Saturday, June 30, 2007

Click here to read my recent Father's Day post about him
love and peace

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Tuesday, June 26, 2007


Jim & Frank - '61 Club' Founders
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Big Bear News
Jim & Frank, the sole-surviving members of the '61 CLUB' FASHIONISTAS, hit the trail together for the first time this morning ("There might've been other potential members but I guess they all died before we could find 'em", Jim said). The dynamic duo made quick work of their 10 mile round trip, from Earth Home Garden to the west end of the Alpine Pedal Path, and back, even extending their ride to include the .6 mile segment of bike path between the Cougar Crest hiking trail and the Big Bear Discovery Center.
Frank, on his vintage "original condition" 1960s road bike ("I believe those are even the factory installed tires & brakes", Jim said), was a bit rusty on the winding two-wheel circuit, but still managed to narrowly escape serious injury, and a nasty rear-end collision with Jim, by using his quick wit & lightning fast braking, as Jim unexpectedly slowed to make a right turn into the Stanfield Marsh Wildlife Preserve (Jim said, "I told him I'd be turning in at the first boardwalk but apparently he didn't know where that was").
Jim heard panicky un-deleted expletives spewing from behind him, and then some serious skidding, so he powered into his turn to help avoid calamity, thus a probable tragedy was averted by mere fractions of an inch.
Once Frank re-mounted, the rest of the ride was relatively uneventful, except for one other minor incident a couple of miles later. Heading onto the first wooden bridge along the Alpine Pedal Path, Frank had a close encounter (a little too close) with a very understanding young woman. It seems that Frank slowed a bit too much for the turn, losing his balance and bumping left shoulders with the girl walking in the opposite direction. Well, once more, Frank became dismounted, but again, no injuries were sustained by either party, both of whom seemed quite relieved with that outcome. (Jim said, "That's a heck of a way to meet women Frank!").
The boys did seem to cheer up the natives they encountered along the ride though. Frank, gears clanking and tires bulging, on his rickety relic, and Jim, beard streaming in the breeze, from his old-school army-green '90s era jeep-like Diamondback Topanga, with black rims and months worth of cobwebs tangled in the spokes (Jim said, "I ride all the time, unless there's ice or snow on the ground, but I rarely ever clean off those cobwebs, 'cause you never know, someone might be livin' in there!").
Two old coots, 61 and still stylin', Ol' Frank & Jim, with their thrift store fashion, short shorts, spindly legs, and don't give a damned attitudes. Frank still has all his hair, and Jim still has most of his teeth ("Most of the hair I have left is on my chin", Jim said, "so it's comforting for me to get up in the morning and comb my face, and I'm wondering, because of his scarcity of teeth, if Frank finds comfort in brushing that full head of hair, instead of those missing choppers?").
Formerly an avid cyclist, this was Frank's first ride, of any consequence, for several years (and, fortunately, the consequences weren't any worse), so Jim's hoping they can start riding together a couple of times a week.
Frank lost his dear wife of 37 years just a few months ago and their ride today seemed to lift his spirits a bit ("Even with those couple of mishaps.", Jim said). And it was obvious that Jim had a good time enjoying the silliness of their combined eccentricities.
Once it warmed up a bit, Frank took off his jersey and seemed to get up some wind, even passing Jim once on the bike path, where Jim could then see the back of Franks t-shirt, which read, "Growing Old Disgracefully", and Jim had to laugh out loud!
"Frank has a lot of shirts like that...'s why he's my fashion consultant."
Here's to ya Frank!!!
See you next Tuesday Buddy

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Just Goofin' Around...

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
The light shining through these bottles in our laundry room window caught my eye last week so I clicked a picture, and, a day or so later, played with the image a bit in Photoshop. Nothin' special, just goofin' around.
Boy, I've had a few interesting mornings lately...
Tuesday morning, I woke up early, stumbled down the stairs to use the bathroom, flushed the toilet, and went into the kitchen to start some coffee (yes mom, I washed my hands). That's when I heard the sound of a waterfall coming from the back of the house and ran back to find the toilet overflowing like some grand artesian spring!
I hate it when a day starts out like that, before you even get the crud out of your eyes...
I can't remember the last time the toilet overflowed, but it was probably before our adult kids were teenagers.
...then, there was Wednesday, our food co-op delivery day.
I got up early to print order forms to give our members Wednesday, so they'd have them for Julys' orders, and then went downstairs to start the day off right with a healthful bowl of the wheatless eight-grain cereal Peggy had just cooked up (Peg doesn't eat wheat).
As I dressed up my cereal with frozen organic raspberries, frozen organic blueberries, almond-cranberry trail mix, hemp-hearts and soy-milk, I splashed a little milk on the stack of order forms I'd just printed, so I cleared off the table before I ate to avoid making a bigger mess.
I was thinking about the busy day ahead of me, of sorting orders and totaling them up, and wondering if the truck would be late again, delaying my calls to the members who were waiting to pick up their goods, and also, about the welder who was coming by to fix a few broken things around here.
After breakfast, I set up a table and chair out by the gate, getting everything ready for the delivery, then swept off the 10'x10' slab of concrete there so the welder would have a place to work free of flammable material.
Well, of course, the co-op truck and the welder arrived at the same time (the food delivery was early & the welder was late), both requiring my immediate attention and cramping the three of us into a rather small space when you consider that cardboard boxes were stacked everywhere and welding was going on. While I was checking in the order, a few sparks from the welding bounced off the slab, starting a little fire in some pine-needles---nothing serious---and the fire was quickly stomped out, but it was an interesting moment or two. A bit later, when the co-op members began arriving to pick up their orders, I realized that I couldn't find next months order forms, the ones I had splattered the soy milk on.
Not wanting to waste paper, I looked all over the frickin' house, to no avail, even going through the trash in case I had accidently thrown them away. I knew the forms had to be right in front of my nose but I never found them and eventually had to print a new batch. That evening, when Peggy was reading the newspaper, she found my forms folded up in the comics section. Quite fitting, don't you think?
...then, there was this morning!
But first, let me begin with yesterday, and last night...
Yesterday, the Summer Solstice, was a very enjoyable & productive day here, with lots of clean-up and repairs getting done. A friend took a load of junk to the dump/recycling center for us and I greased up my newly welded pedal-stone and sharpened some tools. We worked outside until it was nearly dark before Peggy and I went in to make our solstice dinner together.
Spaghetti with Fresh Herbs & Turkey Meatballs and a Tossed Green Salad
Peggy had picked a bunch of fresh lettuce and spinach from our garden, along with some sage, oregano, chives, and chive flowers. We also had some fresh basil and thyme from the store (we don't have basil to pick right now, and, after several years of faithful service our thyme didn't come back this spring, probably because of our extremely dry winter).
Anyhow, to make a short story longer, I prepared the meatballs, chopping and adding sage, chives, chive flowers and garlic to the ground turkey. Then, just for fun, I threw in an egg, a teaspoon of horseradish, about 4 ounces of Feta Cheese, and some chopped olives. At this point, I realized the mixture was a getting bit thin & gooey, too many ingredients for the pound of turkey, so I added two crumbled rice-cakes and two tablespoon of quinoa flour (Peggy doesn't eat wheat).
Much better, now I could actually form the meatballs.
Once the meatballs were in the oven I went to work on the sauce. I started with a jar of organic garden-vegetable pasta sauce that we get from our food co-op, by the case, and chopped up the basil & thyme to add to it.
By this time, well after 9 o'clock, Peg had already finished preparing a beautiful green salad with celery, avocado, and tomato, so she helped with the spaghetti by chopping some onions and garlic for the sauce, grating some parmesan cheese, and boiling the water for the organic quinoa spaghetti, which we also get, by the case, from our food co-op (again Peg doesn't eat wheat).
Everything came together nicely and the salad, sauce, and meatballs were absolutely delicious. By the time we ate though, it was well after 10 PM, and getting quite cold outside, so we decided to eat our solstice dinner in the house by the light of a hand-dipped bayberry candle we saved especially for the occasion.
After dinner we made our bed out on the deck, and I poured some red wine and grabbed my guitar. Laying there, propped up with pillows, candle aglow, and Dallas at our feet, we watched a few shooting stars burn through the sky while I plunked out some soft little ditties I know, and shortly began drifting off.
A fitting end to a lovely solstice event. Almost...
For years I've had a hiatal hernia in my stomach, and sometimes, if I eat too close to bedtime, it causes me great discomfort, to where I can't sleep. So, there I was tossing & turning, trying to get comfortable, and keeping Peg awake. It was getting very cold and my fidgeting kept letting the frigid air under the blankets.
Understandably, Peggy likes her sleep, so we decided to move inside about half past midnight. Peg went to bed while I sat up reading, until my stomach settled down, and I fell asleep on the couch.
...and now, back to this morning.
At about 7:30, from my groggy restless sleep, I thought I heard Peg moving around, and called her name. Dallas, sleeping near me at the foot of the couch, heard my voice and started wagging his tail, which knocked over last nights unfinished glass of red wine, which then spilled all over the coffee table, several good books, and my new hemp t-shirt, before running onto the wool indian rug beneath the table.
All before I could even get my eyes open...
I hate it when days start like that!!!
But it's all over now, and really quite funny, I think.
And what does the laundry room window have to do with all this?
Absolutely nothing! I'm just goofin' around, that's all, and laughing at three little episodes from my own silly life.
So, have a wonderful, funny, weird, or goofy day...
...or maybe a little of each.
I'm not going to let this relentless human comedy screw up my day, even if the joke is on me.
I've had much worse mornings.
A lot.
Back out in the yard to play...

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

----->>>>>>>Summer Solstice<<<<<<<-----

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Our garden is in full bloom for the Summer Solstice and I'll be contentedly spending my day doing yard clean-up, weeding, and readying the place for the Xeriscape Garden Tour on Saturday, July 14th.

Peggy and I will have our Solstice dinner out on the deck tonight where we'll be sleeping under a black mountain sky of stars.


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Sunday, June 17, 2007

A Father's Day Letter To Claude Hampson

Click on photo to enlarge - photo credit unknown
It was a much different world back in 1960!
For me, it was a world of cars, girls, & AM Radio, in that order, and I was working at my stepdad's autobody shop after school, on Saturdays, and during summer vacation.
This was no ordinary body & fender joint, and dad was no Bondo© hack! He was a master metalcrafter, among many other things, and worked specifically on imports, which were still rare in those days, and mostly owned by car enthusiast perfectionists who doted & fussed over their beloved machines.
The shop was always full of pretty sports cars, like MGs, Triumphs, Austin Healys, Alpha Romeos, Porsches, and Jaguars.
And, very often with outrageously expensive exotics too, from gull-wing Mercedes 300 SLs, to Ferraris, Bugattis, Aston Martins, Alpha Bats, Facel Vegas, Lamborghinis. or AC Ace/Bristols (before Carroll Shelby modified those same chassis & bodies to accomodate Ford V-8s and created the original Shelby Cobras)
And there were some Volkswagens too, and VW Karmann Ghias, and Renaults, Peugeots, Citroens, Borgwards, Vauxhalls and such.
But the cars I loved the most were the ones my stepfather built himself, like the Formula III car, Andrea, (named after the owner's daughter), which he designed & built, from the ground up, in the late '50s for Chuck Nerpel, editor of Motor Trend Magazine, and, especially, the 1927 Model T Ford Track Roadster he built for his friend Jack Thompson in the mid-fifties.
I still loved cars in those good old days---before we knew about global warming, and before I could look back upon a half century of the horrific consequences resulting from freeways, urban sprawl, overpopulation, pollution & industrialization---and long before my brilliant stepdad was stricken with mind-erasing Alzheimers.
My dad doesn't know me anymore and he lives in a care facility close to my mom's place in Utah.
For Father's Day, they asked the sons & daughters of the male residents there to send letters and pictures to be shared with the group as they assembled our Dads, and the family & friends who could attend, for a celebration this weekend.
Dad probably didn't understand a word of my letter, or even look at the pictures, but my mom said there wasn't a dry eye among the staff and visitors as the letter was read.
When my stepdad began to lose his faculties, he and I had been good buddies for many years, and I'm very thankful for that because there was a time when we wouldn't even speak to each other.
In my later teens, we had a few very tough years, as sons & fathers often do, and I was a wild one, an angry delinquent from a broken family. So we had a blowout!
Too rebellious to follow rules, I ended up living on the streets for quite some time.
I had nowhere else to go because my real father, a diabetic (and a very talented guy too, by the way), drank himself to death a few years after my mom divorced him.
My stepdad had some rough edges too, and didn't adjust very smoothly to becoming the instant father to four rowdy kids. But we got through those years, and, after I grew up a little, became very close friends again.
We're all human, we all make mistakes, and forgiveness may be the most important ingredient of love.
I've posted my Father's Day Letter* below.
But dad doesn't grasp what the words are about anymore, even though I purposely included many names, places, objects and events that should trigger his memory.
Still, it's Father's Day, and I'd like someone, anyone, to know how I feel about my dad.
Dear Claude,

I’m writing to wish you a very Happy Father’s Day and to say that I love you. I would also like to try and express how much I appreciate the great influence you’ve had on my life.
I am now 61 years old and you’ve been the only father I’ve known for 47 years.

You married my mother, Lois, when I was 14 years old, taking me under your wing and giving me a job at your business, Claude’s Body Shop, in Reseda, California.

In those years you were well-known and respected as one of the finest metal-workers, welders, tool & die makers, and auto-body craftsmen in Southern California.

Working under your example taught me to truly appreciate fine craftsmanship and the value in knowing how to do many things well.

I watched you build Formula III race cars, hot-rods and customs. I witnessed your restoration of many priceless antique classic cars, including that blue 1930s Bugatti T51A, a priceless one of a kind Alpha Bat, and a very rare Facel Vega.

Most, if not all, of the parts for those cars had to be hand-built from scratch and you always managed to do an impossibly beautiful job of it.

You were gifted with an extremely rare native genius, which, combined with your uncommon talents for artistic craftsmanship, innovative invention, and skilled know-how, put you in great demand in each of your fields of expertise.

Your talents seemed easily transferable to any craft you chose to practice. I watched you build gorgeous kitchen cabinets for our house in Van Nuys and remember you taking up many forgotten or difficult arts. You could do absolutely anything that captured your interest, and your interests seemed boundless.

You could hand paint exquisite realistic wood-grain patterns on any surface, a talent which came in quite handy for restoring the metal dashboards of antique cars which were often painted to look exactly like walnut burl or some other rare exotic wood. And I remember you painting a plain household door to look just like knotty-pine.

I remember when you got a centrifuge and took up lost-wax casting, when you found an old forge and set it up in the garage to practice hand-forging, all with superb results. You were also a master machinist, in great demand because of your unmatched skills with milling machines, lathes, and any other machinery you could get your hands on.

All the aspects of your skills and talents had a huge impact on my life. I still strive to be good at many different things, as you were, and, while I don’t have the same set of skills that you did, I'm quite artistic and productive in my own ways, through arts & crafts, photography, graphic design and such. And, to this day, I still do all the construction and repairs to our home, as you always had.

In the 1980s, I built the laundry room onto my house as a result of skills and confidence I learned from you. After I retired I rebuilt my roof to accommodate insulation, replaced all of our windows and doors, and recently installed pine-plank flooring. Now I’m preparing to remodel our kitchen and build the cabinets myself.

I do our own plumbing and remodeling, as you did, rarely hiring outside help, because, like you, I’ve learned that I can usually do a better job of it, and have the rewarding satisfaction of doing the work, being self-reliant, and saving money too.

Back the 1970s, from your example, I restored my old Datsun pick-up to mint condition, even rebuilding the engine myself.

Around that same time I took up stained-glass window making and built a bunch of nice looking windows which still grace several custom homes in Topanga Canyon.

The last window I made, in the late ‘70s, was for you and mom, for the front door of your Granada Hills house, where you saw it every day for decades, and now mom has moved it to the new house there in Elwood, Utah.

As you can see, being witness to your fine craftsmanship and working under your guidance, even for just those few short years, greatly enriched my life.

You showed me how to lay out a hood, or a body panel, and scribe it accurately for punching louvers, and how to properly prepare a car for a show-quality paint job. You taught me how to dis-assemble mangled cars and how to meticulously re-assemble them once the parts were repaired or replaced. You tried to teach me metalworking, welding, and machinist skills, even when I didn't really have an affinity for that stuff. But most importantly, you taught me to use care at every step, and to pay attention to details, and I became very good at that.
And, the fact that you trusted me to work on some of the world's rarest & most valuable cars gave me a great feeling of confidence.

Working at your shop, I developed practical and mechanical skills which have been extremely useful to me throughout my life. The education I got from you has been far more valuable than anything I learned in school, with the exception of the basic skills of reading, writing, and arithmetic, most of which mom taught me.

But still, you’ve given me so much more than all that, because you truly became my father.

You often reminded me of how important it was that I learn a trade so I could make a decent living for myself. You instilled in me a work ethic, and the desire to be responsible, which has enabled me to have a home and a family of my own for the past 28 years.

And, like most dads, you taught me how to drive a car, but not just any old car. I learned to drive in a classic red 1958 Triumph TR3 sports-car. And then, just days after I’d gotten my learner's permit, you let me drive that hand-built, now classic hot-rod around the block.

The 1927 Model “T” Ford track roadster you built for Jack Thompson in the '50s was featured on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in August of 1958 (I sent a copy of the cover with this letter). Then, in the late ‘80s, you were consulted to assist Tri-C Engineering with part of its complete restoration, and today the car is considered one of America’s all-time classic hot-rod roadsters (I’ve enclosed some photos and stories about that too). Last I heard, the roadster was at Petersen’s Classic Car Museum in Los Angeles, but I got to drive it down old Reseda’s Canby Avenue, with you as my passenger, way back in 1961 when I was only 15 years-old. I was so nervous my clutch leg wouldn’t stop shaking. Driving that loud wild looking hot-rod is one of my all-time favorite memories.

You helped me get my first car, a 1953 Studebaker, my second car, a ’56 Chevy, and several years later, you gave me your beloved 1941 Ford pick-up, which had been given to you by your best friend Phil Freudiger (Muroc 200 MPH Club) many years before.

During my early twenties when I was on my own, after those awfully difficult teenage years, you and I became good buddies. So, the late 1960s, ‘70s, & '80s were great times for us. Remember the season’s passes we got to Busch Gardens every year, where we’d get together several times a month, with family and friends, to have an absolute blast?

We went to countless swap-meets and car shows together, to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire a couple of times, and often met for Sunday brunch, or went out to dinner or movies. You came up to Topanga Canyon and partied with my hippie friends when we had our pig or goat roasts. We went to wild counter-culture plays at the Topanga Community House.
Oh, we had such good fun then didn’t we?

I miss those days very much, when we were all so young and alive, and I wish we lived closer to each other so I could visit you more often.

Peggy and I enjoyed seeing you so much when we were there last October. We loved taking you out for that ride to see the new house and visiting with you there for part of the day. The next time we come to Utah we hope to do that again.

I’ve enclosed some pictures with this letter that I thought you might enjoy looking at: my favorite photo of you & mom, dancing in the 1980s; two pictures of your grandkids; some of Peggy & I; and one of me and my life-long friend Charlie. I also sent some photos of your now famous roadster, and a picture of that brass sun-pendant you made for me by the lost-wax casting process.

Thank you dad for all you’ve given me…

I hope you have a very nice Father’s Day.
I wish I was there with you today.
I love you very much!
Your son,

Click on photo to enlarge - photo credit unknown/owned by Tri-C Engineering
The entire nose of this beautiful track-style roadster, from the firewall forward, was hand-formed from aluminum, as was the full belly-pan. The grille, & grille bezel, were crafted from stainless steel and the matching nerf bar was fabricated from spring steel and then chrome-plated. Dad did all the work himself, before he had his own shop, including an immaculate black lacquer paint job which he sprayed, outdoors, under a giant walnut tree in his dad's front yard.
I think dad was still building aluminum Indie Car bodies for Frank Kurtis at Kurtis Kraft in Glendale when he built the roadster.
The original pin-striping was done by Jimmy Summers. Other details I remember are that the engine is a souped-up bored & stroked '48 Mercury Flathead V-8 with finned aluminum heads, a racing cam, and three Stromberg 97 two-barrel carburetors. The dashboard is engine-turned stainless, crafted by dad, with Stewart Warner gauges, and the tail-lights are '39 Ford teardrops. Custom headers route the dual exhaust pipes through a pair of hand-made surface-mounted stainless bezels, beneath twin nerf bars, on the tail of the modified 'T' bucket. The gloss black paint is contrasted with red Kelsey Hayes wire-wheels, and red leather upholstery
The roadster was completely restored some 15 years ago by Tri-C Engineering with my dad as a consultant. Dad also made some repairs to the aluminum cowl (hood) at the time. The car now looks exactly as it did nearly 50 years ago when it was featured on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine.
This is one of the first cars I ever drove.
But, in the harsh light of 21st Century realities, my love affair with the automobile is long a thing of the past. Still, I'll never forget this little beauty...
...and I'll never forget my stepfather, Claude Hampson.
*The Father's Day Letter above is slightly edited from the original, to correct grammar, smooth out a few sentences, and include a couple of overlooked details. But, it's still 99+% the original letter.
postscript - 6/21/07
There's a substantial amount of research linking aluminum with Alzheimers and I suspect that a lifetime of forming, fabricating, machining, sanding, and welding Aluminum was instrumental in my stepfather acquiring the disease.

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Native Lemon Lily among Wild Geranium

Lilium parryi with Geranium richardsonii
Click on photo to enlarge © 2007 jim otterstrom
The native Lemon Lilies growing in our garden began to bloom a couple of days ago and, this morning when I took this photo, there were six wonderfully lemon-scented flowers open and many more buds ready to go.
Lilium parryi has been red-listed in California as threatened and is a Forest Service 'sensitive species'. The 5 plants we have in our garden were grown from seed at Las Pilitas Nursery where they specialize in rare native plants. The hope is that if people can purchase these plants commercially it will reduce the incidents of them being illegally collected in the wild and enable the Lilies to expand their populations.
During the early part of the 20th Century specimens of Lemon Lily were widely collected here in The San Bernardino Mountains and some were hybridized to create the Lilies you find at today's florests and nurseries.
We've admired Lemon Lilies in the wild for many years and it's nice to have a source for them now, so we can grow them in our own native plant garden, here in the mountains to which they belong.
They grow near streams so we have them planted near the boulder birdbath and solar waterfall where they get more water than the rest of our native garden which consists mostly of drought-adapted natives. The lilies in this small, but consistantly damp, part of our garden are mixed in with other local plant species associated with moist habitat such as Wild Geranium (Geranium richardsonii), Crimson Columbine (Aquilegia formosa), Stream Orchid (Epipactis gigantea), Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis), and the Wild Blue Iris (Iris missouriensis) or Western Blue Flag as it is sometimes called.
The garden is magical this time of year, making it difficult for me to be anywhere else, so I'll catch you later.

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Sunday, June 10, 2007


Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom
Peggy put together a delicious salad this evening with fresh home-grown greens, chives & chive flowers from our garden, and organic tomatoes, avocados and carrots from the store.
The salad was so colorful it begged to have its picture taken.
She served this with wild caught Alaska Salmon, seeds & nuts, and her own French Mustard Dressing.
Simple and delicious!

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Hedgehog Cactus Bloom

Click on photo to enlarge - © 2007 jim otterstrom

Taken at 10:21 this morning in the native plant garden.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License.