Sunday, June 30, 2013

Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Blockade in which I fly with an allied ‘Rosinenbomber’ out of occupied Berlin in my mother’s womb, am born in Hannover, and am not contend with it.
       On June 24th, 1948 the Soviets stopped all surface travel to and from the US, French and British occupied zones of Berlin in the attempt to choke off the city and the hope that the allies would withdraw from Berlin and leave the former capital completely in Soviet control. Fortunately they didn’t succeed, but they made life difficult for the people living in the three western zones. The Russians considered Berlin the balls of the allies. To squeeze them meant to cause pain. In 1945 the Russians had made it to the Elbe river, which basically became the divide between East and West Germany. So, Berlin was in the center of the Soviet occupied zone.

Berlin street after the war.

       Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war.  Most German cities were 50% or more destroyed during the war. In addition Berlin absorbed many refugees from the eastern provinces, parts of which were returned to Poland and Russia. During the blockade, to feed the hungry masses, the western allies flew 272,000 flights into Berlin, much to the relief of the people. Every 30 seconds a plane landed and before landing the pilots would throw candy, chewing gum and raisins out of the planes to the waiting kids, hence the name ‘Rosinenbomber’ (raisin bomber).

Berlin youth cheering a 'rosinen bomber.'

       My parents lived in Berlin at this chaotic period after the war and I was conceived sometime around December 48, not exactly planned, right in the middle of the blockade. Since life had become so difficult and the future so uncertain, my parents decided to try to make a better life in the west. Before the Russians attempt to choke off Berlin there had been a vibrant black market economy between the city and the west, much of it via rail. There were three main lines to the west, the northern route towards Hamburg, the western towards Cologne, Duesseldorf, etc and the southern line towards Frankfurt. My parents knew some people from Hannover the closest big city in the west on the western line. They got word that live was somewhat better there and made an attempt to go. My mother flew out with one of the allied planes and my father walked through the Soviet zone, crossing first into it and then, out of the Russian zone into the British zone. My parents then reunited in Hannover, my mother pregnant with me all this time. According to my mother I was born exactly at 08.08.8:08PM (49).        
        Before my birth, on May 12, 1949, the Soviets, realizing that the blockade had failed, had reopened the borders, but alas, the damage had been done and I was born in Hannover, a place that I never felt entirely at home. 

Mother and son. early 50's

Father and son.

In the public pool.
In front of the X-mas tree. Gotta love the bangs.

In grade school.
       My grandmother and my aunt had stuck it out in Berlin. Subsequently, I spend lots of time there and I had many important experiences in the city that I still consider the seat of my German soul. I remember well being there in the summer of 1961 when US and Soviet tanks faced each other over the building of the wall. By the time the wall tumbled in 1989 I had spend 10 years in New York City and was living in the US Virgin Islands.

Berlin wall being build. August 1961

        In 1954, my brother was born and interestingly still resides in Hannover; the German ‘wirtschaftswunder’ was gaining momentum and West Germany won the soccer worldcup, the ‘Wunder von Bern’. Life was getting better.
       Influenced by American rock’n roll, blue jeans and the refusal to follow the path of their parents, a youth culture developed in Germany whose members were called ‘Halbstarke’ . I was too young of course, but should join the lively activities during the next decades. The event of the Russian Blockade of Berlin was not only the beginning of the Cold War, but too has profoundly shaped me, the runaway son of the cold war.

Here I am running along the Berlin wall, a still from a 1987 super 8 movie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013



In which my prints travel to the hill on Waiale Avenue and I get to hang out with fantastic young kids.

Your author. T-Shirt references My First Time blog.
Last Saturday my friend Chris Cook and his crew put on a happening pop-up art event at the Black Cat Salon on Waiale Ave in one of Honolulu’s coolest neighborhood, Kaimuki. We had beer brewed for the occasion. Chris: “Jeremyah Wubben is absolutely killing it with the craft beer that he's brewing. Last night he served up a beer we like to call, "The CEO" and a mango habanero pale ale. It's hard to say which one you liked more, but we'd love to hear your feedback. Jeremyah and I are working on getting a brewery up and running on O'ahu called Madness Brewing to bring locally crafted dynamic beers to your favorite bars. To keep in the loop on how the brewery project is progressing, check out the facebook page here: “ Yes, dynamic.
Add caption

R&R Pt. 2 prints
Jason Feris, me, Jaimey Feris-Hamilton
 Here is a video run through the gallery while we were about to finish the set-up.
For about a week the DJ Alex and I send e-mails back and fourth and he played a fantastic set that complimented the prints and the story of the printer, just awesome, from Neu’s krautrock, to the New York Dolls and some Dieter Osten thrown in.
“Sean, Kai and Kevin from Green Rows Farm in Waimanalo donated a heaping bag of green mangoes to the effort of providing some nibbles for everyone.” Which Jaimey Ferris – Hamilton and Chris made into different pupus, house made naan bread with 3 dipping sauces, a mango chutney, a lemon cucumber tzatziki sauce, and a carrot-top roasted mac-nut pesto. The pesto was far and away the fan favorite”.
The art fit well into the industrial looking space, but the most exciting experience for me was to hang out with a crowd of young kids, talk to them and learn how much they actually liked my work. 
Here is a small clip: The Kids are Coming in.
This was a rocking party. A big Mahalo to Chris and his crew, Liv, Noel, Jeremiah, Alex, Jaimey, Jason and all the rest of you who helped made this a lot of fun and all the people I met Maya, Vanessa, Thomas and the ones whose names temporarily slipped from my mind. I had a lot of great conversations.

Monday, June 24, 2013

My First Time


During which I put the chewing gum on the bedpost overnight. That leads The Lonely Beats, to evolve into scarecrows.
       The first time I was in a band was in the Lutheran boy scouts. The band was called the Lonely Beats. We played skiffle, which was big in England before the Beatles hit. Lonie Donogan was one of the proponents of skiffle and one of his songs was Does the Chewing Gum Loose its Flavor on the Bedpost Over Night. Traditionally skiffle bands had a guitar or banjo and either a tea-box bass or a washtub bass. Another feature was the washboard. In this picture I am on the lower right with some sort of folded metallic piece of plastic that served as a washboard. Check out the drum kit. 

Lonely Beats. Author at front right.
       The only song I remember was Michael Rows the Boat to Shore, Hallelujah. This didn’t last very long once the Beatles and Stones hit the scene and The Lonely Beats were done with and we turned into The Scarecrows, which lasted a bit past highschool and went through some personnel changes besides the two guitarist brothers (left and right in the Lonely Beats pic) and me. I switched to playing drums. How come I played drums?  Even though my mother came from a family of musicians, I was always told that I wasn’t musical, yet since I danced in front of a radio as a two year old waving my hands like I conductor I was considered having a talent for rhythm. 
Playing drums with The Scarecrows.

The Scarecrows ca 1967.
          When you look at these pictures consider that we were about 4-5 years younger than the performers we were trying to emulate.
       The Scarecrows played school parties, soccer or rowing club parties, and other teenage events.  For a while we rehearsed in a sorority house next to where I lived. As exchange we played their parties. The two Scarecrow pictures are all taken there. Here are some songs I remember playing: The Stones I’m free, Paint it Black, Satisfaction, The Kinks Tired of Waiting, The Beatles Michelle, The Yardbirds For Your Love, The Pretty Things LSD (we had no idea what that was), the fabulous Hang on Sloopy by the McCoys and songs by other mostly British bands like the Animals, The Troggs, Herman’s Hermits, Donovan and just to remember for the great names, Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mitch and Tich. Here is a clip of them at the German TV show Beat Club, where every Saturday afternoon mostly Britsh bands played actually live. This was pretty much our only source of seeing the new Beat groups, as the movement was called, on TV. There was no Rock’n Roll on German radio whatsoever at the time. We would listen to the allied armed forces radio stations whenever we could, British or US, depending where you lived in Germany. Once a week there was the hit parade and I remember listening with a transistor radio under the bedsheets with or without a single earplug. These radios were not much bigger than today’s smartphones and you could get just a couple of stations. Then there were reel to reel players, with which we recorded some of those radio shows and of course record players, but we didn’t always have the money to buy records. The tapes fit about an hour or more of music and you could just record over and over. We always rushed to whoever of our friends had the newest Stones of Beatles LP, and we would listen over and over, while excitedly reading the liner notes and staring at the artwork.

Scracrows out side a Carneval show. Author front left.
Dancing to the Dave Clark 5 on my 15th b-day.

       This picture shows me dancing at my birthday, all dressed up. I remember that we played The Dave Clark Five’s Bits and Pieces all afternoon long. Since the song came out in 1964, it must have been my 15th birthday. Dancing was big, you could rock out and the best way to get close to a girl was the slow dance, like the Beatles Michelle. 
Scarecrows meet the Beatles in front of the Star Club Hamburg.

       There were bands forming and playing all over the place. Remember that the Beatles got their 
10 000 hours for mastery at the Star Club in Hamburg, were they played several times for week-long engagements, playing three to five sets every night in the middle of Hamburg’s famous red-light district the Reeperbahn. This is before they got big and this is how they honed their skills and learned what works in front of the tough locals and sailors from all over the world. This is also before they slipped into their suits and got the existentialists haircuts by one of their German girlfriends, made famous almost instantly as the Beatles cut.Talking about haircuts. You might find our hair kinda short and it is by what we are used to know. At this time though, when your hair touched your collar you had to go to the principal every time.
Early Beatles LP.
The Beatles in Hamburg, 5 piece, no Ringo yet.
   So, before combing their hair forward it was
greased back and  black leather. Check it out for more pics. They are sitting on a trailer that probably carries the parts from the roller-coaster in the back; notice the wagon is owned by a company from Hannover, where I was growing up at the time.
       Every German city had at least one club where British bands played on the weekend and German bands filled in the weekday slots. Once I was a bit older I went of course. Drinking beer was never a problem in Germany and I think I started going to clubs around 16-17. Before that it was sport-clubs or youth centers were we saw bands and danced. Here are a few attempts at stretching beyond the drums, but this wasn't really happening for me until the 70's
Early guitar attempts
and bass.
       Yeah, the 60's were all about change and the new possibilities, but there were still plenty traditional structures set deep within society as well as the individual. One of the more pleasant customs was to go to the Tanzschule (dance school) during your later teenage years. It was actually real fun. We learned everything from the Waltz, to Foxtrot and Rhumba. Once a week the different dance schools had so called beat parties, where the newest hits were played and no traditional dances done. There was even one school with a band on Saturday night. These were great ways to meet and dance, before we all descended into the world of bars and clubs and alcohol. After the 3 month dance course each school had a final ball. Everybody wore suits and I had to hold a speech. It was kinda like a prom, maybe a bit more formal and with students from different schools. Below a pic of my date and me dancing.
Abschlussball. The formal ball at the end of dance school.
       And then there was Diana Rigg as Emma Peel in the great British TV series the Avengers. Not that I didn't love my beautiful dance partner, but I also loved Emma Peel. She defined the modern powerful woman, who could talk quantum physics, kicked your butt with her karate skills, charmed you to no end and wore the coolest clothes by the likes of Coureges and other contemporary designers, op-art inspired; or the most amazing leather jumpsuits. Plus she drove a Lotus Elan. Mind blowing for a 16th year old German youth. The first seasons are in black and white and the German title was Mit Schirm, Charme and Melone, which means With Umbrella, Charme and Bowler.
 On a school trip.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Ganesh goes to Chinatown and Anahola

In which we carve a 4’ x 8’ piece of plywood, print Ganesh in Chinatown, then I take Ganesh to Anahola and stay silent for a week.
      The timing for this large Ganesh print was inspired by the beginning of the New Year and the ‘Print Bigger’ event in Honolulu’s Chinatown on the First Friday in March 2013. One of my intentions for the New Year was to do more collaborations. So, I invited Mike Nice, who I knew as a fellow printmaker and yoga practitioner. We carved and printed mostly together while occasionally working alone. It probably took about a month to carve the plate. We made three prints using small rollers and brushes to apply different colored inks to bring out the different details. This process is extremely slow, taking about four hours to ink up the plate and several hours to rub the sub-straight to ensure enough saturation.
the plywood plate
3 hand printed Ganeshs
       Ganesh is widely revered as the Remover of Obstacles and more generally as Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles, patron of arts and sciences, and the deva of intellect and wisdom, the god of transitions and the lord of letters and learning. He personifies the primal sound AUM. It is said that Ganesh resides in the first chakra and thereby holds and supports all the other chakras. Devotion to Ganesh extends beyond India and Hinduism to Jains and Buddhists. His origins go back all the way to the pre Hindu Vedas (source Wikipeda).
On soft bamboo fabric

      These large woodblock prints of Ganesh are part of the ancient tradition in art of combining spiritual practice with creating art that presents or is part of this practice. My first extensive exploration of this tradition was my ‘100 Views of Taiji', 2003, 100 oil paintings of the taiji form inspired by my master’s Grandfather, and continued with the '14 Stations of the Cross' for the Church of the Epiphany in Honolulu. The sun prints also fit into this practice. After several prints and paintings inspired by meditation and yoga, Ganesh is the most recent project in what I like to call, art as spiritual practice or inspirational art. The first describing the process and the latter pointing to the potential viewer.
Dieter and Mike with plate/canvas/ ink, ready for the steam roller
       I knew that the available ink for the ‘Print Bigger event was going to be black and the facilities were not conducive for applying several colors of ink. Also, a black Ganesh would just not cut it. We simplified the color scheme, inked the plate at my studio, placed the canvas onto the plate and stapled it down, which prepared us well, so we just needed to let the ‘steamroller’ run over the canvas and plate and give us a print. The event drew a pretty large crowd watching the proceedings and an exhibition followed at the Arts at Marks. Honolulu Star Advertiser, 3/31/13
The crowd on Hotel Street.
      Now, in June, I had the opportunity to cook for another silent yoga and meditation retreat (see the post, sun, sun, sun) in Anahola on Kauai, where my teacher Myra Lewin has started an organic farm and teaches yoga and ayurveda. I quote Mary Lee Wheeler a filmmaker and photographer:
“When the Dalai Lama came to Hawai’i in 1994 he told his (tour guides) the two places he wanted to visit on Kaua’i were Polihale and Anahola,” Mart-Kini2 said, “Because Polihale is the place where souls leave for the next world and Anahola is where souls enter the earth.”
While doing research for the book Marti-Kini learned from her Hawaiian editor, Kumu Ka’e’eonalani, that the original spelling of Anahola was “Anehola” with an “e”.
“Ane’ means ‘the breath of life’,” Marti-Kini pointed out. “’Hola’ means ‘the hour.’ The two words together translate as ‘birth’.”
*Note: It is not confirmed but sources say the Dalai Lama disguised as a monk, returned once again to Polihale, Kaua’i several years prior to 2012, for some special work.

The mountains at Anahola

        Ganesh came with me. The retreat was in a rented house close to the beach. There were 10 of us all together. I cooked all organic ayurvedic food, most of it grown on Myra’s farm. I was the first up at 4:15 AM to get hot water going, tea and breakfast, and then sit down at 5:00 for chanting, pranayama and meditation. Breakfast at 6:30, lunch at 11:00 and dinner at 5:00. 2 hours of asanas, the physical part of yoga that most people know as yoga, breathing sessions and more meditation.
Yoga session under the eyes of Ganesh
Offering digestive ginger appetizer. Notice The Honolulu Printmaker's apron.
and a stone Ganesh in the garden.
    I did have time to take a stroll to the beach and go for a swim every day. We went to bed with still some daylight left. This might sound insane for some of you night birds, but it is awesome and lots of sages say that one should be up before sunrise. I have done it for 4 ½ years now and must say that all around as a human being, I have never felt better. I have done the nightlife thing, especially in NY and it is not that attractive to me anymore. If you have read several posts or do know me, than it is clear that my life and this blog is about more than art and music, but primarily about the winding path to self-realization. for me that is the threat of my life and it includes all the pitfalls and detours, and rock'n roll too of course. Here is a video of a rideway down to the beach at Anahola that I walked every day last week, a cool metaphor of the winding path or is it the shining path? You make the call.
A little while ago I started reading the Vedic classic the Bhagavad Gita again. In the preface Eknath Easwaran writes: “When we look at unity through the instruments of the mind, we see diversity; when the mind is transcended, we enter a higher consciousness – in which duality disappears. This does not mean, however, that the phenomenal world is an illusion or unreal. The illusion is the sense of separateness…The world of the senses is real. But it must be known for what it is: unity appearing as multiplicity.”


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fixie Love

In which I reflect on being a bike messenger also meatpacking, then put together a new fixie. Alice Neel record a song called Fixie Love and, you guessed it, I make prints.

The author at last month's cyclovia in Kakaako. not my bike, but the colors work.
My last full time job in New York was bike messenger. For a good year and a half I was out on the mean streets 5 days a week, 7-8 hrs a day, summer, winter, spring and fall.  After my first six month my 12- gear bike got stolen and I got a Panasonic track frame from the small anarchist messenger service I worked for and put a fixie together. Nobody called them that back then. It was a track bike, ridden by roughly half of New York’s messengers. Nobody else wrote one on the street in those days. That x-mas I moved to Light Speed where a fellow rock'n roller worked. Light Speed was one of the best companies with 3 dispatchers and about 140 riders. If you wanted to make money you rode every day, fast and reliable.  The dispatchers liked you and that’s how you got the better jobs, crossing zones, rush deliveries, oversizes and you still worked when it got slow, like during lunch, which I often ate in elevators or even on the bike. I started early and liked to be done around 4:00 PM, before my focus waned and all the workers in the office towers flooded the sidewalks and streets. I got run over twice, deliberately, had a crowbar and a baseball bat swung at me,  got yelled at and yelled myself, catapulted over the handlebar, slid out on metal plates, on ice, had a my breath in a wool scarf, that was wrapped around my face, frozen solid, stopped by cops numerous times and remember riding down Broadway singing on top of my voice. Bikemessengering attracts independent spirits. While what you are doing is set, the way you are doing it is up to you, you can dress as funky as you want and nobody leans over your shoulder. I made a video on it. It is described in more detail in the post Mystik Mood.

Cover for Mystik Mood DVD

 “…bike couriers have an injury rate three times higher than workers in the infamously dangerous occupation of meatpacking.”  Jeffrey Kidder, Urban Flow, Bike Messengers and the City, Cornell University Press, 2011.
In 2007 after visiting Germany and staying in NY twice, I decided to put another fixie together. It would be fun to put together, to ride one again and help me manage the parking and commute to and from the UH Manoa campus. It was a project that my friend Stephen and I worked on together. The only fixies I saw on Oahu at the time was in and around the art building.

Stephen Whitesell with his 70's Guerciotti. Classic (not a fixie)

2007 fixie near finished. we changed the crankset and...
...added final touches.

Art building fixie with
lugged frame,  nice details and

 sparkles even. very stylish.
 In 2008 Stephen Niles, Will Williams III and I formed the Rock'n Roll band Alice Neel. We are all painters. We wrote and recorded two songs, Ala Maona Bowls and Fixie Love, both can be listened to and downloaded for free. This inspired me to work on a few prints, with the idea in the back of my head to use one as cover for a 12" disco remix of Fixie Love, which hasn't happend yet, but is still in the plans. Here is a video of ALICE NEEL playing FIXIE LOVE at a party in my studio.
Fixie, 4 plate woodblock on BFK,  12" x 12", dieter runge 2012
fixie, plate 1 (background)

fixie, plate 2 (frame)

fixie, plate 3 (tires, saddle, handlebar)

fixie, plate 4 (all the rest)

9 fixie prints framed on my studio floor.

Part of the bike messengers's gear is the bag. The bag that everyone used during the 80's in New York was made by Globe Canvas in a basement at the edge of Little Italy and Chinatown. The price was $20. It was very strong with vinyl lining, watertight. With daily messenger use it lasted for about a year, which reflects on the heavy use not on the quality of the bag. It was adapted from a bag used by workers on telegraph poles. I have used one of these bags ever since I left NY, and it has been my desire to pay tribute to the globe canvas bag for a long time, especially since they closed down their business. Also to make sure that I would always have one. There are other quality bags out there, but I loved the simplicity and quality of the original Globe Canvas bag.
My great late friend and taiji student, the abstract expressionist painter Amy Russell had given me a bunch of canvases that she wanted to throw out and I had kept them for more than 10 years with exactly this idea in mind. The design is true to the original Globe Canvas bag, including the vinyl lining. I added the labtop pocket and we played a bit with the arrangement of the straps in order to show more of the painting. Notice the stainless steel buckle, which allows for quick shortening or lengthening of the strap, messenger style. Each one is made from one painting and has a different color vinyl lining, a truly unique piece of usable art.

orange bag

4 bags were made

inside with lab-top pocket
 The bike show at the Arts at Marks the fall of 2012 inspired more bike art, mainly a big 4'x'4' woodblock print of two Trackracers.

trackracers. woodblock print, 46" x 48", dieter runge, 2012

Alice Neel at the bike show

bike show at Arts at Marks, September/October 2012

Three trackracer prints on linen hung in the windows at the bike show, visible from both sides. 2012
metallic in NY

and fixie gang in downtown Honolulu

Sergio Garzon biking to an art opening in Kaimuki
The German company Urbike offers the buyer to choose a different color for each component. A bike store on San Francisco's Valencia Street lets you choose the color of your frame amongst several hundred colors. You can also still find an old frame and do it all yourself. Check out what the kids do at KVibe in Oahu's Kahlihi.

KVibe summer 2012
Forks at Kvibe

Bike show at Kvibe summer 2012

nice colors Kvibe 2012

All lined up at Kvibe, 2012

I welcome that fixies have arrived in the mainstream, because it seems to help bring more people on bikes. I love the aesthetics and there is a lot of room for personal expression. I see more and more  kids riding fixies (or single speeds). The more the better. 
Here is a video of the Levi's flagship store in SF. Levis designed a pair of jeans for urban riders. No judgement.


Over the past years I have been collecting clips for a Fixie Love video. I want to do a video on Oahu, basically following the song and am looking for collaborators. In this short clip I ride down Market street in San Francisco.

looks cool - got spare?