Archive for Personal Shit


Pergola in the worksYesterday I began phase one of the next big project in our back yard. The patio area is rather confined, so we decided to expand.

Liz and I rented a two-man auger from Home Depot, and Mike and I sunk six holes.The job took an hour – we spent more time picking up the equipment than actually digging the holes.

We sunk six 4×4 posts, and secured them each with a 60-pound sack of Quikcrete.  Next weekend, weather permitting I will add the cross-beams. This space will add quite a bit of usable living space for 10 months of the year.

H. Chapin antique wood planes


Last night was another exciting night at the auction, although it is becoming apparent that the Snowbirds are returning to the valley, so I doubt there will be many more fruitful evenings as buyers. As the birds return, they begin bidding everything up in price until it is not worthwhile.


But until there is standing room only, we will give it our best shot.  Last night we picked up a Model A Ford rim – there were three that sold for $10 each. It will make a nice addition to our garden.

I picked up a Guinness bar clock for $5, which will eventually go up on the outside bar that I am planning to build.

But the high point was my last purchaseof the night, as we were getting ready to pack it in. Butch, the auctioneer, finally made his way to the last three tables.  The tables were auctioned out as choice, where thew winning bidder got their choice of what was on the table; and the prices were outrageous. Every round of bidding, I held my breath, hoping against hope that the three antique wood planes wood not be scarfed up at more than their value.

Finally Butch was at $10, and rather than wait for him to go down to five where I would risk a bidding war, I held up my number and won.  I picked up these two antique Union Factory Warranted, H. Chapin wood planes. H. Chapin’s Union Factory was in business from 1828 to 1859, becoming H. Chapin and Sons or other variants in 1860 and after.

These will be nice additions to my antique tool collection. They are not worth a whole lot – but certainly more than the $10 I paid.

Answers! 1892 Victorian Commemorative Christopher Columbus Bracelet

victorian commemorative christopher columbus braceletSeveral years ago, Liz and I acquired this bracelet as part of a lot of costume jewelry at an estate sale.

It is obviously fine silver; you can tell simply by the feel and the weight of the metal. I tested the metal and it is at least .900 sterling. That led me to believe the blue stones are real sapphire, not glass.

We posted images on several collectors’ websites and forums trying to figure out what it is, I mean, other than a bracelet. It is missing a couple smaller stones, and some of the links are obvious repairs, but other than that it is in excellent condition. There are no marks on it – for instance, no hallmarks to indicate British origin. No maker’s marks, either.

Today we crcked the code – or rather one of the founders of the Superstition Museum cracked the code. Liz told him that we though it might be South American, or possibly Polynesian, judging by the unique figures.  The vast differences in dress, however, are confusing.

Jim said the first figure was definitely (American) Indian, possibly Maya, as we guessed. From there he deduced the rest. As he studied the piece, he had an “aha” moment. He said this was most likely a commemorative bracelet honoring Christopher Columbus – dating it to 1892.

He said the third figure was definitely Columbus, making the central, larger bust Queen Isabella. This all would tie in with the intricate design and clasp and link work, making it a Victorian era piece.

We are still no closer to discovering the maker or country of origin, but likely Spain, or possibly Italy who has claimed Chris as their own even though he was Portugese…


Cottontail[edited 9/9/14]
We have a temporary houseguest – a baby cottontail courtesy of our cat.

I had doubts that he/she would survive the first hour, as it was hyperventilating after I chased the feline down and extracted him from her mouth.

There were no visible wounds, and the cat was carrying it by the scruff of the neck; rabbits will die from stress.

He survived the night, and is relaxed when Liz or I hold him. He is more than able to be on his own, although now that he has been in close contact with humans, he will have to be released far from civilization. His fear of humans and animals such as our dogs are his only chance of survival.

However, right now he appears unable to move his back legs enough to stand or hop,and has been having trouble with a front leg now and then. As hardy as these little suckers are, able to survive the harsh climes of the desert, they have very fragile systems.

Judging from his size, he is probably about 5-weeks old. He is very alert, resting well in a dark crate we fixed up for him, and is pooping out little healthy turds and peeing like a champ – so other than the use of his legs he appears to be healthy.

He drinks a little from an eyedropper – and the girl from the wildlife rescue shelter told us not to worry too much about water, he will get his hydration from the food. He doesn’t like celery leaf, but is munching away on the pieces of carrot, a real treat after his natural diet of dried grass and desert weeds.

At this point, I am not too optimistic that we can save him – that is unless he begins to use his legs. But at least he will be as comfortable as possible – abandoning him in the desert if he is paralyzed would be a sure death sentence.

[Edit - 9/9/14]

The poor little fellow passed shortly after I posted this column. He died quietly and I hope comfortably in the dark cubby we made for him.

Blast from the Past

beer04This is an old one from the archives. Atlantic City Beer Festival, 2007 I think. It was near the end of Inferno Newspaper‘s seven-year run.

I showed my press credentials at the door, and Liz and I got in for free. And we got VIP treatment at the booths, with a lot of freebies.

Inferno started life as an underground arts newspaper, and evolved into a politcal/current events publication that raised eyebrows and ire.

I have toyed with the idea of starting a newspaper like Inferno in Apache Junction. The concept for the masthead is OUTSIDER. Distribution, and ad sales are the two main hitches in my plan. I don’t have the energy to be a sales person in addition to being artistic director and editor in chief. Not to mention, layout and graphics…

There are not too many things I miss about New Jersey, but the one thing I do miss is the sense of community that my artist and creative friends shared. Inferno was a project that was created out of a desire to share, and everyone contributed out of generosity, not out of greed.  Nobody got paid, and I laid out more money from my wallet than I ever got in return.  In the few years that I did end up in the black, I never did earn a return that was even close to minimum wage. I devoted at least 40 hours a week to the rag, and my best year rewarded me with $2,000, plus or minus…

So I have to wonder why I would even entertain the notion of doing it again.

Latest Acquisition

Justrite Electric Lantern with Cobalt Blue Globe

Justrite Electric Lantern with Cobalt Blue Globe

I have always loved trains. I guess this dates back to my youth and my dad and I used to walk the defunct tracks and trestle on the outskirts of Groveville, NJ, and explore the abandoned station.

My dad grew up in Groveville, and played on the same tracks when the station was in operation. As I recall, this was mainly a freight depot.

He told me the stroy about one fateful Sunday when he was playing on the railroad box cars, and he managed to release the break of a lone boxcar. To his horror the boxcar began rolling dow

n the slope towards the trestle. He quickly abandoned post and watched as the car hurtled towards the trestle. Read more

Writer’s Block

captains2Or rather, Painter’s Block…

I have not been in the studio in eight months.  In the beginning of the year, the excuse was getting used to working nights. This summer, it is the fact that the studio is 110ºF.

The truth is, I have no creative drive – possibly due to a combination of the above.  However, I don’t even have that much of a creative drive to write.

Perhaps with cooler weather, and some paid days off in my future, I will tap into some reserve.

Captain’s is a little dive bar that Liz, Mike and I hit for a few cold beers after auction night.  It looks like it might be possible inspiration for a new American Bar Series painting. Captain’s is “My Kinda Place”… you know – that ubiquitous bar song from last decade that made you want to throw the cue ball into the jukebox with excessive force. Read more


cucci-smithGrowing up at home, my mother used to rearrange the furniture on a regular basis, or at least that is how it seems. Maybe it wasn’t as often as my memory seems to believe.

It was always a trial for my dad, who was constantly stubbing his toes or slamming his shin into an end table or sofa that was not there eight hours ago. Of course, if my father had his way, there would have been no change in the house at all, and funriture would have been bolted to the floor.

Anyway – I have spent the better part of the last week rearraning Jill Cucci-Smith’s website. I talked her into abandoning her static site in favor of a more dynamic blog format. My first mistake was in installing WordPress into a sub-directory so that we could maintain her old website until we got up to speed. Read more

Wood Bomber Fishing Lure

Wood Bomber Fishing Lure The local Apache Junction Auction is an inexpensive source of entertainment. And at times it can be profitable.

Liz and I go every Saturday evening, and try to cap our spending to less than $50. We look for oddball items and useful items that we normally would not buy for ourselves, but when they can be had for a bargain… Read more


Photo by Liz Nicklus - awesome Arizona clouds

Photo by Liz Nicklus

Liz captured a phenomenal photo last night just before sunset. Normally our Sonoran Desert sky is bereft of clouds – but Monsoon season ushers in tremendous formations. Sunrises are glorious, and sunsets formidable.

We had an extremely dry season this year, drier than normal, so the recent deluges and chaotic weather patterns during this Monsoon season, while not entirely welcome inasfar as they are quite destructive, are a necessary part of the cycle of life and death in the desert.

I have to run the lawnmower – an old style push-reel mower – every few days over what serves as grass in our yard. The temperatures have dropped from the 115° + area to the 80’s. But it is an unpleasant drop, as the humidity is close to an ungodly 50%. So much for the “it’s a dry heat” adage…

The thunderstorms are something to behold – lighting shows that would kick the ass of any lazer-light show at a rock and roll arena.

I have been melancholy of late – not good but it still beats the pants off of depression. There is a light atthe end of the tunnel, and while with every brightneing at the curve has been offset by a dimming with another curve, at least that ray of hope has not been obliterated entirely as it has so many times in the past. Exiting New Jersey was the best move I ever made in my life. Maine was never my problem; it was corrupt lawyers and untouchable judges operating just outside the law that have served to disillusion me.

But, enough of that nonsense…

The landscape here is breathtaking. I have a job that I enjoy (most of the time) providing personal challenges as well as a consistent paycheck. Weekly entertainment is provided by the local auction – good, cheap, clean (mostly) fun!