novel called NOISE. The synopsis and part of Chapter 3 are here. I thought wow, if I can get David Mammet to read this, us sharing an alma mater and all, I bet he’d be dying to make it into one fabulous movie and that would change all our lives. I’d get paid a lot for the screen rights, do thousands of paintings for the movie and be hobnobbing with a slew of interesting people in no time at all.

I called the Director/Producers Guild in LA. I’m a member. I got Mammet’s agency. I called the agency. I got Mammet’s agent’s name, phone and email for the assistant to Mammet’s agent.. I emailed one ace damn fine hellova superbo letter to  Mammet’s assistant to Mammet’s agent via the assistant to the assistant who worked for Mammet’s talent agency.

Sweet kid, she said she’d be happy to forward my email to the assistant to Mammet’s agent. What a fabulous ten minutes that all was. I thought this is really incredible. The internet age. I don’t have to make up special stationery and copies and write out addresses and type up inquiries and go to the post office, I’m going to be talking to ol’ David Mammet in a couple of minutes here and he’ll fly up to Big Sur and take a meeting with his old Goddard College writing brilliantly cohort.

It was actually faster than that. Almost as soon as I pressed send on an email thanking the agency assistant for assisting in getting my email to the assistant to the assistant to David Mammet I got an email back!

It said, David is tied up with too many projects now to consider anything new. Good luck elsewhere, David Mammet’s Assistant.

Didn’t anybody notice we both went to the same obscure little peculiar school and shared all kinds of Brooklyn and writing serendipities? I guess not. I thought that the assistant to the assistant likely went to his own little peculiar school where the student body was trained for the very moment they would be sending emails to nettlesome writers with just that kind of phrasing, The big guy has too many projects right now….

When I wrote the book ten years ago I had Kevin Bacon in mind for the lead, I almost wrote it for him and Kyra Sedgewick. I spent a year trying to reach him and gave up. I’ll write about that episode some day, too. NOISE would have changed his life and been the best movie he’d ever done. But there it is. Sometimes there are just too many lions at the gate. Maybe I’ll try William Macy next. Goddard isn’t much in the old boy/girl network department.