Monday, December 23, 2013


In the late 1950s when I was an apprenticing architect in Scottsdale, Arizona,. I had just decided not to work with FL Wright at Taliesin West as I couldn't afford the $650 fee he asked for the privilege of pouring concrete in the 120 degree heat. I was care-taking (freeloading) a fabulous mansion in the center of Scottsdale designed by Shwieker & Elting Architects from Chicago. The owner, Upton, a railroad magnate, didn't like the house, once it was finished as it was too rustic for him, all rough concrete walls and redwood inside  and out. It fit me perfectly.
   Meanwhile, Paolo Solari paid me $1 an hour to dig out his first underground house on Doubltree Road,  Then I was able to pay DK Taylor, Architect, $1 an hour to work for him in the evenings & weekends. By this time, I had already had my Degree in Architecture but needed to work in the trades as well as with some really inspiring Architects.
  One day Paolo told me he had a call from a dancer who needed help setting up for a performance in Scottsdale.  No one seemed to know who he was but his organizational abilities were remarkable. I got a friend, Garrison, and DK to assist and we helped this crazy man for a couple of days  setting up a huge tent. He had sent flyers all over Phoenix and had a good crowd for the one performance, which was pretty amazing, given his performances were pretty far out for the Phoenix crowd.  This guy was no amateur, but a seasoned performer and promoter. None of us knew who he was but were all tremendously impressed by his avant garde work. It was really a one man show, the far out music pre-recorded. The next day we helped him take down the tent  and pack up his sets and costumes. Then he was gone. Who was that masked man? we all asked.
  Over the years I had forgotten his name but recently wondered if I could find out his identity.  Fifty years later, I began searching for a far out dancer traveling around in the fifties. Merce Cunningham's picture really did it, as he was kind of a strange looking dude, but a total bundle of energy at all times.  Reading of him and John Cages music, which he used, , it couldn't be anyone else. Merce's dancing was as far out as John Cage's music. They made a terrific pair.

I recently saw the movie "Frankenstein" the original 1931 movie by the legendary horror master, James Whale. starring Boris Karloff. It's in several short sections, and I was surprised to see how it deviated from Mary Shellys' book. For instance, Mr. Monster doesn't get his made to order bride until the second movie (Bride of Frankenstein). Even more interesting,  it's fun to see how Mel Brooks version (Young Frankenstein) uses so much of the the original story plus ideas from the movie. You may remember when the monster encounters the cute little girl, but in the movie, the monster throws her in the lake and she drowns. Also, the great scene with Gene Hackman, the blind hermit is pretty close but hilarious.

    Do you realize that the TSA "screeners" assume you re 'guilty' until proven innocent (Strip search!)?  We have become the 'cowardly Lion', own and police  the whole world, but we are scared shitless of our shadow.  Pretty soon we'll be searched when we enter the country.

  Everyone must know that a high speed train from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be a tremendous boon to travelers, don't they? But wait. There are a couple of caveats involved here, like where is the station in SF & LA? Are they near the center of the cities? How will riders get to and from the stations? Once those little details are worked out, how many stops are involved. How long are the stops? European fast trains stop for 5 minutes, period. Can we do that here? Are we able to utilize any existing rail right of ways?
  First of all, no state can afford to fund something like this, it has to be a Federal deal. To build only 29 miles in the middle is shear madness.  Secondly, Environmental Reports will kill any Mega structure here in the  US.  Lawyers are flocking to this project like flies on honey,(or fruit flies in my wine).  I can't believe Gov. Brown is using the analogy of the 'Little train that could. First of all, that train was pulling freight cars. We can still do that with our current rail system, but we can forget carrying passengers around, we just can't do it properly.  Just try to ride a train from San Diego to Seattle. You'll find yourself shunted off to a siding for hours, waiting for a late freight.  Why can't we keep projections of costs somewhat in line with the estimates?.
   A fast train should be designed from Seattle to San Diego, then somehow get right of ways (Too bad we sold so many of them).  How about getting out of our wars where we're killing thousands of innocent civilians, maybe even cutting back on our manned missions to Mars, use the money to generate jobs here in train construction in lieu of war materials. We could still sell arms to both sides in a rebel societies, couldn't we?
    Can't we do a little research of other trains, like France ?  They somehow understood the problem from the beginning. For instance, They have a train from Paris to Marsielle, NON-STOP.  Or, catch a train in Lille, where the Chunnel train from England stops, and it will stop at DeGaulle Airport, then on to LeMons, not stopping at Paris. That's comparable to going from Sacramento, stopping at SFO Airport only , then continuing down to Anaheim.
  I haven't heard any details related to this mega-project, like how long are the stops? The European TGV stops for FIVE minutes, everyone has to get off and everyone on during that time. Thru one door per two cars. But think about it , we have 24 new stations. If we stop at them all, it will take two hours just for the stops! How do we get to LA - SF in 2.5 hours if we're stopping all the time?
  Which brings up another issue. Our speed train shows giant new stations, all glass roofs for our stops. Why do we have to have mega stations for micro trains?
   Let's do a breakdown of costs involved ;
  1. Buy right of ways.
   2.  build infrastructure (tracks, bridges, tunnels)
   3.  build 24 stations
   4.  have the Japanese build the trains. Are they turbine or electric?
   5.  Set up funding to support it for life. Like the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as it was paid off, they burdened it with a transit system that increases losses each year.
      What to do?  You can't be all things to all people (contrary to the democratic gridlock). The very fact that the EIR costs will be monumental, with the end result that will hardly change anything. The Sierra Club lawyers are already chewing round the ankles of the project.    It's already gone from 33 billion to 92 billion in a few years?
OOOps! I forgot to add the Design & Engineering costs. Sorry!

  He lived and blew a good, long life. Jim Hall, a modern jazz guitarist left his body & his guitar recently.  I met him two or three times in unusual circumstances.  We had dinner in a Sunset Strip joint when his ex-wife and I were up from Laguna Beach to dig the jazz scene for a night. I knew that he had been with Chico Hamilton's Chamber Jazz Quartet prior to getting his own Trio together.  Previously, a few years earlier, I had met him and Chico when I was an apprentice architect in Scottsdale Arizona, supplying the band with cannabis and striving to beat Chico in chess matches long after midnight in a small garage I had renovated for part of the rent. I was always surprised that Hall was so complacent that I had is woman (to hipsters, she was his 'Old  Lady'). I thought I would like to be like him when I grew up. But later, I realized he was really glad I took her off his hands.