Monday, January 23, 2012


Every once in a while I look at my file of Baalbek, an ancient Roman ruin located in Lebanon, inland from Beirut. The Romans were able to build big but this temple is HUGE. The largest of the temples there, Temple of Jupiter, was a mind-boggling structure. Only six columns have survived but their scale is preposterous. It was built about the time of the Christian era and contains the largest building stones in the world. Look at the picture of the six remaining columns, note there is a portion of a stone missing in the frieze, but on the next picture, see the size of just that piece that had fallen out. Today no one has any idea how they moved and erected these stones. In addition, the giant stones that the base is composed are even larger. Some weigh 1400 tons (2,800,000 pounds.)

I’ve climbed them all. Everest, K2, Mont Blanc, The Eiger, The Pamirs, Patagonia, Lassen. It all began when I soloed Mt. Lassen (11,000 ft) in California. Although I found myself rock scrambling the last 100 feet, I realized I should have a companion, at least to report my death and recover my battered body if came to that. Well, in truth, the rest of my climbing was accomplished in my mind, safely seated in a comfy chair in my living room, with a glass of wine (Or at least an espresso) by my side. I’ve done the North Face of the Eiger (The Wall of Death) probably three times, always fascinated by the unusual venue; a comfy Swiss hotel near the base with a view of the entire face, thru large telescopes on the terrace, giving the guests a close up view of the bodies hanging and twisting in the wind for several years, due to the utter impossibility for anyone being able to get near enough to cut the poor bastard down. When one does opt for the quick and direct method down, falling thousands of feet, bouncing around on icy outcrops, until all that’s left at the bottom is a limb-less body to bury in the nearby graveyard, which has a special area for the climbers (kind of a little square plot).
I’ve struggled and froze my way to the top of Everest with the first to stand atop even without oxygen bottles. Remember, at 30,000 feet, it’s as high as the 747 you fly to Paris on. The book “Into Thin Air” is a double entendre about lack of oxygen and stepping off into a 10,000 foot void, usually a fatal move. I’ve summited all the above and followed all the climbers as well as all the rescue parties that sometimes needed rescuing themselves.
I never liked getting up at midnight, trying to make breakfast, do bathroom duty at -40 degrees and trying to get to the summit before 1:00 PM, exulting for several seconds, before getting back down to your tent before dark or you will be dead if you spend the night out.
Yet, the Eiger is my favorite. They keep track of how many die on the wall each year in the attempt to find a “new route” up the bloody slab.

I just received remuneration for a right to replicate my famous mahogony adjustable chair that was featured in my show at the Laguna Beach Art Museum a few years ago. Carsten, who lives in Germany, is a talented woodworker who made the replicas of chairs & table that I had designed in the ‘60's for the show. I asked him to send me ten Euros so I wouldn’t lose my copyright, He sent me a ten Euro coin that Germany minted recently. This one is based on the Bauhaus and is typical of the high calibre of European designers. I don’t know why, but Carsten says it worth about 50 Euros now. We can’t even mint a dollar coin that doesn’t weigh a ton. But this weighs just .6 oz. (18 gr) which is only like carrying three quarters. And it’s elegant!