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GIMME SHELTER – February, 2024

For those of you getting this for the first time:

Over the years, the list has grown — I’ve added anyone I thought might be interested — and there are now about 6,500 people getting these infrequent emails.

If you’re not signed up on the list to receive (that is, if you are reading this on Instagram or my blog), you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.


I like getting back to emails. Completely different from social media. These come in to you; you don’t have to open anything up. Old school, in a way.

When I send these out, some older people say “I got your blog,” They’re not going to my real blog, and I can reach them this way.

Like a lot of technical advances, we all rush in, and then step back and figure out what’s missing with the new technology. And then try to figure out how to incorporate some of the old stuff (that’s missing) in the mix. Like recording music — the limitations of digital recording vs. vinyl or tape.

It’s a chance for me to tell people what’s going on in my world, in a direct and more personal way than Instagram or my blog.

Sorry for the length of this. (The last one of these was over a year ago.) As I’ve said many times before, paraphrasing Blasé Pascal (1647): “I’d have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have enough time.”


A Sad Year

I’m not big on broadcasting my personal life, but events of the past year have had such an impact on what I’m doing — now and in the future — that I thought I’d explain a bit here. I’m writing this for people who follow me in one way or another, so you’ll know where I’ll be “…coming from.”

In 2023, I lost my wife Lesley, my brother, and my two best friends, so I’m heading into new territory.

I’m coping — it’s a gradual process and I’m OK, but — without going into details — things are definitely different in my life.

Coincidentally with all this, I had decided I was weary of running a publishing business and was looking for someone to buy Shelter Publications — and this has just happened:


AdventureKEEN Takes Over Shelter Publications

Richard Hunt and Molly Merkle of AdventureKEEN in the Shelter studio.
Photo by Elise Cannon

As of January 1st, 2024, AdventureKEEN is taking over the operation of Shelter Publications, which I have been running for 53 years. Another big change in my life.

They will keep everything functioning and I’ll be able to step away from the (ever-increasing) business and technical details of running a publishing company, and go into a new phase of communicating. AdventureKEEN will be the publisher, and distribution will still be by my beloved Publishers Group West book lovers.

AdventureKEEN is a great fit for Shelter. Some of their other publishers are Wilderness Press, Adventure Publications, and Nature Study Guides. Hiking, canoeing, cooking, gardening, backpacking, animals, tracking — all stuff I’m into: adventure. I feel very sympatico with everyone at AdventureKEEN.

And a big tip of the Hatlo hat to PGW’s Kevin Votel for shepherding this deal along.


A New Way to Communicate

When I finally disentangle myself from all the responsibilities of running a business and being an employer, I plan to start posting on Substack, doing better Instagram posts, and making videos for my YouTube channel — reporting on tools, how to do stuff, the beaches, the hills, skateboarding, cool people, and all the amazing things going on in cities.

I’m excited to be shifting gears. Like when I switched from insurance broker to carpenter in 1965. Or when I gave up after building domes for five years and discovered real building in the ’70s. A fresh outlook on work and life.

For some reason, disengaging myself from the business of running a company made me think of the ropes of entanglement in this drawing (by J.J. Grandville) in Gulliver’s Travels (1756). Cutting the ropes and bounding into a new phase of life.

On Substack, I can write, and as well post images larger than Instagram’s 3 by 4 inches. (I want my photos on a bigger screen.) Substack is for writers, and is kind of a combination email and blog. And that I can er, ahem, hopefully get paid for (by subscriptions).

I’ve been a communicator since the age of 3. “Hey Mom, look at this butterfly.” I’m a reporter at heart — have been since my high school journalism class, and then running a newspaper for two years on an Air Force Base in Germany (1958–60). I shoot photos constantly and everywhere.

I find the world — in spite of all the darkness nowadays — fascinating. People doing great (and often unnoticed and unheralded) things, plus homes, tools, vehicles, art, signs, etc. that I’ll record. I want to take you along with me — riding shotgun — seeing what I see.

In the ’80s, I loved journalist Charles Kuralt’s TV program “On the Road,” his 12‑year motorhome adventures traveling the back roads of America and filming people and places. I’m gonna get out in the world and report on what I run across.

I’ll be going into full journalistic mode, not just the intermittent reporting I’ve been doing in recent years.

Thanks to Christopher Ryan, writer extraordinaire (Sex at Dawn, Civilized to Death), prolific podcaster, and more recently Substacker (chrisryan.substack.com) for turning me onto Substack.

“I’m a man who likes to talk to a man who likes to talk.”

-Sidney Greenstreet to Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon


I figure to be rolling in these new modes by March–April, 2024. And I’ll try to do these newsletters at least every few months.

I figure I’ve got a year or so to see if this is gonna work.


The Real Baja

I’m heading to Baja Sur in my 2003 Tacoma 4×4 (5-speed, 2.4 L, 4‑cylinder engine), with tent on top and foldable tarp for beach camping. Taking my old ten-foot Doug Haut Surftek three-fin surfboard and I’m gonna try to start getting back up on the board. Once I’m up, I’m OK. Looking forward to warm water. Also taking boogie board and fins. I’m gonna ride waves one way or another. Plus work on my crawl stroke, and some diving.

This will be my first road trip to Baja in 20 years. Los Cabos (the southern tip of Baja) has grown exponentially, but I plan to — as in the past — get outside the very narrow regions of heavy tourism — into the real Baja. Camping on remote beaches and in water-filled arroyos, visiting old mission sites, hot springs, remote ranchos.

For about a dozen years, I went to Baja whenever I got the chance, hanging out with my Mexican friends, and I came to love the people and the tropical desert of the Los Cabos area.

“It is impossible to account for the charm of this country or its fascination, but those who are familiar with the land of Baja California are either afraid of it or they love it, and if they love it they are brought back by an irresistible fascination time and time again.”

–Erle Stanley Gardner


I’ll be posting on Instagram as I travel. (I left on January 30.)

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The Red Rockers’ Dome Commune in Colorado in the ’70s

The Red Rockers’ 60-foot dome in Colorado, built from math in Domebook One. Jack Fulton and I dropped in on them unannounced on a snowy Saturday night in 1972 when we were on a trip shooting photos for Shelter (published in 1973). We lucked into a venison dinner and then a rock-and-roll band in a small nearby town.

The Rockers had moved to Colorado from LA and built the communal dome.

But as time passed, couples wanted more privacy and began building little outlying sheds.

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Whatever Happened to Geodesic Domes?

Kyle Thiermann interviewed me a month or so ago about geodesic domes. Kyle and I met each other through our mutual good friend Chris Ryan. (Both Kyle and Chris write on Substack, which I intend to do when I finish the book I’m working on now, Live from California.

I drive my old RV down Kahn’s dirt road and park outside his house. He purchased the lot in 1971 for six grand. He built his home with materials from a salvaged lumber from torn down Navy barracks at Treasure Island. Abalone shells decorate his yard and shimmer in the gray winter light. He greets me with a matter of fact “Hello,” then offers a calloused paw. Kahn has a white mustache, long white hair, and knife holstered at his hip. He looks a bit like an outdoorsy version of Albert Einstein. When I comment on the knife he leads into his toolshed, showing me how I can fashion a blade myself.

‘Do you want a skateboard?’ He offers, pointing to three that lay on the corner…

thiermann.substack.com/p/whatever-happened-to-geodesic-domes

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Shelter Exhibition Opens This Friday in Berlin

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The exhibit, which was originally at the Architettura Biennale in Venice last year, is moving to Berlin and opening at the German Architecture Center this Friday, October 28.

Our books, Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter are also on display in a large glass case. These models are based on drawings from those books.

Our exhibit was one of the first things you saw when entering the Arsenale di Venezia, the huge ship building complex in Venice (which was the largest industrial complex in Europe before the Industrial Revolution), now converted to exhibition space. Over 300,000 people visited the exhibition. When I was there with Lukas, there were crowds of people checking out our books and the models.

I’m flying to Berlin this Wednesday and will be doing a discussion with architect Leopold Banchini and curator Lukas Feireiss on hand-made housing and alternatives to traditional methods of building and living together. (And exploring Berlin — my first visit there.)

The title of the exhibit, There Are Walls That Want to Prowl is a line from the poem “Let’s Voyage Into the New American House” by Richard Brautigan, which was reprinted in Shelter.

More info at www.daz.de.

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Exhibit of Shelter Books and Models Opens This Week in Berlin

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From Lukas Feireiss in Berlin:

Friday evening October 28, we are opening our exhibition There Are Walls That Want to Prowl at the German Architecture Center (DAZ). Come, celebrate and discuss with us.

The exhibit was originally shown at the Biennalle Archittetura in Venice in 2021 and is an installation that combines building models from Lloyd Kahn’s books with architectural models by Leopold Banchini, interview footage, and photographs of Kahn’s home in California by Dylan Perrenoud. The exhibit was inspired by Kahn’s iconic books Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter.

These three compendia of self-build architecture tell stories of alternative dwellings from nomadic structures in the Iron Age to contemporary mobile homes, consistently extolling ecological and self-reliant ways of living that liberate themselves from capital and production methods marked by alienation.

I’m pretty excited, taking off for a week in Berlin on Wednesday.

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Shelter and The Whole Earth Catalog in Abandoned Baja Hacienda

Hello there, Mr. Lloyd Kahn,

I hope that you and your loved ones are doing okay during these turbulent times!

I am a big fan of your books and have been poring over them for years for inspiration, joy, hope, and encouragement. I feel the pull to go on and on here and tell you about myself but I don’t want to take up your precious time.…

We fell in love with Baja on our travels as many do, and I know you can relate. We especially loved the oasis town of Mulege. We made good friends while we were there and had to go back. This past January we drove back there in our truck without the travel trailer this time. We rented a house from a friend that was in a hilltop neighborhood (Loma Azul) with the desert for its backyard with hikes through that magic desert to quiet beaches. We put our 10- and 7-year-olds in the local school; (they had been in Spanish immersion in the past but this was a new level). We had planned to be there for three months but sadly as we saw the news begin to break about the coronavirus, we decided to head back home to NC to get a garden started and help our families prepare to get hunkered down, and I am glad we did.

While we were in Mulege on a walk through the desert, we stumbled on an abandoned dwelling with a view of the ocean. It had a few little buildings and some outdoor patio spaces. Such a beautiful and dreamy spot.

It clearly had been abandoned years ago and was in a state of decomposition. The buildings were filled with stuff! It seems someone had just up and moved away and then a big storm hit. Dishes, clothes, books, on and on!
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The Half-Acre Homestead Book Is Finished!

(Subtitle: 46 Years of Building & Gardening)

You know, it’s Thanksgiving morning, both boys are off for the holiday with spouses’ families, and Lesley and I are working on our separate crafts. What a difference with no phones, no email, no business necessities, no one else around. Witness the fact that I’ve hardly blogged at all lately. Gonna have to get one day a week here with no distractions. A right-brain day!

The unbound pages came in from the printers a few days ago. What a thrill! The book’s getting bound (in Hong Kong) this week, shipped and will be available in early March, 2020. When we get it together, we’re going to take pre-orders.

I’m still getting used to the book. After covering hundreds of builders over the years, this is the first on my own (and Lesley’s) work.

Stay tuned.

These photos shot with iPhone. We just got these early pages.

Music de éste día: The Gilded Palace of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers, 1969
www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUeFJ7QIRbE

Here’s how I make books:

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