Thursday, December 18, 2014


Sometimes life seems guided by what I call the hidden hands.

I once heard a voice that saved me from a car accident. Driving south through Eureka many years ago I unquestionably obeyed a voice that appeared in my head telling me to move one lane over to the left. It is no exaggeration to say that had I not done so, I would have collided with the car that leaped suddenly into traffic. Someone at an intersection with poor visibility took a chance and lucked out because of the voice I inexplicably heard in my mind driving alone.

The hidden hands may have once appeared to me. When I was a kid, I once saw a dot of light appear before me and slowly grow. I recall staring at it transfixed. The dot of light expanded, and I saw zoom into my view three figures, not full-size, but nearly so, with one front and center and two others slightly behind on either side, and all three with long hair and long beards, wearing long-sleeved robes and glowing. The one in front extended his hands palm up before me, held that pose, then all three suddenly retracted back into a dot of light that disappeared.

I have had dreams come to pass. I once dreamed of a white rabbit in a green field, and the next morning saw exactly that when I lifted up the shade of a window. in an apartment recessed in the ground. For years I lived deep underground. For many long years and deep indeed I wandered in the timeless realm of caves.

Some summers ago I worked as a laborer for a father and son way out in the hills. Knowing how large caves loom in my mind, they showed me one on their property. We trekked over after lunch break, calling it an early day from taking down some trees.

I started working fairly regularly for Graham and Marty on all manner of projects to round out my lack of writing income. I was the hay-buckin', barn-paintin', fence-fixin' ranch hand on 2,500 acres for a few years. I've worked in rivers for the Confederated Tribes on a salmon restoration project and done all kinds of manual labor, so I was comfortable in the basic grunt capacity and then some. Working for Graham and Marty I always learned something. Whether it was mixing cement, or dragging a 20-foot log up on a roof as a beam, every work experience offered something new to learn.

On the day they showed me the cave, I had just learned that I could take down a 30-foot tree, thick as a leg, with a blade called a kukuri faster than Marty could get his chainsaw all configured and do the same. He gave me the spiel on Cold Steel, saying how they make the best blades in the world. Those guys are always talking about weapons, and they pack 'em around, too.

We plodded across precipitous trails, and while Graham recounted to me a tale from his Wisconsin youth as a train conductor's son, I had to wonder how many times Marty had heard the exact same story. Now and again Marty added to what Graham said, and Graham would like as not say something subtle and sharp back to Marty, apparently a rebuke to his temerity. Yet at such times, Marty would respectfully nod his head, resilient as a samurai.

You have to understand, they don't get much company. It's way the hell out there, where they live. They're both basically a pair of walking encyclopedias. Graham's just compelled to share more than most--which I of all people can appreciate. Looking back now, for all I know, it was hidden hands that guided us together years and years ago.

"The cave is just up ahead," Graham said as we cut from the hillside trail up across the yellow grass to the sharply demarcated shadows of the tree line. "We were thinking you might want to see it because you say you like caves so much, but then again we also thought you might even want to use it in one of your stories."

Marty nodded with solid assent and affirmed with a succinct and sincere, "Full on!"

Graham shot Marty a look. "It's right here," he said.

Suddenly I realized I'd left my TracFone on the wire table by the barbeque back at the their house. I blurted a curse for not being able to take a picture of the awesome way the cave entrance looked, much more than a mere hole in a hillside. Cool and inviting, too, considering the withering summer heat. "We have to watch out for rattlesnakes," Graham said in a low voice, looking at Marty over his glasses. "Right," Marty agreed, crouching down and heading in with a small, powerful flashlight that he produced from a  leg pocket of his cammo pants.

The entrance of the cave was about four feet high and four feet wide, roughly, with no sort of man-made construction, only big rock split by natural forces. When Marty gave the go-ahead--I probably would have resented this when we were younger--I ducked on down and scooted in, discovering a much larger hidden interior.

Boulders inside were strangely smooth, I noticed. And it looked like there had been some digging going on behind the biggest one. "Marty's killed--what is it now, Mar?--at least three rattlesnakes so far this season," Graham said. "Boy, it doesn't take much to hear yourself in here. Neat acoustics." I pointed out the digging. "Yeah," Graham laughed, "that's probably because we were digging there. I'll let Marty tell you about the things we've found in here so far."

"Right," said Marty, producing two beers, one from a leg pocket on either side. "These twist off. We should give them a couple minutes to settle."

"Wow, thanks," I said.

"No problem! Let's see, one of the first main big things we found early on was this super incredible mask."

"It's got red paint on it that's held up really well," Graham said. "But you're forgetting to explain that what makes it so weird is that it isn't even Native American."

"Not remotely," Marty affirmed.

"Not remotely forgetting, or not remotely Native American? You need to be clear."

"Right. So we researched. And none of the tribes anywhere around here have ever had any kind of mask that anybody knows about that looks like the one we found in here."

Graham stared out of the cave, swinging a dinted metal thermos mug in his fist up to his hardy beard, and stayed staring blackly out even as the liquid tipped in.

"I can show you what we found when we get back to the house," said Marty. "Hey, take a look at what we've started working on over here."

Directing the narrowed beam of his flashlight behind the biggest rock in the cave, Marty revealed a chamber. From what little we could see, it did seem there were some sort of constructed objects inside. The heavy smell of cold rock and dirt, disturbed particles drifting in the questing beam. "So am I gonna get to help dig into here?"

Marty nodded and grinned. "We should be done in no time now," he said.

"Rest assured, I shall wrestle these stones out of very existence. Should we get started now?"

"I think we'll wait until tomorrow," Graham said, hooking his thermos back onto the clip on his belt.

The hot bright sun outside washed all the cave away, and we trudged back through a sea of singing crickets to the house, greeted by Graham and Marty's four gigantic sloppy dogs. Usually, whatever we did, they followed us wherever we went. But for some reason the dogs wouldn't go near the cave. I got to see the mask later on. It didn't look all that remarkable to me. However, I did see that when Marty tried to show it to Snorri, the big daddy of their dogs, Snorri oddly whined and withdrew, almost as though he'd just been punished by some powerful unseen hand...

(pronounced KOO-KILL-LUCK)

Monday, December 15, 2014


Southern Humbaba County native Zen Mendosa blogs about his life making redwood coasters by day, and constructing by night his people-powered contraption for an annual three-day race. When an alien who takes on celebrity guises reveals that ancient technology deep underground has corroded, entered the biosphere, and threatens the structure of the universe, Zen learns he must convert as many people as possible into Hippies in order to save reality itself, but has a hard time focusing on the project and gets sidetracked with girlfriend problems.

In case you missed the KMUD radio broadcast on December 4, here's the third installment of the story.

Posts 11 - 14

Tune in to KMUD 91.1 Garberville
or stream live online

Thursday, January 1
5:00 pm

for part four of the seven-part series

Monday, November 17, 2014


Directed by Jan Bosdriesz

Cutting edge biography of the Dutch graphic artist.
Math and art meet in the mind-blowing woodcuts, lithographs and more from Maurits Cornelis Escher. Although he had no formal training in math, his distinctive visual illusions that give the brain a workout are familiar to many as geometry textbook covers.
Freely available online, Metamorphose: M.C. Escher, 1898 – 1972 shows how a kid from Haarlem (Netherlands, capitol of the North Holland province) would lay down on the floor in the church and listen to the organ blast Bach, filling the walls, his reflection in the dome above. Good times for young Escher, and he always wanted to find a way to show it.
 “I hated school,” Escher says, “but the drawing lessons were always a great relief.”
This straight-forward documentary shows the woodcuts in jaw-dropping detail, the brilliance of which is offset by the stark lights and darks of piano keys. We learn of Escher’s love for the southern Italian landscape where he lived in his youth and which he idealized throughout his life, and for the woman he married, Jetta.
Mediocre student and fortunate son in a well-to-do family, Escher was able to focus on graphically illustrating an idea using as little as possible to be as clear as possible. The film itself is nearly as evocative and minimalist as its subject, gradually revealing the shifts in Escher’s evolving life.
When expressing ideas in woodcuts didn’t initially pan out, he turned to wresting from oblivion images of the daily life he saw around him.
Initially Escher considered his most enduring work involving Tessellations—regular patterns that divide a plane with no overlapping or gaps—as “an amusing game” inspired by Moorish tiles. What makes Escher’s work so useful to mathematicians is the symmetry of the endless repetition. A balance in keeping with what the ancient Egyptians called Ma-At.
Sketched hands that come out of the paper and into life, sketching each other. Stairs bending in impossible ways. Warped perspectives with the self-rendering artist at the center, holding the distortion in the globe.
Eventually Escher’s evolving genius was to link interlocking repeating patterns with human, animal, and fanciful imagery—“figures you can never actually see at the same time because one is the background of the other”—graphically illustrating concepts equally artful and mathematical in a picture too big to see.

 Stewart Kirby writes for


Thursday, November 13, 2014


write because you miss your kid
write because of things you did
write because you have some skills
write because you have some bills
write for the people who can't ever stand you
write for the job you can't ever land you
write and almost find out why
write and almost never die
write because your heart is soaring
write because the TV's boring
write the scenes where you look rotten
write about things you've never gotten
write of the bodies you took from the morgue
write of your Saturday mornings with Korg
write until you puke your guts
write so you'll be less the yutz
write with a pen in your goddam hand
write a book so it gets banned
write so you can be a Mister
write and maybe play some Twister
write when you feel your very worst
write with gumption if you durst
write your ass off or be chicken
write or take your cosmic lickin'
write, damn you, write
and it better be good.