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GIMME SHELTER – October, 2020

To anyone receiving this for the first time, I send these newsletters out every few months. They’re different from social media — old school in a way — in that they go to a select audience (about 4000 people now), rather than blasting out into the internetosphere.

If you’re not signed up on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.


In these days of tweets and Instagram, this is insanely long. But what gets lost in this social media era of haiku-length communications is writing. It’s why I keep doing (minimal) blog posts, and continue to publish books, and so I just let it rip with these newsletters. Blah blah blah…

Apocalypse Now

We were under an evacuation alert for about a week. Suitcases packed, about 200,000 negatives and scrapbooks stored in my brother’s garage, mattress set up for sleeping in back of pickup truck. Luckily, the fire got put out, but it sure made me think. What if we lose it all? Have to basically start over again?

We’ve been here almost 50 years, and have got this small homestead crafted for our lives — all without a bank mortgage. If a fire sweeps through here, there’s only so much stuff we could save.

I talked to some people who lost everything in the Santa Rosa fire a few years ago; and they said they looked out the window to see the fire sweeping into their yard and they only had time to grab the kids and the dog and vamoose.

Fishing boats at night after air cleared

Fishing boats at night after air cleared

We Californians not only have Covid to deal with, but the geographical threats of earthquake and fire. The dark side of sunny California.

There was no escaping the smoke. A nightmarish week. It looked like an apocalyptic movie. Finally, western winds cleared the air. One morning, I woke up and fog had cleared the air and I could breathe. The fresh air was like nectar.

Stuff

Many people are getting rid of stuff these days. In our books, Tiny Homes, Tiny Homes on the Move, and Small Homes, we document people opting for less stuff, smaller homes, and simpler lives.

Funny, lately and conversely, I’ve been grateful for all the stuff around here. I’ve got tools to fix just about anything (with the exception of welding). We’ve got a few thousand books, a multitude of kitchen/cooking tools, I’ve got a surfboard, paddle board and kayak. Lesley’s got two looms, a spinning wheel — it goes on forever.

Living in California now, one has to just accept the reality that all material possessions accumulated over a lifetime might be gone in a flash. Rather than quaking in my boots and stressing, I’ve played it out in my mind: if we lose it all, we’ll start over. It’ll be a challenge, but maybe in some ways exciting. I think of Siddhartha, the wealthy Indian Brahmin, who in Herman Hesse’s novel, leaves behind all his (many) worldly possessions and sets out on a life of spiritual discovery with just a robe and begging bowl.

Here’s a post on my blog about Covid-19 and previous pandemics in history: www.lloydkahn.com/2020/07/hello-darkness-my-old-friend

Our Next Book: Rolling Homes

The idea of a sequel to our book Tiny Homes on the Move has been kicking around here for a while. There are some really good books on nomadics out there now, such as Van Life, by Foster Huntington (who coined the term/hashtag #vanlife), Van Life Diaries by Morton, Dustow and Melrose, and Hit the Road by Robert Klanten and Maximilian Funk.

But after talking to Foster, who encouraged me to go ahead, and starting to gather material, I’m excited. We’ve discovered a lot of different and new rigs; this book will be different. The Sprinter vans are super, true, but there are a lot more lower-cost and/or homemade options to the +100K van.

Not that there will be a lot of old VW vans in the book, but I did think back to the 1960 VW van I had in the mid-60s with a very simple plywood setup for driving, sleeping, and cooking. Here’s a photo of a spiffier bus, but the same vintage, with the same setup. Mine had a 40 hp air-cooled motor, and we drove it 3000 miles to NYC in winter,1965 (wrapped in sleeping bags to keep warm), and also down into Puerto Vallarta before the bridge, where we had to forge the river with a guide walking in front of the car. Plus I carried tons of lumber on the roof and building materials inside it in building a house in Big Sur in the ’60s. A simple and noble beast.

Please contact us if you have or know of any interesting homes on wheels: lloyd@shelterpub.com

Things People Say

When people say to you, “With all due respect…”, you know they’re gonna follow that up by saying something mean….

Someone recently used the phrase, in referring to a county bureaucrat, “…promoted to a level of incompetence” … (That was in answer to me saying that bureaucrats beget more bureaucracy.)

Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” … Which reminds me of a response, possibly by WC, to a journalist who criticized him for a dangling preposition: “That is an impertinence up with which I will not put.”

Dale Carnegie: “Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

Neil Dickman on his music program, Bringing It On Home on KWMR, Aug 21, 2020: “I’m always certain, but often wrong.”

(In the weekly newsletter Recommendo, Kevin Kelly recently suggested Quote Investigator, which turns out to be a valuable checkpoint for, among other things, the authors of various quotations.)

In Praise of the Smartphone

I’ve preached about turning phones off, getting untethered, the need to get away from the small screen and read a book, or meditate, to be unavailable to the world once in a while. “A still mind is fertile ground for creative thoughts,” etc. BUT — once in a while, I’m freshly astounded by the power residing in my iPhone, what it’s capable of, how exceedingly useful it is.

No one ever told me I’d be carrying around a computer, camera, compass, music, dictionary, GPS, ride-hailer, the Google world, maps, podcasts, weather — an infinity of uses — in a device smaller than a deck of cards. So yeah, it’s good to disconnect at times, but — what a miraculous tool!

Posture

Ears above shoulders, shoulders above hips…

In Galloway’s Book on Running, Jeff Galloway describes legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard’s technique for better posture: imagine you have a pulley attached to a harness around your chest. The other end of the pulley is attached to 3-story building a block away. As you run (walk), lift your chest up and forward.

Note: The 3rd edition of Galloway’s Book on Running will be published early next year; it will include Jeff’s revolutionary run walk run® method of training. It is, I kid you not, the best book ever written on running. It’s sold over 600,000 copies, and been translated into eight foreign languages. It’s not a book by a writer about running; it’s a book about running by a world-class* runner (who can write).

*In 1973, Jeff set the American record for the 10-mile (47:49), and at age 35, ran the Houston-Tenneco Marathon in 2:16.

Stretching

The long-awaited 40th anniversary edition of Stretching, by Bob and Jean Anderson, has just arrived in bookstores. It really looks good! There’s a new section on stretches and tips (posture-posture-posture) for smartphone users. I’m going to send out a press release to people on this mailing list in a few days.

Octogenarianism

Out of maybe 3,500 people on this mailing list, I’ll bet there are fewer than a dozen over age 80. But for all of you youngsters, who will be here some day, and since I am constantly forced to reflect on this new world of ancient age, I’ll continue posting observations.

  • Physicality: From 80-on, it’s a different ball game. Nature is starting to subtract physical functions. Things I used to lift easily are now a strain (a 94-pound sack of cement — forget it!) Distances seem longer. I’m less flexible, like less range of motion in my neck when turning around to back up a car. (Yeah, I should stretch more!)
  • Memorabilia: I’m really forgetting stuff these days. Us old people, our memory banks are overloaded. Only so much room in there. So if I forget your name or birthday, it’s all part of the aging process. (Someone told me this week that if you know you’re forgetting things, it’s not dementia.) Now where was I?
  • Happening more frequently: I’ll go into the house from the studio to get something, forget what I was looking for, and have to walk back to the studio to remember.
  • “What, I told you that before?” Happening more and more frequently. Seems I’m repeating stories multiple times. No sympathy from friends: “Yeah, you already told me that.” Brutal.

Working Out

I’m riding my Turbo Levo pedal-assist bike regularly now, discovering roads and trails in the hills. The bike is so much fun, I look forward to heading out. A few days ago, went for a hike with Doug (shown here) and Tomás; we are so lucky to have both this magic mountain and the ocean to explore in these parts. I try to do something physical every day. Plato recommended training in both music and gymnastic for development of the soul. Too many people leave out the gymnastic part as they get older. My long-time friend Bob Anderson says, “You never hear anyone say, ‘I’m sorry I worked out.’”

Keeping On Keeping On

“If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.”

–Latest Readings, by Clive James, 2015

Curved Roof

My latest building, 10′ by 10’. Curved roof plus windows at eye level are design bits I learned from master builder Lloyd House (Builders of the Pacific Coast), which give you a feeling of spaciousness. Same principle with gypsy wagons (vardos). A lot of help from Billy Cummings in building this.

Shameless Commerce Department

Check out our books at www.shelterpub.com.

30% off with free shipping on 2 or more books.

Review copies of any books sent free, if you designate where you would be submitting review.

Forgotten Books from Shelter

In each newsletter I’m going to show one of our less well-known books.

Wonderful Houses Around the World, by Yoshio Komatsu, is a children’s book showing ten homes in different countries. Yoshio is in my mind the best photographer in the world of homes. With each photo of these homes, there is a watercolor drawing of life inside the home, with an emphasis on what the children are doing.

It has been used in Waldorf schools, and a company that supplies home schoolers buys 1,000 copies each year. It’s $12.95 at www.shelterpub.com/building/wonderful-houses

Method of This Madness

You know, it’s really fun to do these. It’s like having a chance to chat with friends, rather than addressing the world via blog, Instagram, (or books, for that matter). I wish I had more time to do these. I piece these together over a week or so and send the rough version to Rick Gordon, who transforms them into this nicely designed newsletter.

Música del Día



The Manhattan Brothers: Their Greatest Hits (1948-1959)

Over and out, (and please VOTE!)…

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New Work on Dipsea Trail

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Going up to “Cardiac” section of trail last week. The Dipsea Race, from Mill Valley, Calif, to Stinson Beach, was first run on 1905 and is the oldest cross-country race in the USA.

The second from left photo is a rock channel for water runoff.

Some agency (California Conservation Corps?) is doing some heads-up trail work. (Although I hope they don’t “improve” the root-enhanced upper section shown in photo at right.)

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Injury # 163

There’s a line in Hank Williams’s “Why Don’t You make Up Your mind,” where he says “The hide’s gettin’ scace” (pronounced “skayce”), meaning scarce. I don’t know why, but it’s stuck in my mind for years. In the song he’s moaning about difficulties with his girlfriend, but I’ve always thought of the phrase as having to do with the body getting hurt.

My latest was tearing some shoulder muscles last week. No, not again! My body feels so battered from a lifetime of activity. — sports, carpentry, adventures. Thank god I wasn’t the football star I wanted to be. Yet still — operations on both knees, right shoulder, right wrist (carpal tunnel) and the capper, a bad broken arm a year ago–all since turning 70.

OK so I’m whining here, but I’m on an up-note. After moping and gimping around for a week, dreading another operation, visiting the doc, dealing with pain, suddenly it turned a corner. Must have been the red wine in the evenings (plus big doses of Ibuprofen). But all of a sudden I could raise my arm halfway. Yeah! I’m gonna get better. Two things to convey here:

1. You always get better. Pretty much. So no matter how deeply depressed you are when injured, it’s gonna get better if you do the right stuff.

2. Don’t give up. Get right back out there on that bike, surfboard, trail, slope — maybe with more caution and care. Because you’re gonna lose it if you don’t use it.

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Close Encounters With Creatures Medium and Small on Warm Summer Night

I went on a slow 4-mile run on a coastal trail the other evening. A skunk ambled across, then cottontails, one after the other. These little rabbits seem to have proliferated. I counted 9 of them in all. A young deer stood stock still as I went by, his ears revolving and tracking me like radar antennas. At a hillside pond, swallows were swooping down to skim the water, picking up insects and leaving ripples on the smooth surface.

Driving home along the coast that night, I spotted the wily coyote that I’ve seen before, standing by the side of the road. “Let the Juke Joint Jump” by Koko Taylor was playing on the radio. I backed up so the coyote was about 20 feet from my rolled-down window and turned up the volume. He stayed right there—his first experience with the blues. Fittingly, this song is on Koko’s album titled Force of Nature.

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Coyotes Singing in Full Moon

Actually 2 days before the full moon, but it was bright last night. I headed out on my usual Tuesday night solo run—well, vigorous hike is more like it. Beach beautiful, with a 100-foot long glistening inland pond in moonlight, no one there, I had one of those almost chilling moments, surrounded by such beauty, alone, waves breaking, negative ions up the kazoo, super energizing of chi

I started out in a down parka and gloves, brrrr…I don’t feel like going out into the cold night, but as always, the heart likes to pump, and pretty soon I take off the parka and gloves and climb the hills in a t-shirt. Circulation, circulation, circulation…

As I came back down into the valley, a coyote startled me. It was so close, and so beautiful. There were 2 of them close by and another at a distance. They were singing. Totally. One did a yodel, starting high, then breaking voice down to lower sustained note. Then a distant coyote would respond. Oh my!

I heard this about Australian aborigines: the smoke signals don’t contain the message. Rather, they’re a notice to a group maybe a few miles away to tune into psychic forces and get a telepathic message. Wow!

On the way home, moonlight streaming across the ocean, on Little Steven’s Underground Garage (Sirius): “Beautiful Delilah” by the Kinks, followed by Chuck Berry doing same (his) song.
https://grooveshark.com/s/Beautiful+Delilah/2725La?src=5

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Dissing Authoritarianism

A friend of mine, an older runner, told me this story. He was heading south up into the coastal trail from the new Muir Beach parking lot last week. It was dark. He was heading on a route that he and his friends have been running for decades. There was a  new sign posted saying “No Entry After 6PM.” He saw a ranger’s SUV parked in the lot. Uh-oh.

   As he crossed the bridge, 2 rangers were approaching him with flashlights. As he got closer to them, one said, “Hey you can’t go out here.” He kept running. They probably expected him to stop, but as he pulled up abreast of them, he sprinted. “Hey, you, STOP!” — shining their lights in his eyes. He flew past them and kept running. He felt good, like he was a kid again, as their shouts receded in the distance.

   He says he’s tired of the increasingly intrusive and aggressive attempts at control by rangers. Sure, there are things you shouldn’t do in a national park, like chain sawing or dirt bike riding or disturbing seals during mating season, but a solo runner leaves no trace, bothers no one.

   He says he’s not going to submit to rangers’ questions or follow their orders anymore. He’s gonna run.

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Shoulders and Knees, Oh Please

It’s been almost 4 months since my shoulder surgery, and a few days ago, I realized the tendon was finally reconnected to the bone and strengthening. Yahoo! Yesterday I was talking to Elmer Collett, former 49er guard and neighbor, about how when you’ve got an injury, it seems like it’ll never heal and then, one day, voila! You’re on the plus side of the situation. He knew exactly what I meant.

I had a bit of a setback, let it rest, then started doing rehab exercises, and in the last few days have started using my Vasa Trainer, a pulley type device for swimmers and surfers, which approximates paddling, and it felt OK. I’m gonna be able to surf again, not just sit on the beach or cliff and wistfully watch the action.

It was a dramatic change, in both function and mood.

The recoverability of the human body is awesome. Dr. Henry Bieler, in his great book “Food Is Your Best Medicine,” has a chapter titled “The Magnificent Human Body.” And so it is.

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Running, Music, Driving Along the Dark Coast

My friend Roger and I went on a 1-1/2 hour run—well, swift walk—in Frank’s Valley last night. Bitterly cold on the coast, but as we got deeper into the valley, and got circulation going, it got warmer. We’re about the same age, both recovering from shoulder surgery, and both San Francisco natives, so we have a lot to talk about. Last night we reminisced about the theaters on Market Street in the ’40s. The Fox (a movie palace), the Orpheum, the Warfield, the Golden Gate, the United Artists, the Esquire, and in an alley behind the Esquire, the Tivoli. Then on to the neighborhood theaters, like the Empire, The Parkside, the El Rey…

  This is a photo shot with my iPhone on the way home, driving along the coast, the red lights being an approaching car. I discovered that if I touched my brakes, I saw the road reflectors light up red in my rear view mirror. So I’d touch the brake pedal every once in a while, see the string of red lights in the mirror, then focus back on the road in front. It was like a light show, with this music on Sirius Radio: Meet Me in the Morning by Bob Dylan, Rambling Man by Waylon, then Bring Back Joe by Scotty McCreery. Fahhr out!

Great pleasures can be so simple.

Now listening to Frampton Comes Alive, a great live recording made in San Francisco (at Winterland, 1975) in front of 7000 fans, when the musicians forgot they were being recorded. Frampton said they were all amazed when they heard the recording afterwards.

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Lost in the Eye of a Storm Last Night

I like running in the rain. Not at first, but after I get going and warm up, it’s exhilarating. Plus the smell of the air and the negative ions.

   So I set out last night around 6PM, heading south along the coastal cliffs from Muir Beach. I had on my one layer of Maxit tights and a rain parka tied around my waist. The storm was just starting.

    By the time I got up to my lookout spot (a point of land projecting out into the ocean that feels very much like the bow of a ship), the wind in front of the storm was blowing at maybe 30-40 mph, and I put on the parka and faced into it, taking in the wind energy and the sweet smell of fresh storm air, leaning into the storm and it holding me up. The lights of San Francisco across the water.

   As I headed up on a fire road inland, the rain started. It got foggy and pretty soon it was like being in a tunnel, darkness all around and a six-foot circle of misty light in front of me. These small owls (actually, I’ve been told they’re not owls, but related to whippoorwills) fluttered up from the sides of the road as I ascended; I think they wait for mice to cross the road.

   It was getting darker and rainier. I got to the top and started back down. I could hardly see. I was sending good thoughts to my Black Diamond headlamp, because I hadn’t brought any backup light, and if I lost my light in this gloom, I’d be out there all night.

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