January 1: 03M-1
"Hi." The big grey cat walks back and forth between my legs, making walking difficult. He's a cat. He doesn't care; his hard head bumps my shin. "Pretty quiet out there."
"Everyone's worn out. The last mad dash to through the holidays and now they recover."
The smaller ginger cat watches from her perch on top of the dusty cabinet in the corner. The Toolmaker reaches behind another cabinet and pulls out a new device. "Here you go."
"Wow. That's beautiful." It's a big grey plastic cylinder with a cherry wood handle across the diameter at the top, and screen on the bottom. All the parts are held together with shining stainless steel screws. We have learned.
"It's the best made of the quick filters. Should hold up well. If it works at all."
We've been experimenting with coarser sand screens as faster-to-use alternatives to my fine window screen one. Hardware cloth works well if it's supported well enough that it doesn't tear the thin wires out.
"I doubled the hardware cloth, and phased them 45 degrees apart. The two layers are held to the backing support ring by a generous application of hot glue, and the glue is covered by the aluminum ring screwed to the wooden backing ring."
"Good idea. Those little wires aren't very strong, so engaging more of them is good. Oh... I like how you made the aluminum ring larger in diameter so that the plastic has a kind of step."
"Sometimes I get fancy."
"From a cube, to an octagonal prism, and now a cylinder."
"Yah. The idea was to make one as effective as the octagon . . ."
"Which I've not yet tried. Larry likes it." We laugh.
"Anyway, as effective as the octagon, but easier to make. In that it was partially successful. It brought its own problems, such as the fact that when you wrap a thick material around a ring, the effective diameter is ring plus at least half of the thickness. I had to make a plug to fill the gap. Good enough for a test article. Still..." He looks thoughtful. "I have some nagging doubts."
"Why wouldn't it work?"
"The solid sides." Other screens have been boxes with screen on all sides but the top.
"It seems to me that most of the screening takes place through the bottom on these quick filters."
"That's why I built this one with screen only on the bottom. I'm also concerned about the double layer of hardware cloth. Will that obstruct the sand too much?"
"I'll find out tomorrow. The tide is high in the morning and I'll be using native sand."
"I hope things work out. And that tonight's wind isn't a harbinger of trouble."
"Thank you. Happy new year!"
I open the door. A blast of cold air drives the grey cat to a more sheltered place. I walk out of the garage with the completed Cercoscreenus, its handle smelling strongly of linseed oil.
Build number: 03M-1 (lifetime start #262); 2 units with earthworks in modified natural beach erosion
Title: "No Resolution"
Date: January 1
Location: Venice Breakwater, south side high tide line
Start: 0730, construction time 8 hours
Unit A: 36 inches tall, 21 inches nominal diameter, immersion screened native sand (Latchform)
Unit B: 42 inches tall, 21 inches nominal diameter, immersion screened native sand (Latchform)
Plan: Unit A on enhanced natural erosion headland. Unit B in erosion gully to west. Borrow pit and spoil used to make smooth ridge connecting them.
Digital Images: 67, with Canon Powershot G2 (includes L.D. sculpture)
Photo 35mm: none
Photo 6X7: none
Photo volunteer: Rich, w/Canon Z115 and Powershot G2
Video motion: approx 8 minutes, introduction and walkaround, Canon XL1
Video still: none
Video volunteer: Larry Dudock, w/Elura
New Equipment: Cercoscreenus (hardware cloth in plywood ring with plastic cylinder)
Visitors: Jaro, Rich, Lorna, Anna, Rudy, Michael
1. Rough Start
Wind rattles the leaves of the giant bird-of-paradise next door. Cold, from the north, but who can really tell between all these buildings. Stars glitter beyond the whipping fronds.
Holidays bring a special silence. You never know how noisy a freeway is until the morning commute traffic is reduced. In this case the silence also means the wind, wherever it came from, has passed on.
Its signature is written all over the beach. Small dunes ripple the sand and tails of drifted sand reach downwind of everything standing a few inches or more above the surface.
The year's first sunrise puts a gleam on the water and casts long shadows from the palm trees. I drag the trailer across the wind-packed sand to a point above the high tide's reach. It promptly proves me wrong by inundating the whole site. I move back.
Supposedly the tide is high. I choose a spot and start building a base for the planned two-unit multiple; I want to put them very close to each other. The tide, however, has other ideas and I abandon the site.
Casting around, I find on the south side of the storm drain the very high tides have caused the summer's built-up sand to erode into canyons and headlands. These form a natural stage I can't resist, even if it is closer to Larry's building site than I'd prefer. I could wait for the tide to clear the flat but that'll be an hour or more.
So, I'll build up this headland, and put the second sculpture in the canyon next to it on the west. A long line carved in the eastern sculpture and its base should work to connect them, and I can do other design touches. I start the leveling and base-building process but it's hard to make enough room up on that small headland for the Latchform. Eventually I get it to fit and can start filling.
Now the Cercoscreenus, the most advanced coarse screen yet, gets a chance to prove itself. I drop it in and it fits just right. Only a small amount of sand misses the screen as I shovel sand into it. Good. Getting that sand out proves to be much more difficult; after a few tries I understand what's happening. The sand flows and spreads when water contacts it, filling the bottom of the screen and thereby preventing any flow at all. The water just fills up the screen's cylinder, which means I have to lift not only sand but all that water as I try to wash the sand through, using the water that's in the form to coax wet sand out through the bottom of the Cercoscreenus. It would seem that having open sides is much more important than I thought. Back to the drawing board.
I'm about to go get the Quick Filter, brought along for just this reason, when a lifeguard truck beeps its way toward me. The guard waves and yells "Hello, Larry!" I look closely.
"Jaro? Hi!" I haven't seen him in months.
"How are you?"
"Fine. Where have you been working?"
"Everywhere, man. I'm tired. Two weeks ago we had a big rescue here."
"The kid who got washed around to the other side? I heard about that."
"What did you hear?"
"I was talking last week to a guy who said he was there. He was very critical of the lifeguard."
"That was me. I was here by myself, and there were two people to rescue. The girl..."
Oh, hell. With perfect timing the Conversational Tactical Nuke just arrived. "Hi, Larry."
"You were talking about that rescue? I was here."
Yes, I know. What I want is to listen to Jaro but that is now impossible. I was taught that interrupting people is bad manners. Besides, how can you learn anything if you never let anyone else speak? When he interrupts, if the other person doesn't quit talking, Larry just talks louder. It's all I can do to keep from yelling at him to simply shut up and let Jaro tell me his story. It'd be much more interesting, but no chance. In this case it's even worse; because of Jaro's schedule I might not see him for quite some time. There is, however, little choice but to listen and then go back to work as soon as I can after Jaro resumes his patrol. I never did get to hear his side of the story; typical of encounters with busy lifeguards, the opportunity didn't return. Through the course of the day I heard a few more critical stories, but I'm not believing any of them until I hear the other side.
There's a rhythm to working on the beach that I like. The lack of noise and distraction means I feel more freedom here than most other places, but the mood is seriously disrupted. I like the short conversations I have with the beachgoing regulars, but these are also a magnet to Larry. He wants to get in on the action that I've built over the years, and he has no respect for how these relationships have come about. Quiet, and time, and flow. Every time we've been out here at the same time this has happened with someone. It's a problem, and I have no idea how to solve it. I dislike confrontation even more than I dislike interruption. The only solution here is to pound the sand. Hard.
Someone forgot to tell the ocean that the tide should be going down. Repeatedly the building site gets hit, and every hit changes the contour of the sand; eventually I have to shore up the base of the first pile. I try a couple more experiments with the Cercoscreenus but it works no better. Water must be able to come and go freely.
"How's the Cercoscreenus?"
"Not very good, Larry. Needs more work. Holes in the side . . ."
"Covered with screen?"
Yes, if you'd let me explain, but that's a futile hope. He walks off and I resume working. One layer goes in unscreened because I forget to put the screen in there.
"I won't be needing the Octascreen for a time. Do you want to use it?"
"I should at least give it a try to find out how it works."
"You mean you've never used it?"
"How could I? You've always had it." This is the first time I've even seen it since the day I finished making it. I loaned it to him because I was going out of town for the weekend and would be unable to test it myself. It turns out to be a good tool, screening the sand quickly and easily, and that tall handle, which I thought might be clumsy, helps because I can grab the vertical extensions. Maybe this design needs to be reconsidered, but that brings up the usual problem of how to attach the screen to the frame. This is the problem I solved with the Cercoscreenus. Sort of like picking up eggs: try to get one more and two or three others fall out.
I fill the form until there's no longer enough water inside to screen sand. That's tall enough.
Reluctantly the tide has finally pulled back and I can build the second piece down in the hollow west of the first one. I want this piece to spring upward out of a long curve so it will need to be as tall as can be made with the form. Shortly after I start this one, Larry comes back to reclaim the Octascreen, so I use the original Quick Filter, with an occasional try of the Cercoscreenus, which never works any better. Near the top it shows an additional problem in that big flat-faced ring, which splashes water all over the place. Maybe this piece just belongs in the Museum of Failed Sand Sculpture Tools. It won't be the last.
The Quick Filter lives up to its name and I soon have the second pile made. Finally I can get to what I came here for.
2. Ideas: Too Many, Not Enough, No Agreement
Starting Unit A is easy: just start slicing away with the Sand Knife. The sand feels soft, consistently so. I've noticed this in other coarse-sand piles and I wonder why sometimes they pack well while other times they're soft. I used the same technique for all of them. Maybe I forgot something. Too many distractions, too much internal upset.
Unit A leans west, toward the other block of sand. On the western side I carve a big concave and then mirror that on the east side of Unit B after unwrapping it so as to carve both units together. B is noticeably harder to carve. I had better leverage on the tamper for this pile, with better footing closer to the form, so maybe that made the difference. I return to A and start working on its overall shape.
The concave becomes more hollow, and the top gets cut away from a piece that projects. Looks OK. Along its edge I drill some holes and then shape them to the surface with long grooves down and around the soft sand. Inside the concave I carve a serpentine ridge back and forth around the holes. This is more dramatic than beautiful.
"Swimmers, get ready!"
I amble over to where Larry is working. "Here they go. The Penguins, another annual tradition.
The swimmers start by running. The day is sunny with only a slight breeze, but the water is cold and as soon as the people hit the water their progress is much slower. Many shrieks accompany their impact against waves. One overachiever is way out in front, but I don't think it's a race. They just go fast so as to get it over with.
When you don't know what to do, temporize. The root of that word is in short supply at this time of year, however.
"How long has this taken you?"
"I started at about 7:30."
"Wow. Do you eat lunch?"
He looks like a gym-type person. "No. At this time of year the best I can get is a Zone bar while I'm spraying the sculpture. In the summer things are different." Right now I'm just trying to figure out what to do in the four hours remaining.
Unit B shares some of its outer design with Unit A. I want the details to be different. so I cut it to a tapering top. A look from afar shows me that I cut too much; the sides are too straight. Inelegant, and it leaves little room for the inner sculpture. That plan is completely voided when I punch through the membrane between the legs.
"I thought it was thicker than that, Rich."
"Now you have a place for a big hole!"
That's Rich. Always looking at the bright side. And this definitely brightens things up, this big hole. There's room at the side for some detail and a small hole near the top. Then I drill through near the bottom and gather some light in that way.
"You're nearly finished."
"I hope not. There's some detail to carve, and both of these need some help."
"Yes. This one looks like something from a few years ago."
Yah. Try about 1984.
"Well, if you can't make it different, make it better." Rich is a very wise man.
3. Final Assembly
"I feel like just demolishing Unit B and starting over. There isn't time."
Instead, I'll just have to try harder. Don't quit. It's still a sculpture, although it has some of its own ways now instead of being just a cylinder. Work with what's there. How can it be made better?
Well, start with this north side slab. Currently it's solid, and it was planned to stay that way. But how about working a hole in here that fits with the internal ribs? I carefully cut a hole though and then shape it to the rest of the piece, inside and out, and the result is good. Then I give more definition to some other internal ribs, bringing them down and smoothing their curves so as to look intended.
"I wonder if I could get away with that."
"I'll shoot another round."
"Wow, Rich, the way you're shooting you'd think bits were free."
"You'd better buy a new card; there are only 70 left on this one."
I cut a narrow slot with the Steel Pinky, down and over to the lowest space. Then I cut one on the other side of the descending internal rib, shaping this one to fit its space. It's amazing what details will do for a sculpture, details that catch light in unexpected ways.
On the south I cut through the arch's slab wall to make another narrow crescent light-catcher, then shape the sand up and around. Now, you might want to stay your hand and think about where to go from here. Yes, details help but remember your problem with overdoing things. The simple bottom is a nice balance to the more complex top.
"I think that's about it, Rich."
"So soon? And no more holes?"
"That reminds me. I need to look over here at Unit A."
It does need a hole, but where? Here, and the top will fall off. How about here? I could tunnel up and into that pocket on the west side. The Steel Finger makes this fairly easy and brings daylight to the shadowed side of the sculpture. I shape the hole and then it's time for clean-up.
There is only time for smoothing out the roughest places because I still have to work on the base. I reshape various things and refine their edges. I like parts that look decisive: go that way, instead of wandering to an uncertain end. Things should look as if they belong.
That goes for the base, also. It has the job of tying the sculptures together. Somewhere along the line the original vision got lost and that continuous line from one sculpture to the other seems unachievable. Or undesirable. My mind has become very fuzzy. I settle for smoothing the surface and cleaning up edges.
"Now I know what it is! Two guys in a rowboat!"
"All right, Rich. I get the hint." I knock the bow off the boat and bring the base out some more, then feather it into the beach. More reshaping at least gets it presentable.
New Year Day sculptures should be spectacular. They should make a statement that will get the year off to a strong start. This one limps but I can't figure out what's wrong with it.
"It's a good piece," Rich says. "A good start for the year."
I wish I could agree with him, but the source of my dissatisfaction is still a mystery.
From some angles it is good. I finish cleaning out the borrow pit and smoothing the sides so the sokkel will show separate from the beach. It's actually more of an extension, and doesn't make much of a statement. Just sort of holds the sculptures up, but provides nothing else. Yah, support is important, but how about beauty? But the fire has gone out, and there's not much fire left in the sky either.
"Four o'clock," Rich says.
I sign the sculpture. It'll have to do.
"Wash your hands and I'll give you your camera."
"Thanks, Rich. First I'm going to have some more of Anna's blistered peanuts."
4. Small Party
We've not seen much of Lorna. She was hungry when she got here and spent most of the afternoon catching up with her calorie deficit. Anna has been playing her flute. This sounds good against the ambient ocean. I was hoping the other flute player I met a few months ago would show up for a duet. Instead we get a solo, and various munchies. This is good because I've not eaten enough myself. Too busy.
I walk around and try to get some good pictures. It's a good thing the camera is automatic. Then I remember the video camera, so I do a walkaround with that.
With the work finished I get a chance to just stand there. I look at the sculpture and it still doesn't work. Ah, well, the day has been beautiful and the light right now is glorious. Long shadows flee from strollers. Surfers work their small waves. Crowds come and go; I thought they'd all be watching the football game.
"Michael! I was hoping you'd come, but forgot to send you a message."
"I figured you'd be here. I ran past on the way south and figured I'd stop on the way back."
I didn't even see him. Not surprising. "How are things at Crossroads?"
"I keep telling my friend George that he should apply there. He's so frustrated with the public schools that he just can't stand it. Goes on vacation for two months just so he can recover."
"Well, he wouldn't be so well paid, and he'd lose some benefits working in a private school."
"At least he'd be able to teach. As he describes his work, it sounds more like baby sitting. Crossroads teaches kids to think."
"Yes. I just sort of put the materials there and let them go. Try to manage the confusion. I'll have to talk to the art department manager to see if we can get you to come back."
"I'd like that. It's an interesting place to work. We could set up a sand box in the courtyard!"
He laughs. "Well, if it would work anywhere, it would work at Crossroads. A sandbox. Well, I'd better keep running before I get too cold. It was nice to see you."
"I'm glad you stopped." He runs away north, his shadow keeping pace on the orange-gold sand.
I bumble around, putting equipment away. Lorna is working on smoothing out a place where someone stepped on the border of the sculpture. I look up from her and see that the top of Unit A has fallen off, at about the same time that others notice.
"The vandals have been here."
"Did anyone see it?"
"I think it just fell off. Look at that crack. Coarse sand, not that well packed, and that south knob was heavy."
"It lasted long enough. We got photos and video."
"May I work on the stump?"
"Sure, Lorna, go ahead." To the others I say "Lorna reworked the ruins of another New Year sculpture, turned it into something worth looking at. It's even on my Web site. Looks like she's admonishing a seal."
She carefully rubs the sand smooth, and then goes for the brushes. Her touch is delicate, kindly.
"We should make her a pile of her own some day."
The sunlight fades as we stand. Shadows merge into the one large one cast by the rotating Earth. Clouds low in the west catch direct light and turn into sheets of copper and gold. Larry swings by.
"Well, what do you think?"
"I'm not . . ."
"You mean you don't like it?"
"Not really. It just doesn't fit, and the base doesn't add anything."
He walks off to get his last photos, with the camera on a tripod.
Now that it's dark enough I get out the small flashing LEDs and put one on each earlobe. This causes an instant crowd. Fortunately I brought more and soon have sold most of them, for about what I paid for them. One boy puts it on his lower lip and is delighted.
Anna has put her flute away. I think it's time to put myself away.
"Is anyone interested in dinner?"
"No thanks," I say. "I just want to go home. Seriously thrashed." I finish loading, make a last tool check, and then we push and pull the trailer away.
Feeling very disappointed, I ride away north. Various feelings run in conflict and I'm caught in the welter, too tired to sort them out. Well, the feeling is honest for what it is, but it may not reflect reality; many things affect emotions and truth is way down the list. Wait for the pictures.
5. Analysis: Forced Union
The memories look better by the light of the year's second day, but it's still a disappointing sculpture. Why? I run through other memories. Finally, as I push my flat-tired bike home from Trader Joe's, I realize what part of the problem is.
The multi-part sculpture originated as a plot-filling device, then developed as a way to deal with coarse sand. If you can't do one complex sculpture with good sand, do two or three simple ones with bad sand. Now those simple sculptures have developed into complex sculptures because the sand can be better packed with the Quick Filter and thus carved into more intricate shapes.
So, here I've done two sculptures that a few years ago would have individually taken all day. Eight hours of work. One sculpture or two? Two simple ones, plus a unifying sokkel, can be done by one man in one day. Two complex sculptures plus sokkel is a whole different task, especially if the work is to be unified; something has to give. Spread the task out over a few days and it might work, but trying to get it all in one day is probably unreasonable. I ended up with sculptures that would have been good by 1997 standards, and a base that didn't do much for either one.
Besides all of that, the sculptures compete with each other. The day has had more than its share of conflicts and these two sculptures add to it, glaring at each other along a sokkel that just isn't big enough for the two of them. They're ignoring each other, trying to part, but held together against their wills by that lame base that gives no options.
Simple sculptures need each other in order to form an interesting whole. These two don't need anyone, and the sokkel doesn't do anything to bring peace to the composition. I never expected this kind of result, but maybe I should have. My tendency has always been to pack as much carving into one day as possible. Restraint? What's that?
Frustrated? Of course. It's not a multiple, it's not a single, it's some strange hybrid that lost its vigor. In all the confusion of the day I really lost my way and ended up with a sculpture that split the middle of several ideas without serving any of them very well.
Focus. That was the day's major lack. There never was one image of this sculpture in my mind. It grew from a confusion of ideas and half-ideas, and I failed to choose one and stick with it.
Fortunately, Day One isn't a harbinger. Some of the sculptures have fallen over, some have been spectacular. The important thing is to keep working, enjoying the day. The truth is that both of these sculptures are better than anything from 1997; they have better details and more interesting design. They show more intent. That they don't work as a multiple is more a sign of the difficulty of making successful multiple sculptures than of lousy sculpting. The task is much more difficult than I thought, and it isn't getting any easier. Oh, my.
Stars can't compete with the portable lights set up around the stage, where a band is playing their own mix of Celtic and African music. Interesting. I stop to listen for a few minutes, and then continue on to the shop. People walk around, relaxed. The holidays are over. Everyone looks glad.
"Come on in back!"
"All right." I walk, carefully because now two cats are competing for my legs, walking that complex figure-8 dance that only they do so gracefully.
In the workshop, he's fully engaged. One arm holds a piece of wood, while the other hand holds a drill. Another piece of wood is held between his legs, and he's leaning against it with his upper body.
"I had no idea tool-making was so physical."
"All I'd have to do is take a few seconds to find a clamp but, you know."
"You mean, like this one?" I hold up a small C-clamp.
"Yes. Can you put that on, right about there?" He points to a spot with his tongue.
"Yes. That's it. Cinch it down. Good! That's it. Now, what do you have?"
I pick up the Cercoscreenus from where I'd set it on the floor, and carefully place it right in the middle of his workbench. Despite cleaning, a light dusting of sand falls onto the bench.
"It's really quite a lovely item, you know."
"Cunningly made so that it will last for years."
"It's even attractive, in an engineered way that's hard to describe. It looks like what it is, no more and no less. Engineering honesty with no excess frippery."
"I've always thought that good design should speak for itself, and it should show. Why cover it up with decoration?"
"And that handle. A nice touch. Easy to grip, warm." I look straight at him.
"Yes? Well, we both know how much I like cherry wood."
"Stainless bolts, aluminum, plastic, every part chosen with great care for its specific part in the purpose."
"Experience is a hard teacher, but fair."
"The construction shows care in the details, and the result of much thought about what's needed. Any project is a proposed solution to a set of problems, and this item's design and construction have been well thought out. The fit is good. Things look as if they belong."
"Yah, I sweated over this one. I know how you like to use tools that look as if they were made by someone who knows what they're doing, in addition to working well."
"It shows. You have every right to be proud."
"Well, I am, but something tells me there's a small problem, or you wouldn't be going through this long wind-up. I'm waiting for the delivery."
"Yah. There is a small problem. One that I've noticed before. You know how sometimes you get lucky on your first attempt at something and it works?"
"Oh, yes. Regularly."
"Well, first we had the Quick Filter. Ugly, crude, but it worked and caused a revolution."
"You need to bring that thing back in here so I can re-screen it."
"Yah. It is beginning to show signs of wear. But don't distract me. After that we got the Octascreen, which I finally got a chance to use. Now, that was a genuine improvement over the Quick filter: better at catching the shovelled sand, easier to hold on to."
"Oh, please don't ask me to make another one of those. Yeow, what a hassle."
"Well, that's why we have the Cercoscreenus. Simpler to build, stronger, prettier, less harmful to one's appendages if they make close contact. It was supposed to incorporate all we've learned and add to that."
"Yes. That one small problem with it? It doesn't work! You know what you get when you shovel 15 pounds of sand into this Cercoscreenus and then pour on five gallons of water?"
"Ummm. . . 15 pounds of filtered sand?"
"You wish. I wish. No, you get a 50-pound anchor! Guess what?"
"The screen's sides are as important as its bottom."
"That's it. We were talking about this and thought the large size of this screen would take care of that, right? Wrong. The sand spreads out and seals the bottom. There's nowhere for the water to go! I have to pick the whole thing up. Try that 120 times. Even a gym couldn't get away with making its patrons go through that! I went back to using the good old Quick Filter."
"Oh, my." He picks up the Cercoscreenus and looks at it. "Is there anything good about it?"
"Yes. Size and shape are great, keeping the sand where it should be. It is sturdy, and the handle is a delight. The sides flex while I'm moving it around but it's not a problem. The ring, however, is a problem because it splashes a lot of water out when the form is nearly full. The pipe-frame screens don't do that so badly."
"Well, rats. Back to the drawing board. It is pretty, though, isn't it?"
A few days later Larry is in my garage, making the blade for his Steel Finger. I started him with this one because it's the easiest to make, calling for only two bends.
George comes by in the afternoon.
"Do you want to go to Joe's? I'm hungry!"
"Sure." Larry seems to have things under control as we walk past the garage. "Just put things back and lock up if you leave before we get back, please."
We walk toward the beach under a warm afternoon sun. Main Street is crowded, but Joe's is between rushes. George writes cards as I look over the newspaper. He wants me to summarize an article about a woman who makes money through teaching people dodgy methods for getting around the income tax. Now she's in jail.
"Shall we walk to the beach?"
Lots of other people had the same idea, and many of them have been digging. The place, under a sun glaring from high clouds and low water, looks like giant gophers have been everywhere.
"North? But that will take longer."
I look at George. "How can that be?"
"You're right. My logic circuits aren't working today."
At low tide there's always water seeping out of the sand but today there's more than usual. Sand underfoot moves around in an odd way and I dig to find out what's down there. Gravel, in a layer several inches thick.
"That must be why there's so much water. It acts like an aquifer." The water flows along the steeper part of the beach, making braided erosion channels that are beautiful both to see and to watch change, until it hits the flatter area where it spreads out into a smooth sheet that reflects the golden western sky. We walk along as the sun goes over the horizon.
The clouds change from gold to orange to old flame red.
"I'd better get back and find out how Larry's doing."
We turn around and amble back, reluctant to leave until the last bit of red has drained away. Children are equally reluctant to leave their play on the glowing sand and their parents have to call repeatedly.
Larry must have finished his project. The garage is locked, everything put away. George and I go into my apartment.
"First priority: John McPhee. Second priority: Zone bar. Third: framboise."
"No, first priority is to get rid of these shoes."
"I told you my logic was off."
"No problem. Just that your priority isn't mine." Shoes off, I go and get the books. "Which ones did you want?"
"All of them. That's why my middle name is 'Moore.' Actually, I don't need this one because I just finished reading it."
"OK. Let me put my name in them."
"You mean you want them back?"
"Here's your Zone bar." They're a reasonably good simulation of food. Then I go back to the kitchen and get the raspberry beer.
"Here you go." It's is a lovely red color.
"Wow! This is good."
"I told you so."
"I never tried it because I don't like sweet beer."
"Neither do I."
He has a very appreciative look on his face. It is good stuff.
"I've been thinking about what you said about the multiple sculptures, and I think you're right. Only a couple of them have worked."
"How many have you done?"
"13, recently. Only about two of them worked."
"The first one, at that contest. That's my favorite. Beginner's luck. There's some sort of connection, the way the lines flow from the low sculpture to the other."
"I'll have to look at that again, to see if I can see it the way you do. All I really know is that the whole concept is much more complex than I at first thought. Seems like every one since then has been worse."
"I liked the one you did, remembering Bob Jeffords. The two-part one."
"Yah. That was nice; I was able to model the whole thing in my mind. Haven't been able to do that with others."
"I think that's important. Make a plan beforehand."
"You may be right, although I don't much care for the thought. Modelling multiples in my mind is difficult. I can do it for singles, and they've benefited from that. Singles can also benefit from some design accidents, but that tends not to work with multiples. Too much going on, I guess. Too many ways for it not to work."
It has been a short trip to failure. At the outset it seemed like just another interesting design variation. Wrong-O, Buzzard-Breath! The multiple is a different kind of sculpture, and needs a different way of working. I feel as if I started to pet a kitten but it turned into several playful wildcats who tossed me around and then threw me out on my ear. I'm sitting on the ground, bruised, bleeding from a few scratches, with much more respect for the subject.
"I'd better get on home."
"Your bus leaves in a few minutes."
"Bus? What bus?"
"You brought my car back. You don't think I'm going to let it leave again, do you?"
"I have the key."
"Well, there is that. Drive carefully."
"All right, you guys. Velvet your paws. Stand down. I may be dense but I think I've finally gotten it."
The wildcats all sit down and start to lick their paws. They smile, anticipating.
Written January 2
Edited and amended January 5
Further editing and reformatting 2013 December 10
Toolmaker story #8, Cercoscreenus