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Gimme Shelter Newsletter – Shelter’s 50th Anniversary – Jan. 2020

This is a newsletter I send out maybe once a month. If you’d like to be on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.

This is so un–de rigueur in these days of concise communication, but here I am with a long, rambling newsletter to start off the new year.

Shelter is 50 Years Old!

In 1970, we printed 5,000 copies of Domebook One and began our publishing career. We’re trying to figure out if we should have some sort of event celebrating the occasion this year. We’re still rolling!

The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

I picked up 12 copies of the just-bound book in San Francisco recently. The thrill is NOT gone! After a year of putting it together, page by page, not being sure how the whole would look, came the moment of truth — it, ahem, looks really good. The size, the colors, the soft cover. It seems friendly. From us to you, here’s how human hands have created shelter and food.

The shipment of 5,000 books is now on the high seas, heading from Hong Kong to LA, where they will then travel by truck to the Ingram warehouse in Tennessee. Books should be in bookstores in late February.

Shameless Commerce Department: We’re offering it on our website for pre-order, with free shipping. It won’t go out until mid-February or so, but pre-sales will help us with printing bills.

Here’s a link to how I did the book (this was in the previous GIMME SHELTER newsletter).

The 40th Anniversary Edition of Stretching

I discovered a homemade book called Stretching in 1979. It was aimed at athletes, with stretching routines for some 20 sports.

I wrote the author, Bob Anderson, and suggested he add stretches for builders, waitresses, truck drivers, kids, and older people. We started talking. He said he and his wife Jean (who did the drawings) had sold 35,000 copies from a garage in Southern California. Wow! End result: We rented Bob and Jean a house on the beach here in Spring, 1980, and in 3 months, we did a complete revision of the book.

We did a first run of 50,000 copies, and the book took off, with Random House as distributor, selling madly. It’s been selling ever since, now over 3¾ million copies worldwide, and in 23 languages. As far as I can tell, it’s the best-selling fitness book of all time.

Tech Neck  An important (and timely) addition to this new edition will be stretches to combat the bad posture caused by (1) cell phone usage and (2) working on computers.

Take a look at how bent-over people are when talking on their phones. It’s called “tech neck.”

The point is, we all spend too much time at screens of various sizes, and it’s not healthy. Not good for the body.

Want to take 30 seconds and stretch right now?

Analog Tool in This Day and Age

We’re going to print up some self-adhesive stickers to go on the back of phones. You don’t have to turn on an app: just flip your phone over and take 10 seconds to s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

This is just a rough first copy of the sticker. It will also have drawings of bad and good posture.

The new book (and stickers) will be out by May, 2019. Read More …

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Gimme Shelter Newsletter, May, 2019

This is a newsletter I send out maybe once a month. If you’d like to be on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.

Handmade: The Half-Acre Homestead

I never know what a book will be like until I start putting it together. I don’t do an outline or have much of an idea how things will turn out. I just start, two pages at a time, and let it organize itself. This one, covering almost 50 years of building, gardening, cooking, foraging, fishing, crafts, and other aspects of our lives, is maybe two thirds finished now, and I’m stoked. Due to the way publishing wheels turn, it won’t be available until March, 2020.

Being 84

How did I ever get so old so fast? I’m a little stunned, to tell the truth. Some observations:

  1. Considering physical fitness, and factoring in age, my golden years were mid-50s. It helped that I was doing a series of fitness books then, and hanging out with runners and bodybuilders and running races, doing triathlons, and still surfing.
  2. Getting to 70 was a big change. A lifetime of sports and training with accumulated injuries and just plain wear and tear and I had 2 knee operations, 2 shoulder operations, and a carpal tunnel wrist operation. Sigh.
  3. Turning 80 was kind of a shock. Jesus! How did I get here? I meet with my friends from Lowell High School (San Francisco — class of 1952) for lunch twice a year. Even though I started smoking pot, then peeled off from the business world, and jumped feet first into the counterculture in 1965, these guys are still my friends. Bill Floyd and I were in kindergarten together, so I’ve known him for 79 years.

My 20-Year-Old Luxury Car

I never thought I’d be driving a Mercedes; I’ve always been a truck guy. But I’m currently driving a 20-year-old Mercedes E320. 170,000 miles on it. I got it for $3500, put about $2k into it, and it’s a revelation. My first ever automatic shift, and surprisingly I love it. I’ve read about some E320s getting a million miles on the motors. It gets 22-23 mpg. It’s got so many well-thought-out features and is so comfortable, I am not worthy of this car.

Bird Brain

This scrub jay and I have known each other for a couple of years now. I’ve trained him to take peanuts out of my hand. When he was younger, he would come to the office door and make a racket. Now, he hops inside, perches on a rafter and waits for me to come outside with a peanut. He flies down from the apple tree and in one move, lands on my hand, grabs the peanut, and takes off.

Jays are members of the corvid family, which includes crows, ravens, and magpies. They are remarkably intelligent; their brain-to-body ratio is just slightly lower than humans.

Cutting Back on the iPhone

It seems like all of a sudden, people are backing off of 24/7 phone availability and social media usage. It’s all gone too far, n’est-ce pas? It snuck up on all of us. A NYT writer recently spent a weekend in the woods sans phone and felt regenerated. There seem to be articles appearing every week. People rediscovering real life.

I’ve cut way back on checking Instagram. I’ve never used Facebook, although all my Instagram posts get put automatically on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t carry my phone a lot of the time these days.

Two Great Books (from England) on the Natural World

  • Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

    A “…remarkable celebration of the transforming nature of trees, exploring the ‘fifth element’ of wood as it exists in nature, in our souls, in our culture and our lives.”

  • How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature by Marc Hamer

    The second part of the title is key here. Marc has lived a rich life in the natural world, and the book is full of his observations, as well as poetry and lovely woodcut-like drawings. I have an advance copy and find myself going back and rereading sections. Pub date October 1, 2019.

Another Good Book from England

  • Idiot Wind: A Memoir by Peter Kaldheim

    The publisher gave me an advance copy (pub date August 1, 2019) and I read it straight through. A true story that reads like a novel, Kaldheim went from editor in NYC to drug dealing to prison time to fleeing the city to escape violence and bumming across America, living in flop houses, eating at storefront shelters — to finally turning his life around. It’s as authentic and gripping as On the Road.

Música del Día

Listening to this just now, I got a chill. Ray Charles doing “Am I Blue” live in Tokyo in 1976, along with Johnny Coles on flugelhorn.

Palabra del Día

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.…”   –Wikipedia

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Gimme Shelter Newsletter, Early Spring, 2019

Backing Away from “Social Media”

I spent a lot of time blogging 10-15 years ago. For example, here’s a post from 2005: 2400 words, 10 photos — how did I find the time?

These days, right now — spring, 2019 — my relationships with blogging and especially Instagram, are weakening. Instagram, a brilliant idea, is now being run by Zuckerberg and Sheryl. Does anyone trust these two? The ads are increasingly frequent and intrusive. The book Zucked by Roger McNamee is good. How “…a noted tech venture capitalist, an early mentor to Mark Zuckerberg and investor in his company, woke up to the serious damage Facebook was doing to our society…”

You know the expression, “The old is new again?” Well, I think it’s more that the old is being reexamined in light of a couple of decades of digitalia. Email newsletters? Well, yeah. I’m back into doing them. I promise not to overdo it, maximum once a month.

You can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here:

Handmade: The Half-Acre Homestead

I’m rolling along with layout. The book really feels good. Looking back at what we’ve done on this piece of land over the last 45+ years, digging up photos, and getting a fresh perspective on it all. Working with hands.

The book varies from the aesthetics: flowers, quilts, landscaping, to the practical: housebuilding, gardening, raising chickens, to delight: butterflies, spiderwebs, visiting foxes.

The chicken coop

In 1971, our land was $6500, the building permit $200. I was my own architect and engineer. No mortgage, no rent — ever — what a difference that has made in our lives.

Could you do anything like this now? Stay tuned.

A Day in Santa Cruz

I was a Santa Cruz beach lifeguard in the ’50s, so visiting there is like going home again. I did a slide show on Driftwood Shacks at Bookshop Santa Cruz, visited friends, watched surfers, shot photos:

Mia Mickey and her 4×4 diesel bus/home. She’s a registered nurse, works three months, then takes six months off to travel. She’ll be featured in our forthcoming book, Hit the Road, Jack: Adventure Vehicles. Contact us if you know of any cool homes on wheels.

Alan Quinn AKA “The Mighty Quinn” and his rolling home. The license plate at top, center, says “MAKE MY DAY.”

The ultimate Baja bug

Starting to Run Again

After a 10-year layoff, I’m starting to run, encouraged by Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run methodology. Rediscovering Mt. Tamalpais, a holy mountain even though only 2500 feet tall. Hundreds of miles of trails, streams, creeks, waterfalls, meadows, hand-crafted and rustic steps and bridges, manzanita bushes and mushrooms, deer and bobcats.

If the book you want isn’t here, then you’re in the:

Support your local bookstores!

Over and out on a sunny day after rain and rain. It’s gonna be a spectacular Spring!

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Gimme Shelter: February, 2019 — Driftwood Shacks Is Finally Done.

I started sending out newsletters to Publishers Group West reps (our distributors) in 2001, one every month or two — news of our books plus a few extracurricular things thrown in. I started adding friends and people I met who had common interests, and it got up to about 600 people. Then along came blogging, and later Instagramming, and I’ve been sending out these newsletters a lot less frequently.

Recently I’ve concluded that newsletters are a different and more direct form of communication than blasting everything out to the world via “social media.” So I’m building up this mailing list and now going to do them a little more frequently — once every month or two.

You can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here:

Driftwood Shacks: It’s done!

Analog layout:

I print out photos on an old Brother copy machine to size, and print out text in two or three columns. (I actually write a lot of the text during layout.) Then I use a proportional wheel and scissors and an X-Acto knife to arrange a two-page spread at a time, then affix it with removable Scotch Tape. Yeah, can you believe it? Coffee, music, right brain function occasionally ganja-enhanced.

Sure, I know it can all be done on a computer, but I prefer to stay out of the binary world for creative work.

Digital preparation for printing press: Rick transforms the crude pasteups into precise files, using Photoshop and InDesign, and voila!

Hardcover • 8½″ by 8½″ • $19.95
160 pages • 176 color photos
ISBN 978-0-936070-80-3
Publication date March 12, 2019 (but it’s shipping now)

Info on it (and early copies):

Review copies: If you or someone you know wants a copy for review, click to send us address(es).

The Half-Acre Homestead

I’m working on this now, the 35th book I’ve published in 48 years (the tenth that I have authored). It’s the story of our lives for the last 40+ years: building a house, gardening, cooking, foraging, fishing, crafts, etc. It should be out in early 2020.

I’m using Google Photo, an app that, once installed, downloads all your digital photos. Then you can do a search: “garden,” “fireplaces,” “kitchens,” etc. and in a few seconds it pulls up all the images of the selected category. It was hugely useful for the driftwood book; dozens of photos I’d forgotten about.

Books in the Pipeline

After the homestead book: The 40th anniversary edition of Stretching (with stretches for the bad posture encouraged by cell phone usage); Hit the Road Jack, the latest on rolling homes; books on barns, Baja California Sur, the ’60s (through the eyes of a San Francisco native. Don’t get me started!

ABA Winter Institute

With Jamie Byng of Canongate Press, London

I had a great time at this event in Albuquerque (in late January). I signed about 70 copies of the driftwood book for book buyers; There were two authors at each table, and my tablemate was Mark Kurfansky, author of Salt and Cod and now working on a book for Patagonia on salmon.

I met a bunch of great people — book lovers all.

I spent two days before the conference at a hot springs spa in the town of Truth or Consequences, two hours south of Albuquerque, and had other adventures documented here:

My all-over-the-place blog:… (Links to posts from Albuquerque.)

Two photos from Albuquerque:

Who could resist stopping at Carmen’s (in Truth or Consequences)? Blue corn enchiladas and green chile. Carmen cooks; her daughter is the waitress.


My friend Ned Cherry at his man cave in the backyard of his adobe house in Albuquerque. We hadn’t seen each other in 30 years. (We’ve known each other for 65 years — since we were 18.)

Sorry this is so long, I didn’t have time to make it shorter.

“I love the life I live and I live the life I love.”
–Muddy Waters (written by Willie Dixon, 1915-82)

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