Category Archives: Out & About

Out & About—Strutting peacock video

Out & About

My speaking engagement on 2/13/20 with the San Gabriel Valley Cactus & Succulent Society occurred at the Los Angeles County Arboretum. They have a flock of peafowl there which seems to be growing. I counted 27 at one point but I could not get them all in one picture. Here’s my mostest:

Peafowl at the Los Angeles County Arboretum

If you’ve never seen a strutting peacock, including behind-the-scene action, here’s one for you from my time at the Los Angeles County Arboretum last week:

Out & About—Slab City, California, public library

Out & About

One of the nice things about libraries here in California is that almost all of them have a “Friends of the Library” association, taking in book donations and selling them to make money for the library. I have bought many books from Friends.

Here is the public library at Slab City, California:

Slab City, California, public library

Here is their Friends of the Libary:

Friends of the Library at Slab City, California

Dolphins killed Jesus

Out & About

One of the “neighborhoods” of Slab City, California, is East Jesus.

Its complementary neighborhood is West Satan.

East Jesus and West Satan don’t get along. No surprise there, but since the leader of our photographic expedition was wearing an East Jesus shirt, we decided to skip West Satan. Consequently, all I have to offer you today is pictures of the East Jesus sculpture garden, obviously Slab City’s “tourist trap.”

For your visual entertainment:

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

East Jesus sculpture garden

A Smith Corona Coronamatic.
This was my first electric typewriter.
I would have kept mine if I had known
that some day it would be a museum piece.
East Jesus sculpture garden

I’m worried about his followers

Out & About

Yesterday I went to Salvation Mountain.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain location

This was my sixth or seventh trip to Salvation Mountain since 1993, but I was always alone, so I never exited the car and walked around.

I did not feel safe.

Yesterday I was with a group of seventeen photographers…. There’s power in numbers.

I felt safe.

Not completely safe.

But safe enough to get out of my car and take pictures.

Salvation Mountain

Salvation Mountain

Is it odd that I don’t feel safe in the midst of Bible Thumpers, especially those spouting “God Is Love?” On the surface, yes, I think it is odd. The underlying reality, I believe—

—and as my wise old grandmother told me,
“You can’t argue with someone’s beliefs
because their beliefs are not always based in reality.”—

—is that these people will do just about anything to protect their beliefs, and they often are not sane, sober, or interested in other beliefs, not to mention opinions, facts, science, truth….

Armed & bitter libertarian drunkards live here

Salvation Mountain is a “hillside visionary environment” created by Leonard Knight (1931–2014) in the California Desert area of Imperial County. Knight started it in 1984 when he was 53. Although there are many Bible verses painted on Salvation Mountain, its main philosophy is the Sinner’s Prayer. Knight’s version of the Sinner’s Prayer seemed to be the following because it was everywhere!

Jesus, I’m a sinner.
Please come upon my body
and into my heart.

Sinner's Prayer

What little research I could tolerate doing this morning on the Sinner’s Prayer indicates that it’s just another of those beliefs. In this case, even the Bible does not contain any reference to the Sinner’s Prayer. It’s all made up gobbledygook even beyond the fairy tales in the Bible.

Salvation Mountain is the “showpiece” of Slab City. Other parts of Slab City include the “neighborhoods” of East Jesus and West Satan. I’m pretty sure I would  be living in West Satan.

We didn’t make it to West Satan yesterday. Seems the West Satan folks and the East Jesus folks weren’t getting along…. Where’s God’s love?

All residents of Slab City are “squatters” and seem to be paranoid about government, technology, and science. However, if you want to donate to their paranoia, they have an email address and they do take PayPal. They also have a Facebook page. Am I the only one who sees the irony here?

East Jesus PayPal

I do find it interesting that for a “city” propounding God’s love, there was a lot of non-love exhibited throughout Salvation Mountain, Slab City, and East Jesus.

Slow the fuck down

I'll have them all shot

More irony (my belief)
No stupid people

No fucking parking

In 2000, The Folk Art Society of America declared Salvation Mountain

a folk art site worthy of preservation and protection.

In an address to the United States Congress on May 15, 2002, California Senator Barbara Boxer described Salvation Mountain

as a unique and visionary sculpture… a national treasure… profoundly strange and beautifully accessible, and worthy of the international acclaim it receives.

In December 2011, the 80-year-old Knight, suffering from dementia,
was placed in a long-term care facility in El Cajon, California (where I live!).
He died there February 10, 2014.

In 2012, a public charity, Salvation Mountain, Inc., was established to support and maintain Salvation Mountain.

I found the question mark in this little section of Salvation Mountain to be quite interesting:

Bible Jesus Loves ? You

I’m not worried about whether or not Bible Jesus loves me. I’m worried about the followers of Bible Jesus….

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden—A Review

The Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
A Review

Hippos at the Los Angeles ZooI became a fan of zoos after my first visit to the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas, in summer 1966. If I had never seen a giraffe, or an elephant, or a rhinoceros, or a hippopotamus…. I never would have taken such an interest in their plight in the world.

Chimpanzees at the Los Angeles ZooA couple of years later, a real live monkey showed up in our yard. My wise old grandmother told me to give it a banana. I though that was only in cartoons. The darn thing ate it. And as with just about any animal, if you feed it, it’s yours.

That monkey stayed in the trees in our back yard for several months. I named it Cheetah.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenThen, one day, people showed up to take Cheetah. They were people from the San Antonio Zoo. A monkey was considered an exotic pet, and exotic pets were not allowed in Kingsville, Texas. We had to let them capture Cheetah and take him away.

When San Antonio hosted Hemisfair in 1968, I convinced my wise old grandmother to take me to San Antonio. Sure I wanted to go to Hemisfair, but more importantly to this little boy, I wanted to go to the San Antonio Zoo to see Cheetah.

Serval at the Los Angeles ZooI don’t know whether or not Cheetah recognized me, but to this day I believe he did. All one has to do is watch YouTube videos about animals recognizing those who rescued them, fed them, and cared for them, even after being separated from them for weeks, months, and, in one case, 11 years. Yeah, our animals that we care for know who we are.

Los Angeles ZooYesterday, Jim and I went to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden. I had never been to the Los Angeles Zoo, but since I have been going to the San Diego Zoo and the Safari Park on a regular basis for 26½ years, I already knew that the Los Angeles Zoo didn’t have anything that I had not already seen. Thus, my main interest was in the Botanical Garden aspect of the zoo with the possible intent of including a section in my forthcoming book, SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation.

Ostrich at the Los Angeles ZooThe Los Angeles Zoo opened in 1966, so it’s about fifty years younger than the San Diego Zoo. However, at 133 acres, it is 33 acres larger. However, there are only about 1,400 animals residing at the Los Angeles Zoo. After walking the whole zoo yesterday, I would guess that about 70 acres is simply unused land. Jim and I always are tired after a trip to the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t experience that after walking the Los Angeles Zoo.

Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical GardenI was disappointed in the zoo but I might be unreasonably comparing it to the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park. The L.A. Zoo was quite busy yesterday. However, it needs a serious cleaning, including a parking lot renovation. The asphalt probably is the original asphalt from when the zoo opened in 1966. The whole place was overgrown with weeds. Deciduous trees had dropped all their leaves; unfortunately, all over the exhibits, making a mess of them, making a mess of any horticultural exhibits beneath the trees, making a mess of the various play areas for children.

Notwithstanding all the problems, there were several things that made the visit worthwhile:

      1. I now have been to the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden.
      2. The birds show was excellent because it featured birds that you won’t be seeing in your back yard: two African vultures (huge birds!) and a California Condor (another huge bird!)
      3. Although many of the botanical gardens were weedy and covered with leaves, I did get enough good pictures for my book.
      4. The giraffe feeding line was very long, and having fed the giraffes at the San Diego Zoo, I can tell you that feeding giraffes is quite an experience. This final picture shows a little girl feeding a giraffe. I believe this little girl will grow up with an appreciation of wildlife—my appreciation of wildlife started by feeding a monkey. Perhaps this little girl will get a college degree in wildlife conservation, maybe even work in a zoo providing this type of experience to the next generation.

Feeding a giraffe at the Los Angeles Zoo

All pictures in this post were taken by me
at the Los Angeles Zoo & Botanical Garden
on December 29, 2019.

I’m well on my way before I even start!

Flowers in Russel's cactus garden

Ever since I joined my first cactus & succulent club in February 2017, I had been wanting to do a presentation of nature’s geometry using the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144…..). It’s an additive sequence, meaning that the next number in the sequence is the sum of the two previous numbers.

The program chairperson for the first club told me in April 2018 that they had just had such a speaker a year ago, that he was very good, and that I would be hard-pressed to follow him. I told him that, since 1973, I had been studying the Fibonacci numbers and how they are expressed in nature, so I wouldn’t be hard-pressed to follow anyone. However, having a speaker just a year ago meant that having another speaker on the same subject the following year probably would not go over well. I got the name of the previous speaker, and it turns out that “a year ago” was defined as “five years ago.” More importantly, though, I since found out that the program chairperson for that club doesn’t schedule anyone who is not already on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. That, of course, begs the Catch-22 question, “How do you get on the speaking circuit to begin with?”

Turns out that one has to make contacts in a club which will take a chance on you, and that happened in June 2019 for me with the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Club of Escondido, California.

I recently found out two other ways: (1) write many articles throughout the years and have them published in reputable books and magazines, and (2) to publish a book, which I did in October 2019:

"Nature's Geometry: Succulents" front cover

Nature's Geometry: Succulents back cover

My book is for sale at my Etsy shop, $30 with free shipping to United States locations: etsy.com/shops/russelrayphotos

Many decades ago, being an author of a book was a pretty good indicator of expertise. In today’s world of self-publishing, not necessarily. That’s a problem that I dealt with with my own head when looking at publishers.

I wanted desperately for the Texas A&M University Press to publish my book since Texas A&M University is my alma mater, Class of ’77. However, the cost of having the Press publish it would have been about $44 per book, so I would have wanted to sell it for $50 to make at least a little money. The only books that are 174 pages that sell for that much money are academic books by academic publishers. So that was out.

The other problem was the time frame. It would have taken up to 18 months to publish the dang thing.

So self-publishing it was…. inexpensive and as fast as I wanted it to be. I chose BookBaby because they are a print-on-demand service. I can have one book printed, hundreds of books, or thousands of books. Of course, the more books one has printed, the less expensive the cost per book.

I could choose to have BookBaby completely involved in everything, or nothing. I chose nothing because I have been doing writing, editing, graphic design, book and magazine design and layout, and publishing all my life.

If I used all of their services, the cost would have been right up there with the Texas A&M University Press, and the lead time would have been up there, too. By buying an ISBN number from BookBaby and then using their printing services, I kept the cost low and the lead time short.

I am extremely happy with BookBaby’s printing, paper, and binding.

Having a book published immediately got me on the cactus & succulent club speaking circuit. I’m also exploring many other speaking circuits, including horticulture clubs, gardening clubs, community retirement homes (I had no idea that so many of them have regular programs; two already have expressed an interest), and city and county libraries, many of which have up to five programs each week.

The reception of Nature’s Geometry: Succulents also has me looking at doing another book. My two immediate choices are Nature’s Geometry: Flora and Nature’s Geometry: Fauna. However, my main goal is to stay on the cactus & succulent speaking circuit where I already know my intended audience and their likes.

I have noticed that a great majority of the cactus & succulent speakers give presentations on their travels to foreign countries. The Atacama Desert region of Chile and the Oxaca region of Mexico are two of the most popular. That, though, caused me to think that maybe, just maybe, the southwestern United States has a lot to offer.Fishhook barrel cactus

There are a lot of cacti & succulents that grow in our region, many of which are found only here. Carnegiea gigantea (the saguaro) comes immediately to mind, but there also is Ferocactus wislizeni, the Southwestern barrel cactus (picture at right), Agave utahensis (which, you might guess, occurs in Utah), Ferocactus cylindraceus, the California barrel cactus, and Yucca brevifolia, the Joshua tree.

Knowing this, I have decided to do a second book, tentatively titled
SSS: Southwest Succulent Staycation. For my purpose with this book, I will define “southwest” as California, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona.

United States SSS map

During 2020, I will be endeavoring to go to all the national parks, national monuments, botanical gardens, zoos (many zoos in the southwest also are botanical gardens), state parks, and cities with a population of at least 50,000. There will be exceptions, I’m sure. I already have a few million photos from excursions in the southwest, so I’m well on my way before I even start!

The nice thing about this second book is that, for people back east, going to the southwestern United States can be very much like going to a foreign country, so I might be able to get on cactus & succulent speaking circuits outside of my home territory of the southwest.

The Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On September 6, 2019, I was in Dana Point, California, for the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by the Ocean Institute.

Surprising to me, although I had been to Dana Point, it was on a technicality: I had driven through it on Pacific Coast Highway. I never had stopped to go exploring. This time, I did. There is lots to do in Dana Point, but I do admit I was more interested in the harbor and the Ocean Institute. In the picture below, at the bottom center, several masts from tall ships are visible. That’s the Ocean Institute, at the bottom of the cliff.

Dana Point, California, harbor

The front of the Ocean Institute was undergoing repairs and renovations, so I chose not to take a picture of all the fencing. I suspect you’ve seen fencing before. It’s usually not pretty. It wasn’t. Here’s a picture of the landlocked back side, though:

Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Although it is the landlocked side, it is the side that faces the Pacific Ocean, which is why there are so many trails through the vegetation there. People want to see the mighty Pacific, and it’s no wonder with views like this:

The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, California. Its mission statement:

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.

The Ocean Institute was founded in 1977 and educates over 100,000 children, teachers, parents, and visitors each year through over 60 programs on marine science, maritime history, and outdoor education. It occupies 2.4 acres  and also is adjacent to a State Marine Conservation Area.

“Immersion-based field trips” sponsored by the Ocean Institute range from one-hour science labs to multi-day programs at sea and at the Lazy W Ranch in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Programs are designed to maximize immersion, spark curiosity, and inspire a commitment to learning.

There are state-of-the-art teaching labs, including the awesome Maddie James Seaside Learning Center, and two historic tall ships, the Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point. I got to take a 3-hour ride in the Pacific Ocean on the Spirit of Dana Point on September 6.

Passengers on the Spirit of Dana Point

The Pilgrim is a full-size replica of a hide brig, i.e., a brig participating in the California cattle hide trade for her Boston owners, Bryant & Sturgis. The original Pilgrim was built in Boston in 1825 and sank in a fire at sea in 1856. It weighed 180 tons and was 86½ feet long.

The replica was built in 1945 in Denmark, originally as a three-masted schooner. It was converted to its present rigging in 1975 in Lisbon, Portugal. Its deck is 98 feet long with a beam of 24.6 feet, a mainmast height of 98 feet, and a net tonnage of 64. In September 1981 it became part of the Ocean Institute.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

If you’re a film buff, the Pilgrim might look familiar to you since it was used in the 1997 film, Amistad. If you’re a history buff, Amistad should be on your list of films to watch. I have not seen it and did not know about it until this blog post, which was another surprise because it was directed by Steven Spielberg (one of my favorite directors) and starred Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors), Anthony Hopkins (who can forget Silence of the Lambs), and Matthew McConaughey.

As an aside since I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University, Matthew McConaughey now is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Radio-Television-Film in the Moody College of Communication at my arch rival, the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1993.

Amistad is a historical drama film based on the true story of the events in 1839 aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors’ ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.

The screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy by historian Howard Jones. The case, United States v. The Amistad (1839) is quite interesting, perhaps the most important decision regarding slavery before the Dred Scot decision in 1857.

The movie is not available on Hulu or Netflix, but I did find it on YouTube for $2.99. As soon as I finish Altered Carbon, I’ll be watching Amistad.

The Ocean Institute also owns an oceanographic research vessel, the Sea Explorer.

Sea Explorer of the Ocean Institute

My Photoshop eye was quick to see that with just a few minutes of work, I could rename the Sea Explorer:

Sex Explorer

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos