Monthly Archives: April 2009

Roundup News for the month of May at the Henry Miller Library

When I write the blurb for the Big Sur Roundup, it’s like a free blog post, so here’s the latest for those of you who don’t get the Big Sur Roundup.  You can also check out our events page.

Big doings at the Henry Miller Library in the month of May!

On Wednesday, May 13th, we will be moving the weekly Open Mic back to the lawn and under the stars here at the Henry Miller Library.  This is the fourth consecutive year of our Open Mic and this summer promises to be full of spontaneous poetry, music, comedy, dance, and more.  The event starts at 8 each week and goes until 11 and as always is a free event for the community with donations appreciated.

On Sunday, May 24th there will be a reading and book signing with author Robert Greenfield. Robert Greenfield is the author of the classic S.T.P.: A Journey through America with the Rolling Stones and Exile on Main St.: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones, as well as critically acclaimed biographies of rock promoter Bill Graham, Grateful Dead lead guitarist Jerry Garcia, and acid guru Timothy Leary, and is a former editor of the London bureau of Rolling Stone magazine.  His newest book called A Day In The Life follows a couple in London in the 1960s through their courtship, marriage, and finally tragic events in their lives.  Thoroughly researched and detailed in account of these two lives and the colorful surroundings of fame, glamour and reckless abandon of their time, this book pieces together the tragic story of how London’s fairytale couple collapsed under the pressure of a society in transformation as the psychedelic 60s gave way to the cold reality of the 70s.  The event starts at 3pm, copies of Greenfield’s books will be available for sale and to be signed, and as always, we will ply you with tea and coffee in the sunshine.

On Thursday May 28th, we will have a night of ambient music.  Now, when I say night, I mean all night.  From 4 in the afternoon on Thursday until am on Friday, a long list of ambient musicians from LA and NY will be wowing us with tonal, ambient electronic music.  Tea will be available, and so will a few heat lamps, but bring some warm clothes and a blanket.  Tickets are available from the Henry Miller Library, on our website, or by calling 667 2574, and cost $25.

And on Saturday, May 30th we will be hosting an event “Where is Big Sur” which has been a long time coming.  Originally scheduled for June 28, 2008, it was put on hold due to a small fire you might have heard of around here.  Almost a full year later, we’ve rescheduled and are due for a wonderful afternoon and evening.  Starting at 4pm, the afternoon will feature organizations in and around Big Sur using table displays, brief presentations, and time to talk to your neighbors about what you’re up to.  If your organization is interested in contributing, please call Magnus at 667-2574. This will also be the perfect time to peruse Don Usner’s photographs, and also for you to have him sign your copy of The Natural History of Big Sur.  There will be food and drink available, and at 8pm there will be a concert with Alisa Fineman and Kimball Hurd, “To Kindness!”  When it’s dark enough, we’ll display Don Usner’s photos on our screen as a visual component to the soundings of Fineman and Hurd.  This is an event that no Big Sur resident should miss, so gather your neighbors and come on down for an evening of community and kindness.  The suggested donation for the event is $10-20.


the Henry Miller Whirlwind!

Well, intrepid blog readers: Today was a BUSY day at the Henry Miller Library.  We are preparing for a couple of upcoming things here that you should know about.  First of all, we’ve got our first concert of the season this weekend that it would be a shame, a crying shame, if you miss.

Eric Taylor

Eric Taylor

Last year Eric Taylor came and played at the Henry Miller Library and I had read up on him and listened to his CD and I was properly excited (or so I thought) upon reading accolade after accolade from musicians I respect.  His poster alone is full of kind words from Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith and Lyle Lovett.  I knew I was in for a nice afternoon of some killer country storytelling and music.  I did NOT know I was in for one of the nicest concerts I’ve ever seen at the library.  I immediately knew I would like him when he showed up for the sound check.  He’s one guy with a guitar and his sound check went a little like this:  he plugged in his guitar, strummed a few notes, sang a few bars and shot Eric (our most-amazing-sound-guy-ever) a satisfied look, put his guitar down, grabbed his cup of tea and called it a sound check.  This was a sign that this guy knows his shit and trusts our sound capabilities enough to be comfortable knowing his monitors were on, the house speakers were loud, and both of his lines worked.  This is endlessly better, in my opinion, than a nervous person hobbling up and continually asking whether or not we could hear the guitar, or asking for a little more reverb, or any number of (admittedly relevant) questions that do come up during sound check.  It was a sign that he knew he could make wonderful music out of what we offered him.  I respected him immediately.


When he came on the stage for the main event, he introduced each song with an easy going, “boy those were the days” kind of stories.  He shared with us the provenance of some songs, or a quirky story about when he had a gig in some Texas town, the drinking that ensued, and the trials and tribulations of being a traveling singer songwriter.  He was one with the audience, talking to people, asking questions, and getting comfortable.  His set was over way too soon.  I could have listened to his voice telling stories and singing songs all day.


Thankfully, I’ll get to hear him again, as will all of you, on Sunday April 19th at 3pm here on the lawn for the first of many concerts in 2009.  You can get your tickets in advance by calling (831) 667 2574, or by stopping in to the library between now and Sunday.  Not to worry, though, for all you people who like to see where the wind takes you (hey man, it’s Big Sur), tickets will also be available at the door.  Tickets are 15 dollars, and I hope you all feel like you’re stealing when you buy them because the show is going to be THAT GOOD.


Beyond my excitement about our upcoming concert, I’ve also made some solid progress on hiring our interns for the summer.  I’ll introduce you to our interns as soon as I receive confirmation from them that they will join us (honestly, who would turn down an opportunity to work here!?!)


Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series

Big Sur International Short Film Screening Series

We’re also making progress on the Short Film Screening Series, plodding through binder after binder of short film DVDs at home and discussing them while we sweep the porches and prepare the place for the day.  I saw one the other day that I watched two nights in a row because I loved it so much.  It remains to be seen if Eric and Magnus will agree with my quirky new favorite short film, but I bet they’ll see the beauty in the animated short about a zoo, and the zoo-keeper’s wife’s sabotage of the penguin exhibit in order to make room for her beloved peacocks.  The deadline for the submissions to be postmarked was on the 10th of April, and so a few more submissions are trickling in, having been posted from far and wide.  We’ve got a little under a month to watch all the films, and we’re scrambling and watching as many as we possibly can!



And, as I’ve mentioned before, the library is hosting “Second Sundays at the Miller” this year, which is an all day music festival on the second Sunday of each month from June through September.  We’ve received over thirty submissions for that, and will be announcing our lineup for June and July in two short weeks (May 1st).  If you’re interested in more information, check our website.  If you’re a musician and you want to be considered to play in August and September, you can still submit an application (available on our website), but get it in soon, because the deadline for those two months is May 15th (with the lineup announced on June 1st).


And finally with the news updates, Nepenthe, our neighbor-to-the-north has been around for 60 years now, and is celebrating its age with an all day party on the 24th of this month, and we’re pulling out as many stops for them as possible.  You’ll find our presence up at the party in the form of a card I’ve designed on Emil White’s “Folk Dancing at Nepenthe” greeting card with information on Henry Miller’s relationship with Nepenthe.


Miller lived as a house guest of then-resident novelist Lynda Sargent when he first got to Big Sur.  He stayed in the Log House (around which Nepenthe was built when it was bought by the family who currently owns it) for a couple of months before settling into life on Partington Ridge.  He also played many games of ping-pong with Bill Fassett (which you can read about here) and was a regular fixture at the Nepenthe bar.  If you’re in the area, you should show your love for Nepenthe by celebrating their 60th year on April 24th (or any day you’re in Big Sur!)


GOOD GRACIOUS that’s a lot of news to regale you with.  If you think you’re having a hard time keeping it all straight, imagine if you had thoughts of all of these events rattling around your brain 24 hours a day.  I’ll be sitting at the pub, having a pint, talking to my friends when all of a sudden, SHIT!  I’ve got to remember to get this out tomorrow, or OH!  What if we printed up an extra brochure for that!  It’s fun, but it’s hard, and it frankly can kill a game of darts when these realizations strike in mid toss.

Cross, by James Patterson or, That Which I Could Not Put Down

Cross, by James Patterson or, That Which I Could Not Put Down

I do, however, eke out time for some reading.  I was sick last week (there’s this bug going around Big Sur that hits hard and fast, but in my case, didn’t last too long), and was able to catch up on my James Patterson reading.  I LOVE it.  I have always had a soft spot for TV dramas, especially crime dramas.  I can watch Law and Order in any form its ever been offered, for days on end.  And with networks like TNT (or TBS, whichever features Primetime in the Daytime), I literally can watch it for days on end.  Not having TV has cut out this guilty pleasure, but I have figured out that that same need can be met by reading books by the likes of James Patterson.  The stories unfold just like an edge-of-your-seat episode of Law and Order.  Cross is the book I’ve just finished, though any of them would do, I suppose.  The chapters are short.  The action is fast.  There are characters who are absolutely perfect on paper, and because they’re characters in a best-seller crime whodunit, they don’t have to be anything but.  It’s easy, thrilling, fun, and completely soul-eating.  I read the book in several-hour chunks, not being able to stop once I started.  This is just how I read James Patterson books (and boy, do I read James Patterson books).


Liking these books as I do has made me wonder – how did this genre come to be?  How have these books evolved, and how is it that we know from page 50, what will happen in the end and yet we still read the other 300 pages?  How does James Patterson take everything that I “know” about reading and literature and throw it out the window in favor of his fast-action-television-like novels?  Please!  Someone tell me, honestly!

Spring means hard work on the land I love!

LOOK!  This is what the burned out hills are up to right now!  unbelievable.  I have completely stolen this photo from Stan Russell, thanks Stan!

LOOK! This is what the burned out hills are up to right now! unbelievable. Photo (c) Stan Russell

It seems that Spring is firmly rooted in Big Sur and is bringing with it a bunch of physical tasks for this little archivist. On Wednesday, my day off, I helped to grade the road that I live on. Now, I agreed to do this both blindly and enthusiastically. I was excited to do it, don’t get me wrong. And I had a good time doing it, that’s for sure. However, I am not certain that my arms will ever be the same. Growing up in New Hampshire on the side of a mountain there were all sorts of fun things to do outside (shovel snow, dig cars out of the snow, scrape snow and ice off of cars, shovel the snow again) and after 20 years there, I had done my fair share of these things. However, from shoveling snow I went to a hoity-toity college where the only physical thing that was asked of me was lifting my friends up to do keg stands or hefting four years of overdue library books back to the book drop the day before graduation so that they would actually give me my diploma. My work at the library requires me to lift tables, speakers, chairs, large boxes, an unruly subwoofer, chop firewood from time to time and occasionally huge boxes of framed pictures (which in this year of perpetual evacuation has been slightly more than “occasionally”). Despite all of this, I was completely astounded at my frightening lack of ability to assist in the hard work of grading a Big Sur country road.

Let me start by telling you a little about this road I live on. It stems from a canyon and juts straight up the ridge to the top. You can stand in the canyon and look up 800 vertical feet at the house, and the road switches back six times in that span. It is slightly wider than my car in most places. There are several spots in the switchbacks that two cars are able, with some careful and knowing negotiation, to pass one another. I have been driving on it for almost two years and I’m not dead yet.

Tracy, officially The Most Capable Man I Know, drove the tractor up and down the road, pulling dirt that has settled from the inside of the road out to fill in all the ruts and ridges that have formed over the past year (and in certain parts of the road, several years), and it was my job to follow him with a strange tool resembling a hoe and flatten out the levels of dirt created by the tractor blade. This tool, however, is probably older than my grandparents and has had its handle replaced with a tree limb. I put most of the blame of my aching arms on the tool, not the work and CERTAINLY not my being out of shape. It was all about the tool and its lack of ergonomic design. I blame it, but I can’t hold it against it, I think it just adds to its charm. My job also demanded I make sure the lowest point in the road was directly on the inside edge so that the perfectly designed road (really, it’s a thing of beauty despite it’s apparent ridiculousness) drains on the switchbacks. The long and short of it is that I spent several hours on the exposed cliff of the road bent over this tool with which I cultivated a quick love/hate relationship moving rocks. There came a time embarrassingly quickly when I had to walk up to Tracy on the tractor, hand him my gloves and admit that I could no longer lift the tool. I did feel better later in the day at our weekly open mic when my incredibly strong and rugged friend told me he’d helped Tracy in previous years grade the road and acknowledged that it was, in fact, back breaking work. This made me feel more like a mountain woman and less like a TOTAL wuss.

Today the sun was out and it was the perfect day to do a little spot treatment on the lawn, another delicious springtime outdoor task. This morning I raked the whole lawn and then mowed the largest part. Keeping with the theme of antiquated tools, we have an old-fashioned push mower here at the library. You know the kind – it does not have a motor, just a rotating blade that is only moved by constantly increasing momentum. I mowed the yard with a brief break while a dad trying to show his kids what “life used to be like” (you know, when he had a paper route barefoot six feet of snow uphill both ways) and asked if they could give it a go. Three kids, one by one, decided they liked it better when someone else mowed their grass. After mowing I rolled up my pant legs, pulled back my sleeves and set to work raking with my own ten dirt-caked fingers all the little sand piles and compacted parts of dirt where the grass seed did not take last time we seeded. I pulled up all the dead grass, all the redwood duff hidden deep under the surface of the grass, and spread out the concentrated clumps of sand. Then with a mix of seed and soil, I patched the thin parts and then set the sprinkler. At the end of the lovely day in the sun my hands were caked in black dirt, my knees look like they used to when I was six and I think I may have scared some of the less tuned-in passersby here at the Henry Miller Library as I, in my own little world which revolved around each blade of grass, verbally praised and thanked each earthworm I encountered. Whatever, man – it’s Big Sur.

So now I’m tired (again) and covered in dirt (again) and bathed in sun (again) and will retire to my house, to hang out with my kitten, watch MAD amounts of short films, and prepare some special outfits for the Big Big Sur Fashion Show (which is a FANTASTIC thing that’s coming together quite smoothly and will be something Not To Be Missed here at the Henry Miller Library on April 30th – stay tuned for more news on that).

this is what I'm headed home to - a cat snuggled intently between my pillow and my knitting project.  I know.  I am the luckiest.

this is what I'm headed home to - a cat snuggled intently between my pillow and my knitting project. I know. I am the luckiest.


Now imagine that was said with an exaggerated Swedish Accent.  See?  I told you the joke wouldn’t carry over to the blog…

These photo just in from Sweden:

This is where Magnus stopped to get a latte when he landed

This is where Magnus stopped to get a latte when he landed

I would get so ridiculously lost if the world around me was labeled in Swedish.  Which I think is actually the plan of IKEA...

I would get so ridiculously lost if the world around me was labeled in Swedish. Which I think is actually the plan of IKEA...

Magnus tells me this is an X2000 speed train.  Sounds fast.  And Scandinavian.  I guess it is.

Magnus tells me this is an X2000 speed train. Sounds fast. And Scandinavian. I guess it is.

Here's a swedish farm from aboard the fast Swedish train.

Here's a swedish farm from aboard the fast Swedish train.

So there you have it.  Magnus’ Swedish adventure in the form of four photographs.  For now, I’ll leave you with just the photos.  Don’t worry, though, soon you’ll be hearing all about my newest foray into bestseller whodunnits.  Cross by James Patterson.  It was sitting there on my shelf last night amid the Kundera I’ve been meaning to read and the copy of Milk (a book about the dairy beverage, not Harvey Milk – but on that note – way to GO IOWA) that my friend Chris brought to me the other day and the literal dozens of other books I’ve been meaning to read, and it just caught my eye in that way that made all the other books look boring and the shady figure on the cover of the book, which I could see from its place on the bookcase, just came and got my full attention.  So James Patterson it is, and I’ll tell you all about it after my next day off.

The Library Room is naked!

If I might take some more of your time to tell you more about exciting changes under way at the library.  I’ve already told you about our plans for an exciting new deck, I’ve already told you that the lawn has been under siege by gardeners, hoses, seeds, soils, sands, and loving pokes with a pitch fork (what kind of poke from a pitch fork ISN’T loving?).  In my discussion of the lawn attack, I neglected to tell you that our friend Marcello has been putting in wonderful pathway edges using rocks from the property.  They’re beautiful and I encourage you to look all over the place when you next visit.  The improvements are not only on the outside of the library, no!  We’re giving the library room a bit of a facelift.  Those musicians out there might better know this as the adopted waiting/practice room for open mic.  Either way, it’s a small room within the library that has, since I’ve been here, had many different uses and many different layouts.  When I first came here, it was largely used for storage, and when I came out to Big Sur for a January break from Smith, Megan (one of my best friends and the girl who introduced me to Big Sur) and I used it as our workspace for some serious scanning time.  It has also been home to a large collection of local interest books, used books, and most recently a hearty donation of used, rare, and collectible Henry Miller titles.  Now it is where I sit, surrounded by painting supplies, a vacuum, drills, screws, ladders and straight edges.  The walls are a warmer white (and cleaned up after all the holes from nails and screws, scratches from errant frame corners and heartily handled hardcovers), the shelves are all removed, and the room has an open, airy feel.  As a matter of full disclosure, the airy feeling I have might be more from the paint fumes, but either way, it’s a lovely looking re-vamp.

Megan and I at work in the library room as it was in 2005

Megan and I at work in the library room as it was in 2005

There are several plans for these newly blanked walls.  First, it becomes the perfect space to showcase all of the beautiful posters that have been made for us by the artists at Hatch Show Posters in Nashville, TN.  This company has been making stand out and quite distinguished concert posters forever, and we are so glad to have six of them for our annual benefit.  The lineup includes Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Henry Rollins, Matmos and Zeena Parkins, DJ Spooky and Philip glass.  The back wall is my baby – I’m filling it with facsimiles of notes from Henry Miller’s desk.  My idea is that it will look, with the strategic placement of a typewriter, similar to a space Miller could have worked in, but with a breadth of information on the wall spanning his entire working life.  I want people to be able to sit down and look at the notes that he jotted to himself and, thanks to our archive, to Emil Schnellock, Miller’s boyhood friend from Brooklyn (boyhood friend turned literary trustee as Miller’s writing life brought him to Paris and points European).  The rest of the walls will be home to many of the framed pictures that will return to the library from CSUMB where the wonderful Bill Robnet, director of the library, has been keeping an eye on them for us in their state of the art special collections, out of the way of potential Big Sur mudslides (mudslides which, by the grace of us all, did not happen in Graves Canyon, and which, knock on wood, will not happen here).

This is Theo on his adopted bed (the shelf has been removed and Theo got so pissed that he moved back to San Francisco with his person, Susanna)

This is Theo on his adopted bed (the shelf has been removed and Theo got so pissed that he moved back to San Francisco with his person, Susanna)

The other new and exciting change has more to do with the bookstore room.  There are lots of shelves in the library room with gates over them, which held at one point all of the foreign titles that the library holds.  We have found a new storage space for these (see also: hanging from the ceiling) and so will be removing the cages and opening that space up to hold the books (largely Penguin Classics and other trade paperbacks) that Miller outlines in Books In My Life.  Fleshing out this collection and moving it to the Miller-specific room in the back is going to free up all the space they currently hold in the center of the library for us to feature the… are you ready for this guys?!?! … NEW BOOK ORDER!
Now, I’ve told you seventeen different ways that I simply cannot ever get enough of the new book orders.  I turn into a kid in a candy store (perhaps we should call a spade a spade and say I turn into a book-lover in the midst of hundreds of books).  Eric is responsible for keeping up the bookstore stock and I have to say; he’s VERY good at it.  Magnus and I let Eric know the few titles that we’ve run into since the last book order that we want and he fleshes out our suggestions with a ton of amazing books.  He tells me this is going to be a fiction heavy order, which I am thrilled to pieces about.
Don’t worry.  I’ll let you know the SECOND these books that I hear him ordering now come in.  I’ll take pictures, I’ll detail the titles, I’ll describe the fonts, the smells, and the covers of each book.  Oh goodness.  I just can’t wait.

And lastly, Magnus, our fearless leader has left Eric and I in charge of the HML while he makes his annual pilgrimage to his home country of Sweden.  I’ve made him promise several different times to send me frequent photos and updates so I can give you all the play-by-play.  When I told him about my plan he came up with a clever title for the stream of updates.  His title won’t work for the blog though, because it’s just “Magnus in Sweden” but with a really killer Swedish accent.  It doesn’t work online.  And for that I am forever sorry, because hearing Magnus pick on Swedish accents is really quite funny.

Anthony Bourdain, how I love you. Really.

Here he is, folks.

Here he is, folks.

Those of you who’ve read this before know that I’m a glutton for food reads.  This started with a love of Anthony Bourdain, who is a ribald chef, a constant traveler with an apparently insatiable hunger, a tall, chain smoking, leather jacket wearing tv show host and most importantly to me, an absolutely stellar writer.  I have spent entire nights (I’m talking start after dinner and then discover the sun’s on its way up kind of entire nights) watching Tony Bourdain’s show No Reservations on the Travel Channel.  There is something about a super hot chain smoking hipster-esque guy who I can tell at first sight has been there and done that going to a small town in the arctic circle and going seal hunting and then joins the family to devour the seal that day around the kitchen floor.  The next hour he’s eating street food in some completely foreign city at three am after drinking men three times his size under the table.  All the while Bourdain is narrating his experience in wry yet amazingly heartfelt sentiments.  His style fits perfectly with my perspective in this way.

A Cook's Tour

A Cook's Tour

The first Bourdain book I read is A Cooks Tour, which is a book-based version of his show.  He writes each chapter as a foray into the gastronomy of a different travel.  He goes two or maybe three times to Vietnam, and finishes the book strong by visiting California’s northern coast which is known for it’s vegetarians and health food fanaticism (Bourdain is a well-known carnivore and berater of the veggie/vegan lifestyle).  It’s wonderful in his humbly dry astonishment of local cuisine.  He never ceases to find something new and amazing about eating food, but the caveat is that it must be made with love and consideration.  He eats and enjoys with the same consciousness and zest.
The Nasty Bits is the book I’m reading now, and it is, in the style of Bourdain’s previous books, a delicious account of eating around.  I have been reading it slowly, as life has started to pick up and I spend less time cooking soup, baking

The Nasty Bits

The Nasty Bits

bread and reading and more time running to a million concerts, dealing with never ending car repairs, working my fool head off and in general enjoying the longer days, but the small amounts of time I get to read lends itself perfectly to The Nasty Bits with its perfect anecdotal chapters that read as short stories (more or less a trademark of Bourdain’s writing, which I’m sure stems from his experiences being sectioned off into hour long television shows).  It starts off with a section about the ability of professional cooks to make something out of nothing, to fix that which is broken with not a single part from a factory let alone a repair or maintenance manual, and the ability to take the food which would ideally feed 10-20, with the help of unexpected and less demanded ingredients and a lot of knowledge of flavors and culinary texture, all of a sudden become 100 completely satisfying and delicious dinners.
In other news, life and music in Big Sur (and surrounding environs) has picked up dramatically.  This past weekend Britt, the amazing producer and promoter who brings us his always-seamless FolkYeah events, brought Big Sur a weekend of female-powered music (a fact not lost on this little Smith educated feminist).  After two SPECTACULAR shows at Fernwood, Big Sur was all rocked out, so he took his show on the road (Britt always seems to be in LA or Sonoma and I know that eventually I’ll be getting his iPhone emails from other continents as well).  Unlike before, when Britt took his show on the road, I went with him.  I traveled down to Los Osos with the FolkYeah team, as well as two of my good friends from here in Big Sur, Jamie and Alison, to offer food to the bands of the show (White Magic and Bonnie “Prince” Billy) as well as the hungry concertgoers at the Los Osos Community Center.  It was a magical time down south with some wonderful people, and now I am happy to be home among the poppies in Big Sur.  It’s just a small taste for me of what the summer will bring.  I hope you’re all ready for summer at the Henry Miller Library!