A Celebration of Michael Kahn's Life and Art

“I pulled into Nazareth…” I got into Prescott (Arizona) around six last night. It was March 30, the day my cousin Michael Kahn was born 72 years ago, and I was coming from a celebration of Mike’s life and art at his creekside sculptural compound of buildings near Cottonwood, Arizona. Mike left this world on December 22, 2007 (the winter solstice), a victim of Pick’s Disease, a degenerative brain disease similar to Alzheimer’s. His wife Leda organized an outdoor gathering, and about 125 friends of Mike’s and Leda’s showed up to talk about and remember the life of this gentle man who touched many people’s lives with his art and presence.

Mike several years ago

There were 10 pages of Mike’s buildings in my book Home Work: Hand-made Shelter. The NY Times did a large article on Mike’s buildings (called “Eliphante,”) on January 31st, titled A Handmade Home

I’ve been socked in for months now, finishing my book on builders of the Pacific Coast, so it’s been great to get out on the road again. 80 degrees in Phoenix, all riiight! after a cold Northern Calif. winter, felt good, like Baja, and then rolling northward in a rented Nissan Sentra, through saguaro-studded desert, then into the higher elevations north on I-17, with an elegance in the landscape, different shades of red earth, hillsides of blooming yellow flowers, and then a cut by the side of the road that was a delicate light purple. I did a double-take.

As I got close to Mike’s, a Credence song came on KCLD, the “Good old rock & roll” station in Flagstaff. Things were feeling good. I turned up the volume. The party the next day was great. Good vibes, good people, good food. In between talking to a bunch of Mike’s friends and family, I shot pictures, and the images describe his work better than words. Here are just a few of many.

Inside “Eliphante”

Door to “Pipe Dreams,” the building containing Mike’s latest paintings

When I get out on the road, I’m overwhelmed with people and places and things I run across. I can only get a fraction of them on to my blog. I figure I need two clones to do everything I want to do. More and more I’ve come to employ randomness in my travels. Finding places to stay by instinct, whatever is available at the end of the day wherever I am, and asking locals where to eat or hear music. On this trip I allowed an extra couple of days to mosey around, so I left Eliphante around 4 in the bright desert sun and headed for Prescott. I ended up checking into a 106-year old 79-room hotel in downtown Prescott, with a morning sun-facing 3rd story room looking down on a park, with wi-fi, HBO, and free full breakfast in its bistro. It wasn’t until an hour after I arrived that I realized I’d checked in to the Hotel St. Michael. On Mike’s birthday. Cosmic. I should add that Mike and I were close when growing up. I was a year older, and both he and I (and our dads, who were brothers) all looked alike. One guy at the gathering said he looked at me across the yard and burst into tears, I looked so much like Mike.

It’s a sunny morning in Prescott, which turns out to be a great town. Good food abounds, lots of music, there are “fixer-upper” dumps for under $200K, air is clear, sun bright, it’s a relief to get out of money-choked California.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

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