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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Ralph Kylloe Rustic Furniture

For me, this was the summer that wasn't. My cast is off but I'm still hobbling around and, frankly, I'm still quite "uncomfortable" (e.g. walking normally is a miserable but necessary recuperative act.) Climbing stairs is no fun. I was with my surgeon a few weeks ago and he casually mentioned that I should be good as new in six months to a year.

Regardless, I've spoken with many people who have had the same injury and each of them mentioned that it's never the same as it was before they tore their Achilles tendon. On top of all this I've had several cases of gout in the same foot and thought I was going to die. With that said I keep in mind that it could be a lot worse. I see these guys coming back from Afghanistan with no legs or kids who drank too much and wrapped their cars around telephone poles and are going to spend the rest of their lives in a wheel chair. I count my blessing every day. At lease I have two legs and two feet.

Its common knowledge that business is tough these days and it stands to reason that business people should do everything possible to keep their customers happy and coming back.

A few days ago I woke early, just as it was getting light, grabbed my camera bag and hobbled down to my boat. It was a gorgeous morning and the water was dead calm. I drove a few miles up the lake and made several photos of a few of the islands, the calm water and the high drama sky. Then my boat started "beeping." My on-board computer was telling me that I was nearly out of gas. So I started the engine and drove like a madman to the nearest marina about three miles away. It was 7:30 in the morning and the sign by the gas pump said, "Open AT 8 AM." Fortunately, the owner of the marina was sitting there having coffee enjoying the morning air. I had bought gas and supplies there for years and had known the man for quite some time. I mentioned to him that I was just about out of gas and asked if he could fill my tank. Keep in mind that a full tank of gas for my boat is about $125. The owner stood up, looked me right in the eye and said, "I don't open until 8." He then sat down and drank a few more sips of coffee and totally ignored me. I thought at first he was joking but after ten minutes realized that this guy just was not going to do a damn thing.

So I started my boat and slowly and carefully motored about a mile around the harbor to another marina. I parked my boat by the gas pumps and walked into the office. It was now 8AM and the sign on the door said…"Open AT 8 AM!"

"Excuse me but I was wondering if I can get someone to fill up my boat?" I said.

"We're closed...don't bother me," said the woman at the desk without even turning to face me.

So I jumped into my boat and motored to another marina a half mile away. As I approached the dock my engine stopped as there was no more gas in the tank. Within seconds a young dock hand was tying up my boat and offered to check the oil in the engine as he filled my tank. Fifteen minutes later I was ready to go but my poor engine would not start. In just a few minutes the marina mechanic had my engine apart and primed the injection system with gas! Fifteen minutes later the engine was running fine and I was ready to go. And while I waited someone offered me a cup of coffee and there was absolutely no charge for the mechanical service….but I did pay for the gas and I left the dock hand a nice tip!

But here's the point. The guys at the first two marinas have permanently lost my business. It would have been so easy for the first guy to say that his pumps were not yet operating or give me a reasonable explanation as to why he would not get off his lazy ass to fill my tank. And it would have been really easy for the bitch at the other marina to at least look me in the eye and offer an explanation as to why I could not get my tank filled. But neither individual were courteous or considerate enough to spend thirty seconds to maintain good customer relations with a paying customer. So they lost my business. I don't care if I have to walk five miles for a few gallons of gas for my boat…I simply won't be going back to either marina. And I will be spending my money at the marina that offered professional service and treated me with courtesy and respect. And this winter when I need my boat taken from the water, serviced and stored for the season, I can assure you that I'm going to the place that treated me with dignity.

At my own gallery, especially during the warm months, we often have people looking in my windows at 6 AM and often as late 10PM. I always open up for them. I don't care what time of the day someone is here. My gallery will always be open. And if they need something delivered immediately I get it done and if there is a problem I take care of it. And just maybe that's one of the reasons why I'm still in business when many other places have closed their doors. Professional, client-centered service seems logical and appropriate…besides it's the right thing to do. Why an employee in a service oriented business would ever do anything other is beyond me. Businesses and employees so often fail to realize that keeping their customers happy is critical to success. Unfortunately many people don't realize this or act on it. Many large companies take for granted their success…and it's not surprising to hear that such business often fail when they forget about their customers. Business people need to keep in mind that their salaries are paid by their clients and without someone spending money with your business you're doomed.

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So BP finally tapped their leaking well in the Gulf of Mexico. And of course the hard core republicans blame Obama for this tragedy. And I love hearing Sarah Palin (who, by the way, has quite the last three jobs she's had) demand that we "TAKE BACK AMERICA." Who does she and the other right wing fanatics think stole it? Fidel Castro? Or how about Manuel Noriega? Maybe Osama Bin Ladin took it…..or how about the North Koreans or maybe it was the Muslims in Iran? And if someone took it from us…where is it?

Tired of paying big taxes? Maybe we should not have a GI Bill for returning veterans. Or maybe we should refuse to pay for their health care? Why do we need twelve aircraft carrier battle groups? Why do we have to pay pensions for teachers? Why do we need art or music or sports in schools? United Auto workers get to completely retire after twenty years of working…and they get 80% of their salary for life as their pension.

Here's my solution….stop all the god damned complaining. Start your own business and pay attention to your customers. It's not that hard.

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I'm intrigued when I hear people complain about the fact the BP has spent 96 million dollars on a PR campaign to resurrect their image. The company stopped the oil from gushing into the seas and is paying dearly for the clean-up….as they should. And they will pay dearly for the fines levied against them for their lack of professionalism, stupidity and their failure to maintain and enforce safety procedures. But frankly, I'm happy they spent 96 million dollars to promote their company. That's money spent here in America and we should be quite happy about it!

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We have a great Yellow Labrador dog. Her name is Riley. She is a serious family member. My wife and daughter love her dearly as do I. She flunked obedience training but we love her anyway. In truth, I flunked Algebra 1 in high school four times and I'm no worse because of it. In the past week or so I have been able to walk the dog when she wakes me at 5AM. Normally, because I don't walk that well, my wife has been taking her out. We walk her by the lake each morning and night and she will fetch sticks for hours on end. It's what she was bred to do. But if she sees a duck in the lake forget about her coming back. I've had to chase her a mile or so into the lake because she will simply not stop. And when we're in the boat she has to be tightly held as on many occasions, at forty miles per hour, she'll jump out of the boat and just start swimming.

So last night we were on the dock and Riley was enjoying fetching and retrieving a plastic baseball bat we throw in the water for her. The dock was soaking wet and the dog slipped off and landed in the water. My wife and daughter were nearly hysterical. To me the damn dog can swim back to shore, as she has done thousands of times, and climb back up on the dock. It's no big deal.

But while this traumatic event was happening I decided to get onto my boat. So I pulled the dock lines and the boat came closer. I put my bad leg in first as I had done before. Unfortunately, a very large wave pulled the boat from the dock and I held on for dear life. Well, my left hand slipped down and ran across one of the "snaps" that hold the cover on the boat. Unfortunately the snap had broken and all that was left was a sharp, jagged edge of metal. Within seconds I had a very deep gash in my left hand. Blood was all over the place and I shouted in pain. Unfortunately, the ladies were too busy trying to help the damn dog or thinking that it was about to be attacked by huge snapping turtles, fresh water sharks or monster, oriental Snakehead fish. I'm certain that they were certain that the dog was unable to swim to shore and rescue itself. Finally, after a few minutes the dog was safely on land and wanted to swim more. Eventually, my daughter looked at me and my bloody hand and calmly asked what happened. She thought I was joking. I guess that the dog carries more status in my family than I. And I refused to go to the hospital to have the damn hand sewn up as I'm sick of doctors and needles. When I got back to the cabin I cleaned the wound and had a few shots of Jack Daniels. That was enough medication and attention for me. In the morning my hand was sore, swollen and heavily bandaged and I sat at the computer all day typing this with the one hand, hunt and peck method. And, at the rate I'm going I should have this Newsletter done by March.

I should also mention that we very often have visitors at my cabin on the lake. A month or so ago a childhood friend of my wife's spent the week at our cabin. With her she brought her two daughters including an eleven year old and a fourteen year old and another teenage friend as a companion. So including my wife and daughter that's six women in my cabin all at the same time. They had taken the train from Chicago and rented a car in Albany and traveled north to visit us.

So after work on the day they arrived I closed my gallery and drove to my cabin. And after a long day I was tired and looking forward to a few hamburgers from the grill and a quiet evening watching the sun set. When I walked in my cabin, however, I was not surprised. Suitcases were everywhere, make-up bags, hair brushes and blow driers were all over the place, and wet bathing suits seemed to hang from every available spot in the cabin. My daughters music was blaring and people were sitting around texting and twittering like there was no tomorrow.

It took about two minutes for me to realize that I didn't belong there. So I took my dog and spent the next six nights sleeping at my gallery. My dog and I had pizzas and beer each evening for dinner and we watched several great movies each night! And we slept better than we had in years!

Usually in the mornings I take my daughter tubing behind our motorboat for an hour or so. So the morning after our guests arrived, I showed up at 7 AM at the cabin and woke my daughter. Then the other kids decided they wanted to go as well but they first had to get out of bed (which for teenagers is nearly impossible), wash and blow dry their hair, put on their make-up and complain because their bathing suits were wet and cold. An hour later we were all ready to walk down to the boat. Everyone seemed happy with the experience but from what I understand from my wife and daughter six girls and two cats, and only one bathroom between them, can be a trying. I dare not say more on this subject.

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I often do book signings around the country. They're usually fun but sometimes people really drive me nuts. A few months ago, I, along with a number of other authors, did an out-door book signing in a town here in upstate New York. It was a nice day and all of the authors were under a large tent.

Then the retail people started to come. Kids are probably the worst but adults are often incredibly stupid and inconsiderate as well. Many of the people stop by my table, open each book and just about destroy my books with their greasy hands that are often covered with sticky soft drinks, ketchup, mustard, ice cream or other crap. Some of the people will fold back certain pages and others will swear up and down that they owned something featured in my book. They want the addresses and phone numbers of the owners of the homes that appear in my books so they can go visit them. They sometimes bitch about the price of books or they don't want to pay tax. They tell me that they can buy the books cheaper on Amazon.com. They want to know who makes my photos and they don't believe me when I say that I do. They also think that I make millions of dollars and they don't believe me when I give them the hard numbers. Many people insist that their homes are better than any I've ever featured in my books and that they can personally build better rustic furniture than anyone else around. Many people want to show me photos of their home and their collections. And I've actually had a few books stolen from my booth when I've taken a bathroom break. In truth, I'm polite and courteous to everyone but sometimes I want to pull my hair out.

But, at the same time, many times people are incredibly gracious and complimentary. Sometimes some people want to have their photos made with me or have me write personal inscriptions in their books. Many times people bring books they purchased elsewhere and ask me to sign them. We're often invited to homes for dinners and a visit. Often times I do and but many times I'm just too busy or need to get home or something else.

I usually sell a lot of books and I must say that I know how it feels when other authors are selling nothing. Their emotions run between despair, hatred, disappointment and envy. I can see the disappointment in their eyes when they load their books back into their vehicles at the end of the day after selling nothing. I know how they feel because the same thing has happened to me many times. But I've often quietly mentioned to people that they should be incredibly proud of the fact that they took the time to write a book and that they are now part of history. Effort is a noble thing. It brings profound meaning to our lives. Please take me seriously on this. I can't think of anything more horrible than when I die I have to face my maker and explain why I watched so much TV when I should have been an active participant in life rather than a spectator. Time is not ours to waste. We have very little of it. The joys of accomplishment are beyond description. Involvement in anything offers profound rewards.

Back on another thought, one guy told me that I was nuts to have a publisher because he printed all of his books himself therefore making all the profits. I reminded him that he was also completely responsible for all the marketing, shipping, delivery, editing, design, etc. But even though the guy felt the need to criticize my efforts I had to compliment him for his work. Finding a publisher today can be a real nightmare and finding an agent to "pitch" your work to a publisher is even harder. One large company receives well over a hundred proposals a day. So for someone to take the time to complete a book and then get it to the market place can be a tremendous act of patience, tenacity, self-confidence and courage. (Regardless…I still thought the guy was a jerk,)

I've also been on the receiving end of more wonderful compliments that I thought the human race capable of. And I've received emails and letters from all over the world thanking me for my efforts to bring a great artistic movement to the eyes of the public. Further, I've always tried to personalize my books and my slideshow presentations as well. I've been giving more and more presentations around the country and people seem to respond positively to my efforts.

In the past, like many performers, I've been terribly nervous with stage fright before I walk to the front and center stage. Everyone who has ever preformed in public knows about this. Even the greatest performers of our time admit they are often scared to death prior to appearing on stage.

But, I changed my way of thinking about all this a few years ago. I read a book called "My Stroke of Insight." It's a story about a researcher who had a serious stroke and makes a complete comeback. Through the authors story I realized that I can literally turn off certain parts of my brain. Sometimes our brains can just run amuck and make our days miserable. Today, instead of battling my fear or succumbing to it, I simply tell myself to "SHUT THE HELL UP." I tell myself to relax and enjoy the presentation. Have fun up there and tell good stories. I know what I'm talking about and I have great images to show people. This approach has made a world of difference for me and I'm better because of it.

I'm also fully aware that there are many unhappy people out there and you can't please everyone. I recently gave a presentation on contemporary Adirondack Great Camps and the event was clearly marked as "Contemporary." At the end of the event one woman bitterly complained to the event organizer saying that she was very disappointed that I showed only new homes. Another person complained when I mentioned that I was not fond of a certain element in a home I was showing and most people in the audience agreed. She complained that I was "trashing" a home that she was familiar with……..In truth, there were many elements of the home that were really not up to standards and the designer must have been out of his mind to use the approach he did. I was not invited back to the conference the following year…but that's OK. My life does not center on people who have problems and complain about any and everything.

On another note the Adirondack Antiques Show was held a few weeks ago at the museum in Blue Mountain Lake. About 60 exhibitors offered all kinds of antique rustic things for sale. What's fun about the week is that there are several what we call satellite shows that open up a few days before the main show. So in general I visit the other outside vendors and buy things and schmooze with friends before the main show actually opens up a few days later.

The show I was exhibiting at allowed exhibitors to set up early Friday morning so after getting in line I drove to my booth and unloaded my trailer. Within fifteen minutes I had sold out of almost everything I brought. So I wandered around the show and bought and sold several other things. The following day I brought more things from my gallery and sold them as well.

Sometimes, as long as I'm selling things, shows are fun to do. But they are incredibly hard work. It's a nightmare when it rains and trying to get a hundred vehicles both in and out of the exhibition grounds can be a real nightmare. But the Adirondack Antiques Show was very well organized and things ran smoothly. I saw lots of old friends and enjoyed both selling and buying….…and I only had to answer the question of "How did you get into the rustic business?"……eight hundred times!

BOOKS
Speaking of books! My book RUSTIC ELEGANCE is on the market! It's a fabulous book and I'm very proud of it and the homes I featured. The book can be purchased at retail stores around the country for $60!!!!!! OR!…… for the next few months, I'm selling signed, first printing copies for only $40 plus shipping! And I'll happily inscribe the books in any fashion of your choosing!

I have another book out at this time as well. THE LOG HOME BOOK is a compilation of many photos that appeared in some of my earlier books! At first I was hesitant about doing a project like this but my publisher assured me that there was a market for a small book showing great rooms and camps. So we have just come out with THE LOG HOME BOOK and it retails for $25! And if you want a first printing copy that's personally signed by me let me know. I'm selling that book for $18.00 plus shipping. Or if you want both books you can combine the two and save on shipping expenses!

I am also very happy to say that my book titled "SHORT STORIES AND STRANGE THOUGHTS" is presently at the printer and I should have copies for sale before Christmas. This book contains some 30 stories and is a little less than 500 pages long. It has been very well received and I'm thrilled that it will be on the market soon! I had great fun writing it and am fully expecting to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature or at least, a Pulitzer. What the heck? You have to aim high and do the best you can because if you don't you'll never really know what talents you possess. And you never know……you just might really surprise yourself. And if you sell a million books you can tell your former spouses that he/she was completely wrong about you!

I also have another book due out this year. My favorite historical builder from the south is the Reverend Ben Davis. The Reverend built extraordinary rustic furniture in the North Carolina area up until about 1940. I have several pieces by him in my own collection and have featured some of his work in my past books. I have researched the good Reverend for many years and my book titled THE RUSTIC FURNITURE OF REVEREND BEN DAVIS will be on the market in about six weeks or so. This will be an inexpensive soft covered book showing about 40 of his pieces. An extensive history on the life and works of this man is also included. This will be a great book for anyone interested in historical rustic furniture artists and seeing different examples of extraordinary creativity. And as I sit here I am hard at work on a very large book due out in the fall of 2011 about a year from now. And I've also been working on a really great book titled IMAGES OF THE LAKE. This book is a photographic, artistic offering of my home lake, Lake George, aptly named the Queen of American Lakes.

Lake George

I really have spent the past ten or so years on this project and am looking forward to its completion and publication. It should be on the market this coming spring. I also feel the need to mention my book ADIRONDACK HOME. The book sold out about a year or so ago and the decision was made to not offer a second printing. I must admit that I was a bit surprised when new copies started showing up on Amazon.com for $300 per copy. And I was even more surprised when a few copies were offered at $900 each. Frankly, I don't know if the books sold or not but I was really happy when I found another fifty new copies of the book in my workshop. So I am happy to offer brand new, signed, first (and only) printing of my book ADIRONDACK HOME for the cover price of $60 per copy plus shipping. I have about 30 copies left so when the book is finally sold out …that's it. No more. Done! So give me a call or email me and I'll get you whatever you need!

And it you are in the Montana area a few weeks from now you are cordially invited to a major book signing in the beautiful city of Bozeman, Montana. I'll be signing copies of my new book RUSTIC ELEGANCE at Plonks on Main Street on September 15. The event begins at about 6 PM and will last until about 9 PM. The last time I did a book signing in Bozeman about three hundred people showed up and we had a great time!

And so I watch with interest as the leaves on the huge maple trees across the road from my gallery slowly lose their green hue. The nights are a bit cooler now and every day we lose about five minutes of sunshine. And although the skies were filled with high drama clouds as day broke at my cabin this morning I did not go out on the lake. The water was quite choppy and the wind was strong and I felt the need to go back to bed this morning. I did manage to toss some sticks in the lake and my dog enjoyed her early morning swim. The planet Venus is quite visible in the early night eastern skies and Mars, albeit more gold then red at this time of the year, floats like a drop of butter in golden maple syrup. Back at my cabin my daughter was rolled up tight in her blankets and my two cats purred when I tried not to disturb them when I returned to bed. Soon the chlorophyll that keeps the leaves green will dissipated through the trees leaving only the majestic reds, yellows and browns that will dazzle the eyes of anyone willing to stop and appreciate the delights of autumn. Shortly the honking of huge gaggles of geese will be heard and massive formations of these graceful birds will fill the skies. And behind them will be the mighty birds of prey. Eagles, falcons, owls and hawks of all kinds will silently make their way south. We have a pair of barred owls nesting behind my gallery and on many occasion it's possible to get within twenty feet of them as they nap during the day.

Shortly a flock of turkeys will appear in my back yard and I'll begin feeding them just prior to the first snowfall. The deer will be here as well. And every once in a while a goshawk will snatch a bird from my birdfeeder and eat his fill on one of the huge trees in my back yard. My wife and daughter have already run up my credit card bill with the purchase of new fall clothes and supplies in anticipation of the beginning of school next week. And this week I'll sign up my daughter for dance lessons as I seem to do every fall and winter. My daughter was good this summer and completed the seven book reports I assigned her when school vacation began last June. She earned her dance lessons and a winter vacation.

On September 14 my family and I will depart for Bozeman, Montana, and we'll spend five days there photographing a few homes and again visit Yellowstone National Park. When they leave I'll stay on in Montana for a few more weeks and photograph several more homes, conduct some business and do some serious fly fishing. A good friend of mine, a psychiatrist, will be with me for the last eight days of this trip. We'll wander through Idaho and he'll serve as my photo assistant. We've traveled together in the past and usually wind up not speaking to each other for a year or so after the trip. But we remain good friends and we're both older and more mature now. And each of us will do our best to not "push each other's buttons." And we both agree that as long as we take our medications we'll get along fine. With that said I still think he looks ridiculous in his Bugs Bunny pajamas.

Business continues to be strong here at my gallery. We've taken on a few very interesting projects and excused ourselves from others that were not right for us. We're also speaking with an architect who is working on a very large private residence near St. Petersburg, Russia, and we may travel there in the next few months. They love our high end rustic furniture and want their Dacha completed in a classical rustic style.

With that said I wish everyone well and I hope that the coming fall is both prosperous and peaceful for everyone.

Take care, Ralph




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Thursday, July 22, 2010

In all honesty I've spent the past four months being miserable. As mentioned in my last Newsletter I completely tore my Achilles tendon and underwent major surgery to repair the damn thing. And so I've spent most of that time in a cast and have only recently begun rehab therapy. Please excuse me if I complain as I have no one else to tell my troubles to. And, frankly, my wife is sick (I think) of me although I have done my best to not let on exactly how miserable I've been. With that said, although I've been out of my cast for a week or so, it's like someone taking a knife and driving it deep into my foot every fifteen minutes or so. Further, my foot swells up a few times a day and I am forced to sit with my leg higher then my head and apply ice as often as possible. I've also had to deal with two bouts of gout and an infection in my foot as well. I really have considered having my foot amputated and using a prosthesis but my surgeon wouldn't even listen to my argument. I told him I was depressed. He said "you're not depressed…you're just "bummed out."

I will say that my wife has been incredibly tolerant of my situation and has faithfully served me three meals a day, done the laundry, fed the animals, attended to our daughter and taken over the never ending task of keeping our home and business going. However, I did have to cancel three appearances including two presentations and exhibiting at a show in New Hampshire.

But, in truth, there are lots of people whose lives are a lot worse than mine. This, of course, does not take away from how miserable I've been but I do keep in mind that nothing is so bad that it can't get worse. I'll get through all this and, I pray, that a year from now I'll look back and laugh at my present situation.

So a few weeks ago my wife suggested that she would like to visit her family in Chicago and I felt privileged to be invited along. At this very moment I'm really not certain that she wanted me along as I'm sure she needed a break from taking care of me. None the less, we are presently in Chicago and I am enjoying myself. But it was not easy getting here.

Last Tuesday we drove to the airport and parked at the long term lot as we had done many times in the past. I was wearing my removable cast so the shuttle driver politely pulled into the handicapped section in front of the terminal and let us off the bus. After checking in I asked if I could get a wheel chair to take me to the gate. Keep in mind that there are real advantages to being "physically disabled." We breezed through the security gates and found ourselves at the gate significantly prior to boarding time. After eating a hamburger that contained enough fat to choke a horse the gate agent allowed my family and I to board the plane before other passengers. After settling in we read the in-flight magazines and relaxed as the plane roared down the runway and climbed into the cloudy skies above Albany, NY. The two hour flight was going smoothly for the first hour. Then the plane took a sudden drop in altitude. The plane continued to descend. I knew something was not right as the "fasten the seat belts" lights came on and the single flight attendant sat down and immediately strapped herself in. Everyone on the plane grew nervous as we all knew we were a long way from Chicago. No messages or announcements came from the cockpit. Down and down we went at a very steep angle. As the ground came closer none of the passengers recognized the terrain. We had no idea where we were. The dramatic descent continued. Fortunately the plane finally touched ground although I was not at all thrilled with the bouncy landing. But at least we were back on the earth.

As we made a hasty bee line toward the terminal the pilot finally announced that the emergency landing was made because a battery was leaking fluids and could have burst into flames. This announcement reminded me of how lucky I am to be alive and I completely forgot about my poor foot crammed against a wall in an awkward and uncomfortable position. Once at the terminal the engines were turned off and the repair team summoned. A half hour later we were told that the plane could be repaired and they were presently searching for a replacement battery. I don't think there is anything worse than being stuck on a plane waiting for repairs. Having been in a situation where I spent more than four hours strapped to a seat while the mechanics repaired a problem I can assure anyone reading this that it's not fun. So if we had to wait another ten minutes I was fully prepared to declare a medical emergency and demand to get off the plane. Fortunately, laws have recently been passed that required airlines to allow passengers to get off planes that are being repaired.

Fortunately, the pilot came on the intercom and announced that a new battery was being flown in from Chicago and would be here within the hour. He then invited the passengers to get off the plane and relax in the terminal. No one complained and everyone got made their way to the terminal. So my family and I wandered inside the airport and I hobbled down to the local bar and had a few fried appetizers and club sodas. An hour later we returned to the gate and were told that the wrong battery was sent and that the correct battery was now being flown in from Newark, New Jersey. But the good people at the gate also gave us vouchers for a free meal so we returned to the bar and had more heavy, fried, fat food. In truth, I felt like a garbage disposal. As I listened to the grumpy sounds of complaining passengers I realized one thing for certain. I wanted the plane fixed correctly. I want it 100%. I don't want any short cuts or "maybe's". I don't care how long it takes I just want to be in an airplane that is completely up to standards.

Finally, nearly five hours later, the plane was ready to go and we all got back onboard and returned to the friendly skies of United. An hour and a half later we landed in Chicago. It was now three AM. I explained to the gate keeper that our ride was not here and would not be able to pick us up until later that day. Fortunately, we were given a free hotel room and their profound apologies. We just had to get down to the baggage area and a shuttle bus would pick us up.

Unfortunately, O'Hare is a huge airport and I made the profoundly stupid mistake of thinking I could walk to the baggage claim area. Nearly an hour later (keep in mind there were no wheelchair attendants at that hour) we finally made it to the shuttle area and were forced to wait another half hour for the bus to arrive. I finally fell asleep as the sun began to brighten the skies over the great city of Chicago. Four hours later we were having a wonderful breakfast buffet at the hotel compliments of United Airlines. Frankly, I made a pig of myself.

Within the hour my sister-in-law picked us up from the hotel. On the way back to her house we stopped for the time honored tradition of Chicago hot dogs. Real hot dogs come with steamed poppy seed buns, mustard, relish, onions and sometimes tomatoes and/or a pickle. Anyone who puts ketchup on a hot dog (especially in Chicago) has a genetic defect. And I am serious about this. Ketchup and hot dogs is closely akin to the antichrist. Both my wife and daughter put ketchup on their hot dogs and had I known that before I married my wife I would have walked away from the alter. Further, part of me feels like a miserable failure because my daughter also loves the Yankees and loves ketchup on her hot dogs as well.

Once at my in-laws home I slept for several hours and did my best to digest horrible fried airport food, overcooked hotel food and hot dogs with extra onions. I didn't sleep that well at all.

I woke late in the afternoon, took a shower and hobbled around the house for a while.

My father in law, god bless him, is a World War II veteran. On the day we arrived in Chicago he, along with ninety other veterans, was on board an Honor Flight for a celebration in Washington, D.C. They left at five in the morning and were due to return at 7:40 that evening. While in DC they toured the various veterans memorial, had lunch and got acquainted with old friends. The trip involved hundreds of volunteers and significant fund raising. On the return flight a "mail call" was held and each veteran was given a stack of mail personally written to him by family friends and supporters. A few days before the honor flight I wrote the following letter to him:

"Dear John,

I want to personally thank you for your efforts to make the world a better and safer place. This morning as I swam in the cool waters of Lake George I realized, as I do every day, that the freedom I so greatly enjoy was provided by you.

I don't imagine that being in a war is a fun experience. And I can only imagine the horror at the loss of friends in a combat situation. I do know that those who were lost in that great conflict are in a better place today and I can also assure you that they and you will not be forgotten. I thank you for being there when our country and your family needed you.

In perfect world there are no wars or violence or aggression or madmen. Unfortunately we do not live in that world. However, because of you and many others, our world is a safer and freer world.

As I looked at your granddaughter sleeping in her bed early this morning I knew that she would have the opportunity to live a long, full life and will be able to enjoy the bounty of our great country. I thank you for your efforts to allow her to have such a great life.

With profound thanks and appreciation,

Your son-in-law, Dr. Ralph Kylloe, Ed.D."

When my family and I arrived at the airport to greet John more than a thousand other people were there to welcome home their loved ones. American flags were everywhere. An honor guard in full military regalia presented the colors and a thirty piece marching band played patriotic music. A full contingent of bagpipers in traditional outfits played music that brought tears to everyone there. Many service people in uniform were also present and a few hundred veteran "bikers" with flags and cut off jackets were part of the event. It was quite frankly, a moving experience.

As the veterans approached the crowd a mighty cheer went up from the crowd. I then witnessed the most horrible thing I ever saw.

The first veteran to descend the staircase to be welcomed by the crowd was a man probably in his late eighties. He was a slim figure and bounded the first few steps with ease. Each veteran had a personal, active service escort who walked to the side and slightly behind the veteran. The escort was to serve as a personal aid to each of the elderly veterans many of whom were in wheelchairs. The first man to appear wanted nothing to do with his escort and quicken his pace as if to say "I don't need or want any help." The escort stayed right with him but the veteran seemed to push him away and bounded down the stairs ahead of his escort. I knew exactly what was going to happen. With fifteen or so stairs to go the old veteran lost his balance and flew through the air. Screams came from the crowd. The man hit the cement floor head first. The sounds of crushing bones were apparent to everyone. Blood poured from his body and tears and screams filled the room. I was standing behind a four foot fence and could do nothing for the man. He was attended to in seconds by people more qualified than I. The body of the man on the ground shook with tremors. It took about eleven minutes for the ambulance and a stretcher to arrive. The tragedy was made more serene because the veteran was about to receive thanks from his fellow countrymen. It was a scene I shall never forget.

The entrance of the other veterans to the ceremony was slightly delayed and the staircase was blocked because of the accident. The remaining veterans were escorted to the ground floor via elevators. Once the injured man was removed from the hall I went to the end of the receiving line. The band played, flags were waved, applause was continuous and cheers of welcome home reverberated through the hall.

The veterans, all of them old and frail and many of them in wheel chairs, were a distinguished lot. I personally shook hands with each of them. And I thanked each of them for their service. It was something I felt the need to say and do. And although they were all old, each man I shook hands with had a powerful grip and a personal strength for which words could not appropriate. Most of the men had tears in their eyes, as did I. These were men of honor. They were better men than I. I felt like I owed them something I can never repay. I felt like a coward in the face of these men. But on that day I felt incredibly proud to be an American.

The following day I decided that I needed a new suit jacket. So my wife, father-in law and I drove to the local shopping mall and found a men's clothing store that proudly announced "three suits for the price of one!" Once inside it became apparent that you had to buy one suit at a greatly inflated price and you would receive two other suits "free" of change. The first suit I looked at was marked $350. OK…that seemed fair enough. But the next suit was marked $575. And if I wanted that suit I would have to pay that price. The third suit I wanted was a handsome dark business suit. But it was marked $895. And if I wanted these three suits the price would be the highest price marked. And each of the suits including both the jacket and pants, had to be altered for which there was an extra charge. And then there would be the significant charge for professionally packing the suits and shipping them back to Lake George, NY. And of course there were the taxes as well. But all I really wanted was a nice tan sport jacket. And I really just didn't feel like paying $1,500 for three suits that I really didn't need. IN truth, I don't mind paying for quality but the items before me were "no great garments." After giving the situation a few serious thoughts I decided it wasn't right for me. So we left the store and had a few Bloody Mary's, alligator bits and fish and chips at a bar a few doors down the street. Frankly, I was proud of myself for saving $1,500 so I went into the local Bass Pro Shop and bought myself some more fly fishing gear with the money I saved!

All in all I spent a very nice few days with my family. We had several great dinners together and I spent a few hours a day putting worms on hooks so my daughter and a friend could catch small pan fish from the pond behind my in-laws the home where we were staying. Most of the time, however, I sat on the couch with my foot higher than my heart trying to heal myself. The flight home was, to some degree, non-eventful. The only down side was that we had three gate changes while we waited for the plane and I had to hobble along through the crowds and pray no one bumped into me. And once on the plane we had to sit in the very last row which meant that the seats did not recline. And at ten PM sitting straight up for three hours was not that comfortable.

IMPORTANT NEWS

I've decided to run for president in the 2012 national election. I am forming a new political party appropriately called the Coffee Party. We all want fewer taxes in our lives so here's my platform and this is how I'm going to cut government spending and taxes. Itemized below are my top priorities and proposals, including;

1. Eliminate the Center for Disease Control. People are still sick despite all their efforts.
2. Release half of the people in prisons. And execute most of the remaining inmates.
3. Eliminate Health and Job inspectors (OSHA). They're all over paid and interfere with business.
4. Reduce the military budget by 50%.
5. Get rid of all veterans' benefits.
6. Get rid of Medicare and Medicare.
7. Get rid of the Department of Justice………Let people solve their own problems.
8. Allow offshore drilling and open pit coal mining all across the country thus creating more jobs. This will cheapen the price of energy.
9. Eliminate all benefits for handicapped individuals.
10. Sell off Yellowstone National Park, Central Park in New York and most of the other National Parks as well. Why do we need them?
11. Eliminate all environmental protection laws and inspectors. The water and air is clean enough. So what if a bunch of fish die?
12. Eliminate all support for colleges and universities. If you want to go to college pay for it yourself. Don't expect me to pay your way.
13. Eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts. What do we need them for anyway? It's a complete waste of money.
14. Get rid of the Smithsonian Institution. It's just a bunch of old stuff that collects dust.
15. Forget about the space program. It hasn't helped the average American one bit.
16. Stop funding the National Institute of Health.
17. Forget about border patrols. Let the illegal aliens in. They are cheap labor and do things real American don't or won't do.
18. Completely and forever eliminate welfare and unemployment compensation. You want to eat?.....…get a job.
19. Stop funding research about Global Warming. It's all a big lie created by Al Gore so he and his cronies can make millions of dollars.
20. And get rid of teachers. They aren't doing their jobs and they make too much money. You want your kid educated?……..teach them yourself. And don't expect single people with no kids to have to support schools. No kids…..then no school taxes for childless people.
21. Legalize all presently illegal drugs. If people want to kill themselves that's OK. It will mean less people in prison and less crime.
22. And make smoking legal in all public and private areas. Smoking provides jobs.
23. What do we need the National Weather Service for? So what if it rains?
24. And get rid of National Flood Protection. If you're stupid enough to build your home on a flood plain don't even think about asking me to pay for it when it's washed away.
25. Forget international aid all together. No one supports us so why should we give our hard earned money to a bunch of losers?
26. And forget about government inspectors inspecting and regulating banks and financial institutions. Let them make $ anyway they can. That way they will spend it and make other people rich as well!

So that's it. These are my top proposals for allowing freedom in our country to once again rule. And I have a lot more ideas as well! One implemented these proposals would put money back in the pockets of all American citizens which is what people seem to be demanding.

But, and please take me seriously on this, we have to decide what kind of a country we really want. It's all fun and games until you need some of the services mentioned above. I have no doubt that government's waste money but it's up to our citizens to figure this out and put an end to it. Frankly, however, I like breathing clean air and drinking clean water. And I want my daughter well educated. And I want to know when a hurricane is going to hit. And I want the veterans taken care of. And I want cancers and other diseases eliminated. And the National Parks are an absolute treasure. I don't want them ruined with condos, gas stations, oil wells and/or strip malls. And I want the god damned criminals in prison. And I don't want drugs sold on street corners and I can't stand cigarettes. And I want airplane inspectors and air traffic safety controllers on the job. And I want our country to be safe and I want justice to prevail. All this doesn't seem unreasonable to me.

So, I have to ask, where should we cut the budget? Please tell me. I am not at all opposed to paying taxes as long as we are fair with everyone and we provide services to keep the population healthy, safe, well educated and free to pursue our dreams.

So, in truth, I don't think I'll vote for myself in the upcoming election. But, strangely enough, there are lots of people who would.

MORE STUFF I will be exhibiting at the Adirondack Antiques Show at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY., this August 13-15. This is a big time antiques show so if you want to decorate your new home or cabin with rustic treasures please plan on attending the show.

I'm doing a big time book signing at Plonks in Bozeman, Montana, on September 15. This book signing coincides with the release of my book RUSTIC ELEGANCE. I also have another small book coming out this fall titled THE LOG HOME BOOK. This will be a small $25, fun book.

And my book of short stories titled, "SHORT STORIES AND STRANGE THOUGHTS", is finally going to the printer this week so that should be out by the fall as well.

And I am presently hard at work on my mega book titled RUSTIC AMERICA. This will be a monster $150 book and will be on the market in the fall of 2011. And I have another book planned after that and then I'm done. That's it…no more (unless someone really twists my arm.) So that's it.

I find that my Newsletters are coming from my typewriter less and less as time goes by. It's very time consuming to write this stuff and I often wonder if it's worth effort. In truth, on most occasions I would rather spend time with my family than sit at my computer. Maybe I've been in the rustic design business too long. Maybe it's time to figure out what I should finally do when I grow up. Maybe it's time to finally grow up. It's shocking to me when I realize how quick life goes by. I have so many interests' and so many things I'd love to do. And as soon as I'm up on my feet I swear to god that I'm going to do every one of the things I want to do before I die. How's that for optimism for you?

Hope things are well in your life.
Ralph

PS. I am giving everyone in the entire world permission, for this coming Saturday night only,…….…to eat an entire chocolate cake or apple pie all by yourself. And if you're with someone else get them a cake or pie as well. With that thought in mind please consider the idea that your body is not a temple……it's a vehicle to occasionally have fun with.

My best to all of you, Ralph




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Thursday, April 27, 2010

It's been the strangest two months of my life. I'm not kidding. And it hasn't been pleasant. But I'll talk about that shortly.

First, and most important, the economy has picked up dramatically. We've taken on several large projects and things have been selling from my gallery. Many of the country's largest financial firms have paid back their government bailout loans and are making money. The stock market is up and the mood of the country is upbeat. Still, we are at war in Afghanistan and maintain significant troop levels in Iraq. This is, of course, expensive. But the primary function of our government, as its most basic mission, is to keep our citizens safe. Nothing else is more important. Unfortunately, this comes with a serious cost…..I just hope that we are using the money wisely and that we take care of the soldiers when they return home.

I see America as an astonishing place. Our economy is cyclical. Things go up and things go down. It's almost unavoidable.

And what drives our nation and our own well being is persistence, innovation and the belief that anything is possible. Change, a better mouse trap, and the freedom to pursue our dreams and ideas drive our world.

What hurts us is complacency and relaying on our past efforts. Many businesses think that just because they have been successful in the past they are guaranteed success in the future. This is not at all true and is a portent for disaster. And this is 100% true for both businesses and individuals. It's not what you have done…it's what you do for an encore that brings success in the long term. Beyond having a great product, service to ones customers and keeping in mind that the customer pays your salary is critical. It should never, ever be forgotten that businesses succeed when they help their customers get what they want and help solve their problems. Arrogance and self centeredness in any field guarantees disaster. If you want success in any field continue to learn, grow and evolve. If you don't I personally guarantee that someone or some business will come out of the woodwork and send you to the poorhouse.

COMMENTS ON ENERGY
So, we are looking at an absolute catastrophic environmental disaster in Louisiana. Unfortunately, an oil rig blew up and the site is presently depositing millions of gallons of crude oil right into the ocean. This will be far more serious than the Exxon Valdez disaster. Twelve people were killed in the accident and if memory serves me correct 27 people died a few weeks ago in another coal mining disaster in West Virginia. Thousands of other miners die from black lung disease and other respiratory problems contracted from working in mines. At present the 25,000 wind turbines in use kill about 200,000 birds per year and produces very little of the consumable energy we use. Further, solar power produces less than one tenth of one percent of the power we use. And around the world hundreds of people die annually because of explosions, cave-ins and other disasters related to our need for oil and coal. And I'm not even going to mention the amount of pollution the use of fossil fuels pumps into the air we breathe every day. Unless we drastically curtail our wanton use of power we face more catastrophes and our planet will never be the same.

Consider this for just a second. The amount of people killed related to the use of nuclear energy in the last fifty years is zero. Even the Three Mile Island disaster resulted in no measurable health effects on American citizens. The Chernobyl disaster resulted in deaths because the plant was constructed without a containment vessel.

My fear of nuclear power is what to do with the spent fuel rods and nuclear waste. But there are improvements and uses for such materials. From what I've read nuclear power is far cheaper and far cleaner and less hazardous than our dependence on coal and oil. We might need to rethink our energy policies as we move forward.

BIZARRE AND STUPID STUFF
A few months ago I was in New York City. I was at a hotel near mid town and had a few hours before my meetings with clients. Dressed in my best suit and looking grand I took a walk near Gramercy Park. The park is an old world place complete old growth trees, great vegetation and benches. It is an inspiring and peaceful place, even in late winter. For an urban setting it's as bucolic as it can get. It's also surrounded by a tall, ornate, wrought iron fence in the finest Victorian tradition. So walking by the park on that afternoon, a nurse was opening one of the gates and struggling to get a wheel chair, occupied with an elderly gentleman in a silk jacket and ascot, out of the park. Like a gentleman (my mother would have been proud) I helped keep the gate open and the nurse and the elderly gentlemen in the wheel chair got through the opening and offered their thanks to me. And without thinking about it I simply entered the park and the gate closed behind me. And for the next half hour I wandered among the trees and gardens and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

But it was now getting late and I needed to make it to my appointment. Unfortunately, the gate through which I entered was locked so I tried another gate. It too was locked as were other gates and no one else was around. It quickly became very apparent to me that the park was accessible only to residents of the immediate area. And it took a key to either get in or out. But I was certain that someone would soon enter the park and permit me to leave. A half hour later I was still alone in the park.

The park is, as many people know, surrounded by a twelve foot iron fence. Keep in mind that I'm also 62 years old (it scares me to think of this) and was dressed in a business suit on that particular day. But without much thought I found a spot and decided to scale the fence. And I wasn't doing too badly until, at the very top, my paint leg got caught on one of the fence posts. As I started to descend my leg flew up over my head and for just a few seconds I was suspended completely upside down. And just a second later the fence ripped my pants to shreds and I crashed to the ground. But I was at least over the fence and out of the park. And, although I felt incredibly stupid, I was physically, if not emotionally, OK. As I stood a pair of policemen approached me and asked if I was injured. I said "no" and that with the exception of my expensive suit pants, I would recover from the fall. I was then asked what I was doing on private property and required to present identification papers.

I am incredibly lucky to have the distinguished title of Doctor in front of my first name and I never use that title unless absolutely necessary. This was one of those times that I thought a bit of status and professionalism might come in handy. I explained, in detail, to the two cops how I came to be in the park and about my appointment in the financial district a half hour from that moment. I was very apologetic but since the park was not posted as private property I was not aware that it was only open to the immediate residents of the area. In time they realized that I was just a "bumbling old guy" who got caught up in something unexpected and absolutely stupid. The cops and I laughed about the event and told me to go on my way. I quickly returned to my hotel room, cleaned up a bit and changed my pants. And I was only fifteen minutes late to my meeting! But I imagine that I looked absolutely stupid hanging upside down from a fence in the middle of Manhattan.

A week after I got home from "The City", we decided, as a family, to go on a cruise for my daughter's spring vacation. We've been on cruises before and I'm not really a lover of such experiences. In fact, we usually go to Key West every winter for a week as my wife and I greatly enjoy the old historical conch architecture, the great restaurants, the lush vegetation and the great B&Bs. And I always spend a few days fishing for tarpon and other sea creatures. But we have an eleven year old daughter who is an only child. Cruises for her are excellent because there are a million kids (or so it seems) and all kinds of great programs for her.

But getting a cruise is no easy task and it's far more expensive than people are led to believe. There are, of course, all kinds of discount websites on the internet that will book a cruise for you but when you call them they always say that the cheap rooms are already booked and do their best to sell you something else (e.g., more expensive). Well, we finally found a cruise and signed on the dotted line. And because it was far cheaper to fly out of LaGuardia than Albany we opted to drive to New York City, spend the night in a hotel by the airport and then fly out at 6 AM in the morning.

Hotel rooms are funny. But I'm not going to talk about them now. However, I feel the need to mention that I've found that Hotels.com has consistently been cheaper than any of the other on-line reservation sites. But consider this. I'm certain that readers have seen their advertisements saying that if you book ten nights with them…you'll get the next night completely free! To me this has always sounded like a good deal. I spend lots of time in hotel rooms and a free room is always welcome. So last month I spent my tenth night in a room booked with Hotels.com and called to book a room for two nights in Miami, Florida. And I happily announced to the sales rep that I had booked the appropriate nights with them and wanted my next booked room to be free……as clearly advertised in TV and elsewhere. The Miami rooms were $275 a night and I wanted the first one free as promised!

But great deals are always a lie. After spending more than an hour and threatening a lawsuit to several different supervisors (most of whom could barely speak English) I was told that I could only have $106 of credit toward a room because that was the average price of the past ten rooms I had reserved through their service. So, in essence, their promise of a free room is virtually a lie. They will give you a credit toward a room but only one comparable to the average of the last ten rooms you booked. To me this is nothing less than false advertising. But what do I know?

So we drove down to New York City in the middle of the afternoon and got lost trying to find LaGuardia in the rush hour traffic. Trying to find something on the Long Island Expressway (which is, in reality, a gigantic parking lot during rush hour) is one of the most irritating things in the world. Consequently, I didn't fall asleep until 2 AM. In the morning we took a shuttle to the airport, checked our luggage at the curb and made our way through the security check point. In time we landed in Miami and took a cab to the Cruise line terminal. Getting on the ship was not as bad as it could have been. We did arrive 4 hours early and after going through security found our room which was nothing more than a cubical. I immediately fell asleep and missed the send off party. I slept through the day and night and most of the entire next day as well.

But here are some realities. They say that cruises are all inclusive. Seven of the ten restaurants on the ship charge service fees of up to twenty five dollars per person per meal. Drinks are $8.50 to $12 each. A glass of a soft drink is $2.46. There is a "gratuity fee" of $12 per person, per room. So because there were three of us in our room each day I was charged $36 per day as a tip for those cleaning our accommodations. Further, 15% is automatically added on every bill as a gratuity. Internet access is $.75 per minute and I needed to leave a $50 deposit on a twenty five cent plug for my laptop. Even though they sell liquor in the on-board duty free shop you are not allowed to take the bottles from the store. And when on shore during excursions you can buy alcohol but you are not allowed to have it with you on board. They actually confiscate it from you when you reenter the ship and return your purchases to you when you finally leave the ship on the last day of the cruise. And they search your luggage when you first get on board the ship as well.

But the best one for me was the excursions. The ship visited four different ports during our cruise. An on-board excursions director arranged tours for passengers. Most excursions were $85 to $125 per person. Hoards of passengers sign up for these mini-day trips and happily pay the price. But as soon as you get off the boat there are tons of locals there ready to give you the exact same tour for $20 each. And the local tours we took with local guides were much longer, more colorful and more interesting. One excursion offered through the ship (which we did not take) was a visit to a very small local beach that was billed as having great rock formations and clear water. Out of curiosity I asked the director how many people had signed up for the excursion and after a bit of prodding she admitted that four hundred people had signed up and that was just on the morning trip. The afternoon excursion would have many more. And there were three other huge cruise ships in port and all of them would be sending guests there as well!

I declined the offer to visit the beach and found a local cab driver who gave us a great tour of the island. Near the end of our little visit we stopped at a local bar and had a great lunch and a few cocktails. The driver then left us off at the local market where my daughter had her hair braided in typical Caribbean fashion. We also toured another island with a local tour guide that we met on shore. That trip also proved to be very enjoyable and it only cost me $60 for three of us. The same trip booked through the ship would have been $300.

Nonetheless, we did sign up for an excursion in the first port for a horseback riding trip in the Dominican Republic. We landed in the port of Samana and took a bus trip through the town on our way to the stables. In short, the town was nothing more than an absolute ghetto of run down shacks, vacant buildings and apparent abject poverty. It was also interesting to see so many of the locals on cell phones. Nonetheless, I thought the area was incredibly picturesque and I greatly enjoyed meeting and speaking with several of the locals. And it did remind me of how absolutely blessed my family and I are in that we have a wonderful home in a wonderful part of the world.

Eventually we got to the stable and more than a hundred horses were lined up and ready to go. And with each horse (which were mostly skinny animals or donkeys) came a local resident who acted as a personal guide. The trip up through the mountains was nothing less than spectacular. We crossed many streams and sat nervously on our horses as they walked along narrow paths hundreds of feet above valley floors. Eventually we saw an enormous water fall in the distance and descended along a path to a pool at the base of the water fall. It was nothing less than spectacular. Fortunately we were in our bathing suits and swam in the pool for more than an hour before we returned to the bus for the trip back to the ship. It was a spectacular day and I greatly enjoyed chatting with my guide as he told me stories of living on the island.

Back on board I couldn't help but be aware of the long lines at the dining sites and the elevators were almost always crowded. And I love watching people get in an elevator on the eleventh floor and getting off at the tenth floor. For some reason walking down a flight of stairs, for me, is infinitely easier than waiting five minutes for a crowded elevator. But what do I know?

On the morning of the fourth day my daughter wanted us to join her for a game of family dodge ball in the enclosed tennis court. Of course, we went and had every intention of being involved in the game. So after choosing sides, there were about 80 people involved, my family and I prepared for the game.

The other team consisted of a number of families and about ten teenagers. The teenagers were, of course, a cocky group of kids. One kid, in particular, thought he was a gift to every teenage girl on the planet. His loud voice irritated everyone over the age of twenty one and he felt the need to throw insults at everyone older then he. After listening to him for five seconds I made it my life's work to get him out of the game first. When the game finally started a ball came rolling over to me. Once I had it in hand I charged the other team and nailed the obnoxious kid. The referee called him but he didn't leave the game. The kid complained that the ball had hit the ground first. I and everyone else knew he should have left the game but he did not. Moments later I picked up another ball and was absolutely determined to put the kid on the sidelines. I took three steps at full speed. The third step changed my life.

It was like getting hit with a sledgehammer on my lower leg. I fell to the ground in agony. I was certain that someone had stepped on my ankle and looked around for the culprit. But no one was near me. I crawled over to the side lines and lay there for quite some time. The game continued. Some twenty minutes later I pulled myself up along the fence. My foot was swollen and looked like a watermelon. In time, my wife and daughter helped me to my room and I took a nap. I assumed that it was just a sprained ankle. The pain, however, was nothing less than horrible. I didn't sleep that night.

In the morning I saw the ship's doctor. After examining me for a few minutes he gave me the bad news that I had completely ruptured my right Achilles tendon and did other damage to the local muscles as well. He made it very clear to me that this was a serious injury and that I needed serious surgery. I asked if he could do it at that moment and he, of course, said no. He also assured me that it would be months for the injury to properly heal, if it did at all. He then put me in a full leg cast, gave me some serious pain meds, something to reduce the swelling and a pair of crutches. He also promised to send a letter to my personal MD back in NY. It was also suggested that I may wish to get off at the next port and have the surgery there.

Now stop and think about this. The next port was Port au Prince, Haiti. Considering that 80% of the residents in Haiti practice Voodoo, I was not certain that that was the right place to be operated on. And considering that they recently lost hundreds of thousands of lives due to an earthquake I was not certain that I wanted to be there in the first place. Without much thought I declined to see a surgeon in Haiti. (This does not mean, under any circumstances, that I don't respect their right to practice their own brand of the healing arts. And I also suspect that they are very good at what they do.)

And so I spent the next four days flat on my back in a tiny room with no windows, drugged out of my mind. I did try, on a few occasions, to sit on deck in the open air but the reality of trying to walk with crutches on a rolling ship with wet decks was more than I could bear. The only good thing was that I watched the Masters Golf tournament in its entirety but was disappointed when Tiger Woods only finished in a tie for third.

Four days later we got off the ship. Before we left the boat I was told that I had to wait because I had not paid the $75 fee for the cane I had borrowed. I was told that it would be about a half hour before the bill could be revised. Irritated by the entire thing I gave the cane back to the god damned gate keeper and told her what she could do with it. With that I hobbled down the gang plank and got in a cab. Near our hotel in South Beach, my wife found a local pharmacy and bought the exact same cane for fifteen dollars.

Two days later we boarded a plane and made our way back to Lake George. My first medical appointment was the following morning. I politely produced the letter the ship's doctor had written and gave it to the attending medical personal. The only problem was that the letter said that it was my left leg that was injured. In truth, it was my right leg. And so I had to argue with different medical people about which leg to examine. Apparently medical people don't listen well to patients. They only pay attention to what is written on paper before them. With that said, I'm going to make a very long, agonizing story short. Over the next eight days I had an MRI, EEG, a chest x-ray, blood work, echo cardiogram, another imaging technique for possible blood clots in my leg, a visit to a cardiologist because a computer error said that I was having cardiac abnormalities, a visit to the orthopedic surgeon, a visit to an anesthesiologist, a visit to the hospital for more tests and paper work, and with each visit I was given different pain killers. And, of course, the letter from my ships doctor, which was forwarded to each new medical personal, clearly stated that it was my left leg that was injured and I had to plead with everyone that it was my right leg. And each of these appointments were at different locations and at different times and I'm absolutely certain that each test and medical individual I saw charged my insurance company hundreds if not thousands of dollars. And then the surgery was postponed for five days. In truth, I was very tempted to return to Haiti and have the god damned surgery done there.

So I finally went to the hospital in Glens Falls, NY, fully prepared for the ordeal. And on each leg I had a very large, orange post-it sign. On my left leg, in large clear letters, the post-it said …"NOT THIS LEG." While on my right leg the sign read …"FIX THIS LEG!" And I was so adamant that I even had the surgeon sign the leg that he was supposed to repair! Needless to say that everyone found this to be quite humorous. Once we were all set to go, more time was wasted while the anesthesiologist tried to talk me into having a spinal tap rather than general anesthesiology. I finally won out and slept throughout the two hour and a half hour procedure. Four hours later my wife drove me home.

I woke up about midnight. I had to use the bathroom. Try as I could I just could not relieve myself. I called my surgeon at 2AM. He said such problems were common after anesthesiology and that I should go the hospital and have a Foley Catheter inserted immediately. I had had this done to me many years ago and I can assure anyone that it's not a pleasant procedure. Basically some guy comes along and rams a long tube up your penis. I cringe as I think about this. With that thought in mind I declined to act on his suggestion and spent a miserable night in the bathroom doing the best I could to resolve the situation.

The following night I had just fallen asleep about 2 AM and my eighty five pound Yellow Lab jumped up on my bed and landed on my leg. I screamed in holy terror. If ever I wanted to die because of pain that was it. And that was the end of sleeping that night as well.

I had been taking Oxicodone painkillers (Percocet's) for a few weeks prior to my surgery. It's the strongest pain killer on the market. For me, it was absolutely worthless. The pain throughout the entire ordeal was absolutely relentless and nothing gave me relief. But you really do get a serious "buzz" from this drug. Nonetheless, I was sick of the pain and living on some other planet, so I simply stopped taking all the pain killers, the swelling reducers and other stuff. I did take a few Aleve tablets and within a half hour I was 90% pain free. I'm certain that the maker's of Oxicodone and the other stuff are disappointed because I'm not buying their products but Aleve works fine for me and I can actually think straight when I'm taking them.

And so I sit here like an invalid. It's interesting to consider the use of the term "invalid." There are, as best as I can surmise, two uses of the term. One use referrers to someone who is physically challenged. At the same time the term can also be used to describe something that is "flawed" and "not legal." So, frankly, I feel like an invalid invalid, someone who is physically challenged, flawed and not legal. (Just bear with me on all this please …I'm just trying to find some humor in all this.)

And so I face another four months in a cast, then, depending on how quickly I respond, anywhere from 3 to 9 months of rehab.

If anything, I have a much greater appreciation for the ability to get up and walk around. I had an absolutely great life before all this and I suspect that by fall I'll be up and running again. But for the time being I been finding pleasure in very different things. My daughter's giggles and my wife's smiles lift my spirits. My goofy dog loves to "slobber" all over my face and the purr of my cats seems to bring a certain peace to the moment. With that said, I really do wish I could just take a damned hot shower.

But business continues to be good. Sitting around all day drives me nuts so I'm keeping busy with correspondence, working on books and answering the phone. I was scheduled to exhibit at a few antique shows this spring but had to cancel due to my injury. And realistically I had to post pone working on a cook book this fall. I am still on track for completing my huge book that is scheduled for release in the fall of 2011. That book will contain some 600 photos and be the largest and greatest book ever produced on the subject of rustic design. And I know that I've been threatening to release my book of short stories for the past year. Well, it's finally done and will go to the printer at the end of next week. My next book, RUSTIC ELEGANCE, is presently at the printer and will be released about September first of this year. I also have another small book coming out at the same time.

With all this said, I feel the need to comment on women and in particular my wife, daughter and my female lab retriever. My wife is an absolute angel. But why does she have to turn on the vacuum cleaner when I'm watching a movie? Why do my wife and daughter decide to ask me questions when the Boston Celtics are thirty seconds away from winning a game? Why does my daughter feel the need to stand right in front of the TV when Tiger Woods is making a critical putt? Why does my dog feel the need to plop down right in front of the TV stand thus not allowing my remote clicker to work? But what really drives me nuts is when either my wife or daughter sits down with me half way through a TV program and asks all kinds of questions about what I'm watching. If they would just watch the program from the beginning they wouldn't have to ask so many questions. I could go on and on with these comments but I suspect that other men may have experienced such things as well. With these last few comments I'm going to shut up on these issues. Its better safe than sorry. Nonetheless, I'll get through all this and be a better person because of it. But the next time a creepy teenager insults me I'll do my very best to ignore it. And I'm not going to climb over any more twelve foot iron fences either.

My best to all of you,

Ralph



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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Ralph Kylloe Rustic Furniture

Regardless of how we think or what we do, some days are better than others. I've had a tooth that's been bothering me for about a year. My dentist could never find anything wrong but gave me the name of another dentist whose specialty was solving problems other dentists could not. But his schedule was booked and I could not get an appointment with him. So, like a real man, I just suffered with the problem and did my best to ignore it. A month or so ago I was in Montana and made an appointment to see a good friend of mine who was also an oral surgeon. After poking around in my mouth for quite some time he determined that I had a few cracks in a tooth and mentioned that all I needed was a crown on the tooth to solve the problem. And it would only take nine hundred dollars and I'd be good as new. (I suppose I should have been thrilled that problem had finally been identified.) The only difficulty, of course, was that it would take a week for the crown to be made and I had to leave Bozeman, Montana, in just a few days. So the dentist suggested that I have my New York dentist call him and they would discuss the problem and how to remedy the situation.

So back in New York I called another friend, who was head of Pediatric dentistry at a local hospital, and got a recommendation from him for the best dentist in the area. And, with good luck, I got an appointment with the new guy just a few days later. (I know all of this sounds really boring but it gets better.) So I met the new dentist and greatly enjoyed his company. And when it came to fixing my aching tooth, "no problem" was all he said. The first visit would be about ninety minutes while he drilled and formed my tooth for a crown. Because I really can't stand the sound of drilling I asked for some drugs to calm me down. No problem he said as he handed me two envelopes with different medications in each. So the night before my appointment I took two valiums washed down with a shot or two of whiskey. And there I sat on the couch for three hours relaxed beyond belief. And I knew my wife was pleased because she complimented me on watching the shopping network and various cooking programs all evening without complaining.

So in the morning (I slept very well that night) I took another pill that was supposed to calm me down and allow me to forget everything that happened in the dentist office. I also borrowed my daughters IPOD and listened to her "bubble gum" music as I sat in the dentist chair.

But I have to ask this? What kind of a guy enjoys sticking his hand in someone else's mouth all day long? I honestly think that dentists are the weirdest people in the world.

Alright…so two hours later I'm done and I hardly remember a thing. The dentist was very patient and asked me several times if I was doing OK. Because of the drugs my wife had to drive me to and from the dentist's office. It was nice being chauffeured around.

An hour after I got back to my gallery a few important customers showed up and wanted to speak with me. So I got up from the couch (our winter home is attached to my gallery) and wandered out to meet with the clients. They were very professional and ordered several items. But I was not at my best and succeeded in completely embarrassing myself. Because my jaw was still completely numb from my visit to my dentist, I really couldn't feel a thing as gobs of saliva ran down my chin as I spoke. There is nothing like drooling all over yourself to make a good impression on someone. Fortunately my wife brought me a towel and told me to go clean myself up. I could hear people laughing when I left my gallery.

And so I sat on my couch all day and my wonderful wife took several phone messages from people who wanted to speak with me. In the afternoon the drugs started to wear off so I had a small glass of Jack Daniels. An hour later I had another and then around dinner time I had another. Now, in truth, I'm not a serious drinker. My limit is always two beers or two glasses of wine. I've had a few friends arrested for drunk driving and from what I've been told, the legal process is a nightmare and the fees are extraordinary. But apart from that I have no interest in getting into a serious car accident, killing myself or someone else. And besides, I just don't drink that much.

With that said, because my jaw still ached I declined dinner. But a few hours later and with another drink or two in my system I though an egg sandwich would be easy to prepare and eat. So, because I felt I deserved it, I fried up a few eggs in about a full stick of real butter. From the freezer I pulled out a loaf of my favorite Tuscan bread. Because it was frozen I took a large (and sharp) knife from a drawer and proceeded to try to pry apart a few frozen slices. Needless to say, that I think most readers have already surmised what happened next. In truth, whisky, drugs and absolute stupidity (referring to me), just don't mix. As I tried to pry apart the bread the knife slipped and succeeded in nearly cutting off my ring finger. Blood was everywhere. And because I take an aspirin everyday (on advice from my MD) my blood would just not clot. Near panic ran amuck in my house for several minutes. So in my pajamas my wife and daughter drove me to the hospital where my hand was professionally sewn back together.

And so I sit here typing away with the one finger "hunt and peck" method. And I can just about assure readers that the next time I'm hungry and under the influence of anything I'll have a bowl of Cheerios and try not to hurt myself with the spoon. A few weeks ago I was in New York City for a meeting at a club I belong to just off Wall Street. Our meetings are usually formal affairs and can go on for hours. Most of our members come from their offices and three piece business suits are the common attire for events and meetings at my club.

I left Lake George around eleven AM and easily made it into the city around three PM. After parking my car I checked into my hotel room and unpacked my suitcase. Hotel 17, where I was staying, is a strange place. Located between 2nd and 3rd on 17th street, it's a good area with lots of parks and cultural stuff. Madonna stayed there as did Woody Allen. And it really is cheap. My room was less than a hundred dollars. I've stayed there several times as it's a lot safer for me to spend the night in a hotel rather than drive back to Lake George after midnight. At any rate my room on this particular evening was exactly six feet wide and eighteen feet long. The bathroom was down the hall. The temperature when I opened the door was at least 95 degrees and there was no way to control the heat. But the air conditioner did work and that seemed to cool the room off for a bit. But after a few minutes I went to the front desk and asked the clerk to turn down the heat. I then returned to my room, dressed in my suit and took a cab down to the financial district. Arriving there a few hours before my meeting I decided to go for a walk and enjoy the sights. But it was cool and I had no coat. So I found a small men's clothing store with a "fifty percent off" sale sign in the window. When I entered the store three men wearing turbans and beards waited on me hand and foot. I did find a great wool, navy blue business overcoat that was ideal and exactly what I wanted. In broken English I was told by the salesmen that I could have the garment for $79 plus tax. It was a great deal and it fit me perfectly. But for some reason I declined the offer and left the store. After wandering around for a while I found a "trendy" clothing store called "Hermes" near Trinity Church just south of the stock exchange. I went in and found almost the exact same coat I was looking at earlier. Same wool, color, buttons and cut. This time the coat I was considering was marked $5,500 which was a bit more than I wanted to spend at that time. So I decided to return to the first store but when I arrived it was closed. Not only did I feel both cheap and stupid but I also nearly froze to death as I spent the next half hour wandering around without a coat.

Walking near the financial district, just a few blocks from "Ground Zero", is a moving experience. Ghosts seem to be there. With the exception of cars and machines there is little noise in the area. People just stood around staring at the hole in the ground. One woman stood motionless on a corner with tears running down her face. I couldn't help but feel for her. I went close to her and put my hand on her shoulder for a few seconds. Nothing was said between us. After a few seconds she looked me in the eye and seemed to say thank you. She then turned and walked away. I will never know the pain she felt.

Back on Wall Street everyone is in suits. Armed police are everywhere. Roadblocks prevent vehicles access to the stock exchange and other parts of the district. Hundreds of people mull around the huge bull figure by the stock exchange and have their photos made in front of the stature. Dozens of very trendy restaurants reside in the historic section a few blocks east of the finance buildings. And somewhere in there is a small barber shop. I needed a haircut and was happy to enter a warm building.

As I walked in I took notice of myself in the floor to ceiling mirror. I have to say that I looked pretty good in my Brooks Brothers business suit (bought on sale at a factory outlet store). I appeared to be very professional and looked like I belonged in the area. Little did the barber realize that that very morning I had shoveled snow, chopped wood and fed the deer and turkeys in my back yard. Nonetheless, a thin man about twenty years old invited me to sit in his barber chair. After taking a seat he draped me with a sheet as all barbers do. He spoke with a mid eastern accent and talked about the weather, arguably safest thing in the world, for a few minutes before he went to work. Normally, a man's haircut, at the very most, takes about twenty minutes. I was in the chair for nearly an hour. At sixty two years old my hair is now a combination of gray and white. My daughter and wife tell me it's still blond, god bless them, but, in truth, it's mostly white.

"Sir, would you like some color added to your hair? It will make you look ten years younger, and a treatment is only forty five dollars," spoke the barber.
"No, thank you. Just a haircut please," I said.
"How about L'Oreal Vive Pro Treatment for men? That's only twenty five dollars but I'll give it to you today for just twenty dollars," he said.
"No, thank you."
"Well, I do notice that you have thin hair. I think you would be happy with either a Propecia or a Rogaine treatment. It will add life and fullness to your hair." Before he could give me the price I spoke.
"No…I don't want anything other than a simple haircut. Thank you," I said.

To both my horror and amusement for nearly an hour he rambled on and on about all kinds of treatments that I was perfect for, including Tricumin therapy spray, topical speronolaction, revivogens scalp therapy, Laser combs, nizoral shampoo, toppic and couver therapy, Protein Seaweed packs, Calcium ointments, hair sprays, moisturizers, energizers, gels of all sorts, nutriplexx hair and scalp protectors and all kinds of other stuff. I really had no idea what any of these products or treatments were but I declined each. But he was not to be denied the opportunity to demonstrate his prodigious understanding and knowledge of his profession. On and on he went, like a dog in heat.

But I must admit he was very good at what he was doing. He used only his scissors and razor rather than his electric clippers. He even trimmed my eye brows and the strange long hairs growing out of my ears and nose. When he was almost done, and as a last ditch effort to make me "cool and trendy", he asked if I wanted some scented talcum powder, styling moose of some sort or some other product I can't remember. I declined each. As I stood from the chair the barber politely helped me with my suit coat, vacuumed off any remaining lint or hair and then politely straightened my tie. Then standing straight in front of me he looked me right in the eye and broke into a big smile. "You look marvelous", he said. "I'm so proud of you. That's eighteen dollars please." With that I handed him a twenty dollar bill and told him to keep the change. I then turned, thanked him and started for the door. Before I left the shop another man asked if I would like a shoe shine. Behind the shoe shine stand stood a cabinet with what appeared to be dozens of products designed to keep shoes clean and strong. I just didn't need another hour lecture on the latest shoe products. "No thanks," was all I said. I really didn't want to be on the receiving end of another frustrated salesman.

After being at my club for just a few hours I left earlier than the other thirty or so members. In truth, I wasn't feeling that well and the long day had taken its toll on my stamina. So down on the street I found a cab and eventually, after a near fatal ride along the streets of New York, entered my six by eighteen foot room that was still at least ninety degrees. Because there was no phone I returned to the front desk and asked that the heat be turned off in my room. An hour later a non English speaking individual entered my cubical and dismantled the heating system. After an hour the heat was finally turned off and the room quickly cooled down. It was so cold, in fact, that I actually slept with my clothes on. It's difficult to recommend a place when in the morning you can see your breath when you climb out from under a thin blanket. I am uncertain, at this time, if I will ever return to Hotel 17 in New York City.

Twenty minutes later I was in my new Prius driving along the FDR East side highway on my way back to Lake George. The ride home, through chaotic New York traffic, was made significantly more interesting as I listened to a commentator on the radio talking about the recall of all new 2010 Toyota Prius vehicles because of the possibility of brake failure. It really was not what I wanted to hear at that time. Anyone who has every driven through New York City traffic will understand my sentiments.

Speaking of the Toyota Prius, the following day I did take mine (actually my wife's) to the dealership and within a half hour I was back on the road. Apparently the problem is not mechanical but rather with the software in the onboard computer. The "upgrade" was just a matter of plugging into a computer and downloading some additional software. It's no big deal at all. However, I will say although the vehicle is advertised as getting about fifty one miles per gallon of gas. I have not found that to be true at all. In the winter we usually get about 38 MPG. When I asked the factory about this they mentioned that because of the different additives in gas throughout the winter the mileage is significantly lower in the cold months. However, the mileage is supposed to be much higher in the warmer months. Because we have had a Prius in the past we found this to be the case with our first vehicle. It would have been nice, however, to have been told this by the car dealer so I and many other Prius owners would not think that something was wrong with their car.

2-16-10. My family and I have been watching the Olympics for the past few days. My favorite is the speed skaters. The grace and style of these athletes is quite astonishing. My least favorite is pair's figure skating and men's figure skating. In truth the couples are astonishing to watch and their talents are nothing less than amazing. But I can't stand the clothes they wear while performing. Any man who would wear an outfit like the ones worn by the male ice skaters/dancers has to be absolutely crazy. To see a full grown man twirling around in lacy pink or purple tights and eyeliner is a bit much for me. Most of the men skaters look like they belong in a "Drag Show" on South Beach or some other bizarre place. If any male skaters are reading this please recognize that I love your skating but put on a different outfit. I think you'd be a lot happier and you would certainly not look as ridiculous as you do. On the other hand maybe I'm just wrong.

I've had a number of interesting phone calls and emails lately. Many people have told me that they have tried to contact the owners of the homes that I feature in my books. The people who have called me want to have dinner or spend the night at these homes. Here's the bottom line. The places I feature in my books are private homes. They are not open to the public and they are certainly not available for sleep-over's, meals, parties, visits, picnics, gatherings of any sorts, weddings, bacchanalias, or tours. They are private family homes and not available for sightseeing tours or anything else. With that said I hope that readers of my books understand that I will not give out the names of the owners or where the homes are located. Please don't be mad at me but I really do stick to my guns on this policy.

2-17-10 I'm presently back in New York City. Yesterday I left Lake George and got as far as Albany before a seriously raging snow storm forced me to abandon the trip. However, my wife suggested that I take the train from Albany down to New York City. So I did and I was very pleasantly surprised at how easy it was……..at least until I got to Penn Station. Penn Station is a mad house. It took some twenty minutes to find my way out of the building. Once on the street hundreds of people battled a raging snow storm and each individual tried to grab a cab to get to their destination. An hour later, nearly frozen and soaking wet I finally got a cab and was left off at a hotel near Wall Street. I then entered my room, dried myself off and made my way over to the address where my meetings were to be held. It was a very enjoyable evening and I greatly enjoyed myself. I didn't get back to my hotel room until past midnight.

In the morning, unfortunately, I missed the complimentary 9 AM breakfast by just a few minutes but grabbed a bite to eat at a corner deli. The deli was an interesting place. A dozen or so men in hard hats stood at the counter ordering coffee and donuts. One worker bought a six pack of beer. After getting my breakfast and taking a seat in the back of the room I could not help but notice that the worker who had the beer also had several coffee cups. Into each empty cup he poured a can of beer and then placed a lid over the top of the each. He then placed each of the now full cups in a cardboard carrying tray and left the deli. I just hope that if he was going to consume the beer while on the job that he would not fall off a scaffold and sue the city for some absurd reason.

After checking out of my room I walked past the Trinity Boxing Club just off Wall Street. Being curious, I entered the building and watched with interest as two full grown men pounded each other's brains and bodies to pieces. I wondered if they were enjoying themselves. At least they wore decent looking clothes and I sincerely doubted that any one of the men in the gym working out that morning would ever wear an outfit worn by the men's figure skaters so often seen on TV. I just don't think that the fighters in the gym would think that such an outfit would be appropriate for their positions in life. Just about right next door to the boxing club is an honest to goodness "peep show." I couldn't help but notice the rather risqué bright red outfits featured in the front windows. And the whips and chains did catch my attention as well. I could not help but to slow my pace and turn my head just enough for a quick look inside the store. Just as I turned my head to get a glimpse inside the store a large, older man in a three piece suit came walking out from the store with several packages under his arms. As he saw me he immediately lowered his head as if to hide his face. I did the same and prayed that no one saw me looking.

On my way over to my club this morning, where I plan on spending a few hours before my train takes me back to Albany, I stopped at a street vender who was selling hats and scarves. As it was very cold and windy I looked at the clothing offered by the vendor. Sometimes you meet people that you bond with immediately. This guy, for me, was one of those individuals that I instantly felt comfortable with. After just a minute I gave him five dollars for one of his scarves. It was good to have something to keep my neck warm. And so there we stood for a good twenty minutes, in the freezing cold and wind chatting about all kinds of things. I, in my suit, scarf and full length navy blue coat and he, an African American man, in snow boots, tattered jeans, old coat, mismatched gloves and hat. He took great pride in telling me that he owned his own business, that he had no boss, no set hours, no contracts, no nasty clients, no law suits, no mortgage payments and didn't have to pay child support or alimony. He made enough money to cover his own bills and he loved the people who bought things from him. His infectious smile and hearty laugh spoke of sincerity and honesty. It was my absolute pleasure to have spent a few minutes with the guy. As I walked away from him I wondered how many people in the world were as happy as he. And I also wondered what it takes to make someone really happy in this world today. It's an interesting thing to consider. We all have our own needs and desires. Give it some thought sometime. How happy are you?

I found the cover story in New Week Magazine a few weeks to be quite interesting. In essence it said that all of the drugs that are prescribed to help people with depression are really worthless. This includes Prozac, Welbutrin, and many other drugs in the families of tricyclics, SSRI and MAO's. Studies have found that people taking placebos find relief for their depression at just about the same levels as those treated with prescription drugs. I find this to be quite interesting in that pharmaceutical companies and medical doctors literally make billions of dollars a year from patients by prescribing such drugs. But the Newsweek article also said something that I suspect that most people are well aware of. If you think something will make you better it probably will. This idea has rather profound implications in our world today and is, of course, nothing new. Consider organized religion for example. Most religions offer the tenet that God will help you to become a better person. And if you believe that god will help and if you follow "his" word that then you'll "become a better person." Or consider the old standard notion of the "power of positive thinking." And there are dozens of "philosophies, movements, psychological precepts, expressions, etc.," that say very similar things. Here's the bottom line for me. Under most circumstances, if you want to get better you will. If the time is right and if you're finally ready, you'll make your own life better. If you're finally tired of the recordings in your head you'll figure out a way to turn them off and get on to making your life a positive experience. I'll stop commenting on this now as I'm certain that I'll be inundated with emails calling me the devil or a wacko or something else. And just maybe someone may actually agree with me. At any rate I look forward to comments from anyone who cares to make them.

Here's something that really aggravates me. Because we live in a "rural" area we don't have cable. But we do have satellite communications. There are at least three different channels on Direct TV that are titled "The Doors, Led Zeplin, Cheap Trick" or some other famous rock and roll band. At face value one would think that if you access the channel then you just might see a great concert. But no….it's just a home shopping network advertising jewelry, pots and pans, clothing or a bunch of other garbage. Isn't the title of the program a complete lie designed to get viewers to watch a program that has absolutely nothing to do with rock and roll music? Isn't this false advertising?

Nonetheless, winter rolls on. I'm tired of the cold and the short days and the "gray" world just outside my front door. And even though I have a regular exercise routine I was exhausted after three runs on the bunny hill when I took my daughter skiing this morning. Lugging and stacking wood to keep my wood burning stove roaring away is now almost a chore. And walking my year old yellow Labrador retriever in the deep snow behind my home for a half hour each evening is nearly exhausting. Although I find my dog to be a true beast, most of the time I really do love her. Her needs are rather simple in that she requires food and warmth and exercise. She usually takes a shower with me and loves it when I run the warm water from the hose over her. But she is not that different from humans in that she needs companionship and approval. Like most humans her emotions are easy to read. She loves sleeping with my daughter and whenever possible she'll sneak in my bed at 2 AM and nearly crush my wife and me when she stretches out. But, alas, when we have customers, visitors or guests she has a terrible habit of sticking her nose up people's butts. And she feels the need to stand right in front of the TV thus not allowing me to change the channel with my remote control clicker. All in all she's a good dog and gets along OK with my three old cats. I couldn't imagine life without her.

Last year, 2009, was the first year in twenty years that I didn't come out with a book. Nonetheless, my book RUSTIC ELEGANCE ($60 retail) will be released late this coming summer. And I am still waiting for my editor to do the final check on my book of short stories. That should be out midsummer. And I am making progress on a huge coffee table book that will be released in the fall of 2011. And my cook book will, hopefully, be out by this coming Christmas. And I have a few other things in the works as well.

The one frustrating thing about my life is that I have responsibilities other then writing stories, fly fishing, playing music (I'm also a musician and play in a band) or make photographs. My rustic furniture business is now more complicated than ever and business is as good as it has ever been. This is all well and good but I find that my own artistic pursuits are far more rewarding than delivering furniture, paperwork, chatting with all kinds of folks and running my gallery. But this is stuff that needs to get done and I will do whatever is necessary to pay the bills and keep people happy. But there are many days when I wish I could just sit and write the great American novel, practice for hours on my guitars, spend time in my darkroom or just take a nap. At sixty two years old I'm coming to the realization that I can't do everything I would like to do in the time I have left. So be it.

I'm making a serious attempt this week to upgrade my website. Many of the items on the site are sold and I also have many more items in my gallery that need to be posted. I have sent a number of new images to my webmaster so things should be posted shortly.

I will be exhibiting rustic antiques at the annual Adirondack Antiques Show held at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, New York. Normally the exhibit is held the third week of September. This year the antiques show at the museum will be August 13, 14 and 15. This is a very good thing as there are far more people visiting and living in the Adirondacks in the middle of August then there are at the end of September. So if you're thinking about coming to the show please keep the new dates in mind. Or call the museum for further information.

With that said I greatly look forward to this coming spring and summer. There is a lot to be said at this time but I think I'll wander down to my dining room and enjoy a great dinner of smoked salmon, broccoli and fettuccini and cheese make by my wonderful wife. And I'm certain that my dog and three cats will be sitting nearby with full realization that I always save a few morsels of food for them.

Life is good. I hope it continues.

Ralph


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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Ralph Kylloe Rustic Furniture

Well, it's definitely winter here in the Adirondacks. This morning it was ten below zero and we do have a few feet or more of snow on my front lawn. Since I no longer relish shoveling snow I have a local gentleman plow my driveway whenever it's needed. And he does a fine job! Nonetheless, I still have to don my snow pants, boots and other items because the path into my home needs to be cleared as does the space in front of my garage and a few other areas as well. About five years ago I wisely went out and purchased a fancy, heavy duty snow blower to make my life a bit easier. In truth, I was tired of hearing about people having heart attacks while shoveling snow. A snow blower is a real necessity here in the Adirondacks as it's not uncommon to get a few feet every time it snows…which can happen a few times a week! And there is something subtly romantic about being out in the falling snow and having a machine perform all the work. It's also somewhat of a "manly" thing to do.

Unfortunately, my snow blower lasted only a few years and the local repair guy was unable to fix it. So the damn machine sat in the back of my tool shed collecting cobwebs in the summer and mice nests in the cold months. Well, a friend told me about a repair man in the next town over that could fix anything. So out of frustration I had my friend drive the machine down to his shop. A week later I got a call from the repair guy saying that the machine was fixed and running perfectly. Once I hung up the phone I hopped in my truck and drove over to his shop.

In the driveway sat my snow blower all cleaned and polished. From a small house came a rugged looking individual dressed in work clothes and heavy snow boots. He greeted me warmly and with a smile on his face. After chatting for a few minutes he explained that the carburetor on my snow blower was clogged with gunk, the choke mechanism was broken and the gear system was misaligned and not allowing the wheels and blower to engage. He mentioned that he had to completely disassemble the machine but guaranteed that it was now in fine working condition. Needless to say I was quite pleased and had no problem paying him his fee of one hundred and twenty five dollars. In time he helped me load the heavy machine on my truck and after thanking him I drove off. Back home I unloaded the machine and on the very first pull the engine fired right up! It was music to my tired ears. An hour later my driveway was clean as could be and I enjoyed an evening with my family in front of our fireplace!

Now….. you're probably saying to yourself….."So what? Big deal…so he got his snow blower repaired. Anybody can do that."

I should mention that Wes Askins of Lake Luzerne, New York, the man who expertly repaired my snow blower, is totally and completely blind. When he was eighteen years old he was in a car crash. His right arm was nearly torn off and his back was broken. Further, his face was shattered and his skull fractured. One of his eyes had to be completely removed and he lost total sight in the other. That was nearly forty years ago. I couldn't help but ask him how he was able to effectively work on intricate machines let alone completely disassemble and put them back together. He assured me that he was a mechanic before the accident and machines just came natural to him. "It's just what I do'" he said.

I often think of him and his position in life. I wonder how many of us could pick up our lives if we were subject to a devastating accident. I wonder how many of us could attain a level of professionalism and expertise in a field that required visual prowess if we lost our own sight? How many of us would spend the rest of our lives feeling sorry for ourselves and crying "in the muck" if something devastating happened to us.

I feel like an absolute fool when I stress out over having to shovel snow or change a flat tire. When I meet people like Wes Askins I'm humbled and embarrassed because I "fret" over small, incidental things. I see the repair guy as quite heroic and a statement to the tenacity of life. With that said, I count my blessings every minute of the day. It's something more of us should do.

This morning I again spoke with Wes. I asked him how he was doing. "If I was any happier they'd erect a stature of me in the park!" In all honesty I hope they do he deserves it.

My family and I spent the Thanksgiving holidays with friends in Boston. It was a long drive and traffic clogged the roadways. Nonetheless, we traveled much of the way on back roads and stopped at several antique shops and farm stands. We enjoyed buying a few antiques and fresh produce from the locals. Late in the day heavy rains came. After speaking with our friends we decided to meet them at a restaurant before arriving at their home. Finding the place in the rain, darkness and traffic, however, was about as pleasant as a colonoscopy (those of you over the age of fifty know what I'm talking about). Nonetheless, we had a great dinner and followed our friends back to their home in Arlington, Massachusetts.

Thanksgiving dinner was as pleasant as could be. I've known these folks for going on thirty years and our kids enjoy each other's company and giggle until all hours of the night. The family often spends a week with us in the summers at our "camp" on Lake George. Along with their two daughters they have an autistic teenage son. He can be a real "handful." They have dutifully raised their son at home which has been no easy task. I am again thankful that my daughter is healthy.

Having been raised in Chicago and a diehard Cubs fan I know the agony of cheering for a losing sports team. However, when I moved to Boston some thirty years ago I was thrilled to be in a city with championship teams. So Friday morning, the day after Thanksgiving, I checked to see who the Boston Celtics were playing that evening. And then, just out of curiosity, I checked to see if any seats were available. To my amazement there was only one ticket in the entire stadium available. It was on the floor and I mean right on the floor. The only problem was that the ticket was three hundred and twenty five dollars. Nonetheless, after listening to my wife and daughter insist that I go to the game I reluctantly hit the "purchase" button on my computer. I really didn't want to go but my family insisted and I didn't want to argue with them or create a big scene in front of the folks whose home we were visiting.

So at 5PM I hopped in my car and drove to Boston Gardens. Parking was twenty five dollars which, compared to New York City prices, was a bargain. Once inside the stadium of course I had to buy a Celtics T-shirt for twenty five dollars plus tax. Because I was significantly early for the game I took a stroll outside in the cool evening air. And as expected, right around the corner was a group of street vendors selling the exact same t-shirt of eight dollars. Cash only.

Back in the stadium I, and thousands of other fans, had to wait more than an hour before we were finally allowed access to our seats! I was not surprised in the least to see that hot dogs were $6.75 and a small glass of beer was $8. I chose not to have either but I really did enjoy a great basketball game. And I was thrilled when the Celtics won! Further, sports games today are really just big parties. Dancing girls, cheerleaders, acrobatics, throbbing music and deafening cheers are nonstop. I just wish the games were not so expensive. It kills me to think that each of the players on the court is literally making millions of dollars. But I guess as a society we support such salaries because every seat in the stadium was sold and the line was at least fifty people long buying hot dogs and beer!

At the same time it was an interesting crowd at the game. I sat right next to four huge, Mafioso looking guys who drank beer like there was no tomorrow. And when the music played the four guys jumped from their seats and danced around like mountain goats during mating season. And I'm certain that they interfered with the view of the patrons directly behind them. However, no one told then to sit down. I certainly wasn't going to complain.

It was also interesting to note that at any given time I could count at least forty people in the audience on their cell phones. I'm certain that in time the arm muscles of cell phone users will atrophy thus rendering frequent phone users permanently in the position of their hands to their ears. Nonetheless, because I was hungry on the ride home I stopped at a McDonalds in the Fresh Pond neighborhood outside of Cambridge. I just wanted a burger and a milk shake. Needless to say that I was shocked when I walked back to the bathroom. On the door to the men's room was a coin operated machine. If you wanted to use the rest room I had to deposit a quarter in the slot. I wasn't at all happy about it.

Here's something that really bothers me. Whenever I visit my doctor or my dentist I check in at the reception desk in the office. To get the receptionists attention I have to tap on the glass partition that separates the inner office from us sick patients in the waiting room. After the receptionist opens the window she says, "Last name and insurance card please. Sign here please." After speaking with me for fifteen seconds the receptionist then slides the glass door shut. I find this somewhat offensive and irritating. It's almost as if we were being "walled off", ignored or isolated. So on my last visit into the exam room I asked the receptionist why she closes the window. Without looking at me she blurted out, "we like our privacy." Maybe I'm getting weird in my old age but sometimes I would like to be personally acknowledged and not treated as just another walking blob of protoplasm. After all the only reason she gets a paycheck is because I and many other pay huge fees for their services. I just wish she would remember that once in a while.

We're spending the Christmas season at my in-laws in Chicago. As most people can imagine this sort of thing can be a very challenging experience. Nonetheless, I'll force myself to have a good time, be social and not argue about radical politics. More than likely I'll spend most of my time sitting in the spare bedroom working on another book project. It's safer that way and my blood pressure will remain only slightly elevated.

In truth, Christmas is my least favorite holiday of the year. I've heard the same Christmas Carols sung by a million different singers, a million times over the past six decades. I'm tired of them. Further, I can't stand cutting down a perfectly good tree to put in my house and hang expensive decorations on. Keep in mind please, that it takes three acres of mature trees to make enough oxygen for one single person to breathe. Trees should be worshipped and thanked and nurtured for keeping us humans alive. I could go on and on about all this but I'm certain that someone will be offended and send me threatening notes. In truth, however, it's a shame that we feel the need to be nice to each other only one day of the year. In my mind it's a bit hypocritical to be nice to someone one day and ignore them the next. I don't think that Jesus Christ had this in mind when he talked about caring for others. It also boggles my mind that religious organizations build huge expensive churches when millions of people, god's children, die each year from starvation.

Here's something to consider. In all honesty about forty percent of the time we fly our airplane tickets are completely free. Yes, I do have a charge card that accumulates free airplane mileage but we don't use the mileage that often. Here's what we do.

As a rule we try to fly during busy hours. I make our reservations on Orbitz. They will tell you exactly how many seats are left on each flight. I always purchase tickets when there are only three or less seats available. Airlines always overbook their flights by 10%-15%. We show up at the ticket counter early and ask if the flight is overbooked….which they always seem to be. We then volunteer to give up our seats in exchange for a later flight as well as a great hotel room, if the next flight is not until the following day, and meals! But, of course, you have to be flexible with your travel arrangements to do this.

Consider this. A flight from Albany to Miami during the peak winter months is often $1,200 per seat. So, three seats to warm weather are nearly four thousand dollars. In truth, we have not had to pay for our plane tickets to Key West for years. Frankly, I could not afford four grand for just the tickets and am thrilled that we keep receiving free airfare. And even when we are using free tickets, if we are "bumped" again, we get more free tickets! And I never complain! Try it sometime. It works for us.

Here's some Christmas trivia for you. Consider this. Santa's sleigh is pulled by reindeer. Right? And their names are, if memory serves me correct, Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, Blitzen, and Rudolph. Here's something that most people are not aware of. Reindeer, of course, are a northern species and they thrive in the snow and cold. Both male and female reindeer have antlers. But the males lose their antlers in the late fall. With that said keep in mind than that the only reindeer that have antlers at Christmas time are the females. So if you look closely at the reindeer who are pulling Santa's sleigh you'll notice that they're all females! So to be politically and socially correct I suggest that we rename the deer so that they reflect the correct gender and are also a reflection of the many different cultures here in America. With that said I propose that we rename them Lawanda, Lucille, Marcia, Rosa, Ling, Olga, Kasheena and Betty. That should keep everyone happy and a smile on the faces of all true Americans.

Does it bother anyone whenever a commercial comes on the TV the sound increases by as much as twenty percent? I find it incredibly annoying. It also bothers me when the networks see fit to superimpose figures and advertising on the screen when the main feature is playing.

We were in a local restaurant the other night and the waitress, whom we know, expressed her disgust with golfer Tiger Woods. The female waitresses in the bar, so I was told, are no longer referring to him as "Tiger". Rather, they are calling him "Cheeta" to reflect the problems he is presently having. Nonetheless, it's always amazing to me to see and hear the interest we have in the private lives of others. Keep in mind that around the world about forty thousand children die each day of the year from starvation and all we can talk about is how many affairs celebrities are presently having. We seem to have our priorities in the wrong place.

I bought my wife a new car for Christmas. Yes, I really did! We had a three year old Prius and I traded it in for the 2010 model. 51miles to the gallon of gas! I consider the purchase of a Prius to be my part in the battle against global warming and terrorism. Considering that we spend about two billion dollars every day of the year to purchase oil from the mid east it only stands to reason that some percentage of that money gets spent on weapons and training so that fanatics can wage war against us. I can assure everyone in the world that if we just stopped buying mid east oil the terrorists would go broke in a matter of weeks. They would then be forced to go to college, get jobs or file for unemployment benefits in their own countries. But that's only my own opinion and I'm certain that few people would agree with me.

But back to my point about my wife's Christmas present. While I was waiting to pick up the vehicle I had lunch in a crowded restaurant near a huge mall. At the table right next to me was a family with a small, probably four year old boy. I noticed him staring at me. A few seconds later he stood from his chair, walked a few feet directly toward me and vomited all over the place. Fortunately, he didn't hit my meal but he did manage to get his projectile vomitus all over my pants and shoes. Needless to say that everyone near us jumped from their seats. Then the kid did it again. As a father myself, this kind of stuff has happened to me before. It's not pleasant. It's just one of those things that happen in life. It's best to just deal with the problem and not make a big scene over it. The incident did, however, ruin my appetite. Within seconds the boy's father was up comforting his son. I looked at the boy right in his eyes and said, "It's OK." He seemed to understand. I hope so. I then walked to the rest room and cleaned off the big chunks from my pants and boots. The smell was vile. I did return to my table to retrieve my coat. I didn't finish my dessert. No one apologized to me. It would have been nice but it wasn't necessary.

From there I went to the car dealership and completed the necessary papers. As I sat at the desk of the salesman the smell of vomit on my clothes nauseated me. Fortunately, no one else seemed to notice the odor for which I am eternally thankful. Nonetheless, I really enjoyed the ride home in my wife's new car! And she was absolutely thrilled when I handed her the keys that evening. And I was even more thrilled when she mentioned that she loved the smell of her new car!

On something more relevant I should mention that my book ADIRONDACK HOME is presently out of print. We did sell out of one full printing and the publisher made the decision to not reprint it. Many people have tried to purchase the book on Amazon. They tell you that it will be a few months wait for the book. It's not true. There are no more copies. However, I did buy out the remaining of books from my publisher and I do have copies for sale here at my gallery. So if you are looking for copies or copies of my other books please let me know. I can ship them right out!

Business remains steady. People are ordering things and pieces continue to sell off the floor of my gallery. Entertainment centers and coffee tables as well as very long dining room tables seem to be the items that customers are primarily interested in. And our carpets are also selling well.

Further, the large redwood rockers we offer here are also finding new homes. Come to think of it just about everything, including antique accessories, beds and bureaus, artwork and chandeliers, continues to sell well. And our line of hickory furniture is also doing well. We have received two other huge orders for chairs for restaurants and single pieces are doing OK as well.

I should also mention that I have designed a new line of furniture for the serious fly fisherman. My first showing of the furniture will be at the Fly Fishing Show in Somerset, New Jersey, beginning January 21. I greatly look forward to the exhibit as more than fifteen thousand fly fishing enthusiasts attend the event! And I really hope I sell something!

So in truth, I have lots to be thankful for. It would be very easy to praise the almighty or some other force thanking them for the gifts I've received. Nonetheless, I have to give myself at least a little credit. So before I fall asleep tonight I'll offer myself a small pat on the back and recognize the fact that my success is the result of long days and hard work. It also comes from treating people honestly and fairly and not being greedy. I haven't done too badly for myself and my family considering that I'm just a blue collar kid from the inner city of Chicago. Life is grand….and I hope it is for everyone.

My best to all of you,

Ralph

PS Seasons greetings to all of you.


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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ralph Kylloe Rustic Furniture

It seems that all I really do is run around. Sort of like a chicken with his head cut off, as my mother used to say. But I find solace in the thought that good things take time and effort. Some things are of value to only a few people and other things are very personal and only of value to an individual. Most of us will never be acknowledged for our efforts, make the headlines or win an Oscar. But I'm convinced that the pleasure I get from making a great photograph is more than likely the same pleasure that Picasso realized when he made a great painting. I certainly won't make as much money as Picasso, but the joys, I believe, are the same. And the nice thing is, is that such pleasures are available to everyone. It's only a matter of trying and doing. It matters not what medium one chooses. What matters is the fact that one bothered to put their best foot forward. Life is not a spectator sport. Passivity leads to boredom, envy and self hatred. A little effort goes a long way.

I've just returned from a few lengthy trips and I was very fortunate to have had my wife and daughter with me most of the way. We stared out in Seattle. We then traveled up to Vancouver Island where we spent a magical few days in Victoria, which is probably the most comfortable and enjoyable city in North America. While there we spent a great day in the city museum exploring the rich culture of the First Nations people. We also enjoyed the totem poles which were plentiful in the parks. As a rule we have a tendency to seek out the "local color" and found several great places for meals and a late night beer. Just outside the city we found an old fishing dock complete with food shacks, floating homes and street musicians. While enjoying a dinner of fresh fish at an outside picnic table, I asked the strolling minstrel to play a tune or two by the Grateful Dead. I was a bit shocked when he shouted that he didn't play music by them and that they were a lousy band. I didn't leave the guitar player a tip when we finished dinner.

From there we ventured northwest up the Island and spent considerable time near a small ocean front town called Tofino. There I sat through several days of business meetings while my wife and daughter enjoyed the ocean, the art galleries, the food and the old growth forests. The town and surrounding area are legendary for their mystique, fog covered vistas, mountains and oceans. I will confess that I did spend one day fishing with my good friend architect Larry Pearson of Bozeman, Montana. While on the water we saw whales, sharks, eagles and succeeded in landing several salmon which we had smoked by the local First Nations people. And, please forgive me if I brag, but I did catch the largest fish! The old growth forests thrilled me. Surely, the gods reside in such places, I thought to myself. Covered with moss and lichens the trees towered over us. Although I find peace in such places the battle for life in the forests is both never ending and violent. Very branch and every root must compete with trillions of others for a place in the sun, water and nutrients. Such a place brings meaning to the concept of survival of the fittest. I wandered for hours in the forest and made many photographs of the trees and landscape. I, again, had the shameful realization that people cut down these trees and leave barren and ruined huge tracks of land. But, it seems, we all use toilet paper, read books and build homes of wood. I feel particularly remorseful because my books are printed on paper which is, no doubt, the body and very soul of the majestic trees I often think of. In a somber way I often apologize to trees and promised, again, to recycle as much paper products as possible.

Before we left town we stopped for gas. Inside the station I bought a bag of chips as a snack for myself and family. The banner on both the bag and the display unit that held the chips read "Guaranteed Fresh." The small print on the actual bag read, "must be sold by August, 2012."

Passing through majestic valleys and scenic landscapes we came upon a small, roadside complex we had visited years before. Called "Goat on the Roof", the stand was crowded with locals and tourists alike. Perhaps the finest and largest deli/trinket/tourist stand in the entire world, the shop really does have "goats on the roof!" And it's no longer just a corner stand. Rather, an entire small community of original "artsy" shops has sprung up on this site. And it's well worth the visit. Just don't get your ice cream cone too close to the back fence. I did and one assertive goat stole my dessert right from my hand!

Further on up the road, now on the east side of the island, we stopped at a small beach. It was a cool day with over cast skies. Well, in a few minutes I had my waders on and my fly rod assembled. And a few minutes later I found a spot on the shore and wadded into the ocean. About thigh deep I cast my fly into the deep and stripped line. Within a few minutes I landed my first pink salmon of the season. I released the five pound fish back to the water and thanked him for the few minutes of pleasure he gave me. I cast again and again and had strikes on just about each cast. Then it got quiet. Real quiet. I looked back at my wife who was playing with my daughter on shore. I then turned back to the ocean and nearly went into cardiac arrest. Not more than twenty feet from me a monster, thousand pound California sea lion smashed through the surface of the water sending violent waves of water in all directions. The violence these beasts exhibit is really horrifying and the other fishermen ran toward the shore. I will admit that I did as well. Needless to say that my daughter was scared to death and insisted that I stay on dry ground. However, a few minutes later most of the fishermen including myself wandered back into the ocean. The sea lion however, wasn't happy with us and cruised the shoreline about fifty feet further out from us. We all kept a careful eye on him and he made himself known by breaking the surface every time he grabbed a fish. I landed a few other fish but eventually called it a day. The other fishermen mentioned that this particular sea lion shows up every year when the salmon come in and harasses the fish and well as the local fisherman. And he does a great job of intimidating us tourists was well!

That evening we finally made our way to the town Campbell River. I had visited the town and surrounding area throughout the years and fished there many times before. Killer whales are often visible from the docks as are seals, sea lions and sharks. It's also referred to as the Salmon Capital of the world. In the morning, in the pouring rain, I donned my waders and rain gear and made my way down to the river. There, as daylight came upon the earth, hundreds of fishermen were already on the shoreline casting lures and flies and landing fish. The Campbell River is, itself, no more than forty yards across in most places. And in this river more than 600,000 salmon make their way to their spawning beds up stream. And so I found a place amongst the other fisherman and cast flies. Hour after hour, in the pouring rain and standing on slippery rocks in the cold, I tossed flies. More than five hours later I had caught nothing. People on either side of me caught fish every few minutes but some days things just don't go your way. Eventually I returned to my vehicle and hotel. After a great lunch, that included cocktails, I spent the rest of the day soaking in the outdoor hot tub. And I paid no attention whatsoever to the pouring rain!

The following morning I again dressed in my fishing gear and drove a few miles further inland than I had the day before. I found a small "feeder" brook and walked up stream a mile or so. Bear tracks were everywhere. I found a "fishy" looking spot and landed a great looking 22 inch brown trout on my third cast. I than walked another half mile further and was a bit shocked at the sight before me. The river was nothing less than solid fish. The spawning salmon were so thick that one could literally walk across the water on their backs. I cast my line anyway. This was not really fishing as I did nothing more than snag (aka foul hooked) several fish. After releasing a few salmon, I broke down my rod and spent quite a bit of time watching the fish as they spent the final days of their lives making little salmon and then dying. In truth, however, when all is said and done, I don't suppose that's a bad way to end one's life.

It was great to spend time with my family. The scenery was magical as was walking through the old growth forests. We stayed in some great hotels, had several excellent dinners and visited with some old friends I had not seen in years. The only drawback was that my ten year old daughter controlled the music when we were in the vehicle. And so as I sit here I have the songs of Hanna Montana, the Jonas Brothers, and Taylor Swift roaring through my head. The worst song, however, is the catchy tune about "Gummy Bears". I hate it. And I pray that someday the tune would leave me alone and allow me just a bit of peace in my senior years.

Back in New York we tried our best to regain control of our business. I needed to return a hundred or so phone calls and although I travel with my laptop and answer as many emails as possible the work does pile up. Deliveries have to be made, photos sent out and furniture needs to be designed and constructed. But after a few days I had it under control.

A week later we were on a plane to Bozeman, Montana. The landing, always the most frightening for me, was smooth and gentle. After a bit of traveling through the mountains by car we spent the night in Red Lodge, Montana. In the morning we photographed a great home that will be appearing in a book due on the market this coming August. It was a stunning place and deer and antelope were every few feet. Bears, wolves, coyotes, moose and elk also visited the property. To get a great tour of the ranch the owner invited us to see the valley from the backs of four wheelers. And to the delight of my daughter, we followed the owner and my wife on our own ATV! I truth, I had never driven one before and I will admit that we nearly killed ourselves as we rode precariously along steep mountain ridges. My daughter will never know how close we came to tumbling down the side of a mountain. Nonetheless, the view was spectacular.

The following day we found ourselves in Cody, Wyoming, where I gave a lecture/slideshow at the Cody High Style Conference held annually at the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum. About 50 people attended the presentation and it was very well received by the audience. I have been speaking at this annual conference for many years and this was my fourteenth presentation. At the end of my speech a few people in the audience asked what it took to be in one of my books. In truth, I am always looking for new material and always invite people to send me images of their work. I also mentioned that I am rather partial to people who are not only great artists but appreciative of my efforts to include them in my works. It always amazes me that most of the people I give PR to don't even bother to pick up the phone and thank me. But that's just people being people and I don't dwell on it. Things could be a lot worse. Nonetheless, many people do thank me and I greatly appreciate their efforts. But I've come to the conclusion that you can't please everyone and there really is no sense in trying.

Nonetheless, it was great to see many of my old friends including Lester Santos, Jimmy Covert, Doug Tedrow and others too numerous to mention. I also met lots of new folks as well and I enjoyed hearing of their lives. I did have a very interesting conversation with one individual I greatly respect. His comment to me was that the health and wealth of many rustic furniture builders is directly related to their continuing appearances in my books. He personally thanked me for my efforts to keep rustic furniture and the efforts of many in the eyes of the public. I thanked him for thanking me and promised I would continue to promote the efforts of the many great artists around the country. With that we finished another beer. The truth in my mind, however, remains somewhat clouded. All I really do is push a few buttons and write a few sentences. At the same time I will say that it is an enormous amount of work to complete a large book. It takes me about a full year to get something on the market. But the truth is, is that all I really do is make images of other people's art. They are the ones who will be remembered. And I consider it an absolute honor to be associated with such talented people. Such talent enriches my life and makes the world a better place.

A few days later we left Cody and drove to the East entrance of Yellowstone National Park. It is one of the most beautiful drives in the world. We were thrilled because we had reservations for two nights at the Old Faithful Inn and we were looking forward to our visit. Unfortunately, the park, again, was being ravaged by forest fires and the roads to Old Faithful were closed. So we traveled up to Mammoth and hoped to find a room at the Inn there. It was not to be. Hundreds of people were turned away and ultimately our rooms were canceled at Old Faithful. With that said, however, the drive through the park was wonderful. It was peak foliage and animals of all sorts were visible. It was also the "rut" for both bison and elk and both species were noisy, aggressive and dangerous.

Eventually, we found rooms at our favorite inn in Montana. Chico Hot Springs Resort is an old world place complete with an Olympic size swimming pool of hot water that boils up from the earth below. They also offer a five star restaurant! The second day there I went on a half day horseback ride with my daughter. It was completely enjoyable but trying to get up on the biggest horse in the world at sixty two years old is not that much fun. And getting off the damn thing was worse. Everyone else just hopped off but I was so stiff and sore that the cowboy guide had to bring over a step ladder to help me off. Needless to say that my daughter was embarrassed beyond belief. I will conclude these comments with the statement that I was quite thrilled when my wife and daughter both suggested that we spend the rest of the day and evening soaking in the natural hot springs that, along with a few shots of Jack Daniels, brought tremendous relief to aching body.

A few days later my wife and daughter left Montana as school was in session. I needed to stay to photograph more homes and planned on spending another week in the Yellowstone area. Two days after they left I had a "free" day and traveled down to the town of West Yellowstone from Bozeman. The drive down was nothing less than spectacular. With that said, it greatly saddened me to count the many small crosses along the side of the highway. Each cross represented a life lost in a car crash. I counted nearly thirty crosses in twenty six miles.

Nonetheless, it was peak fall foliage and low lying clouds hung on the tops of the mountains. My plan was to enter the park, drive up to Mammoth, then to Livingston and finally back into Bozeman. The guard at the park gate was adamant when he said that I should turn around and go back the way I came. Snow was falling and a few of the roads was closed because fires and construction. "It will take you four to five hours to drive there and there's ice and snow on the road," said the gate keeper. I went anyway. It took me ten hours to get through the park.

But it was one of the most spectacular days of my life. The fall colors in the park were electric and the light snow and low lying clouds allowed me to see the park all together differently. At one point a few hundred bison were parked on the road and dozens of cars sat for a good hour until the beasts finally decided to move. A bit further down the road a heard of elk also stood on the road and we all watched as bulls battled each other for the right to rule the herd (and make baby elk!) And the bugling of the elk through the falling snow was nothing less than mesmerizing. It was a grand day and I made many memorable images with my camera.

Here's a thought for you. I've always thought that the old expression "like finding a needle in a haystack" was ridiculous and incorrect. If you're like me and most other people, finding a needle in a haystack would be incredibly easy. You just jump on in and you know damn well that the needle will stick you in your backside within seconds of landing in the pile of hay! Some days you're the fire hydrant and some days you're the dog!

But the real problem and what I need most to ramble on about is computers. A few years ago I switched over to a digital camera. For me film was easy. I just sent in the slides and the printers did all the rest. I will say, however, that I was never really a hundred percent happy with the results when my books were printed. Some of the photos came out too red or too yellow. Digital photography is the answer to all that was wrong with film.

So a few years ago I picked up a new Nikon Professional camera. After an hour or so of fumbling with the dials I was able to produce some good images. But then I had no idea what to do with them. So I had a computer wizard (that's how he represented himself) walk me through the process and it turned out that I needed a new lap top because my two year old computer was too out of date to handle the software. And besides I needed significant more memory to store all of the images I planned on making. So fifteen hundred dollars later I was the proud owner of a new, high tech piece of equipment. We then downloaded a program called Picasa which allowed me to store and edit my images. Unfortunately, the program is perfect for amateurs but was a far cry from the professional system I needed. I needed to be able to convert my images to 350 DPI, CMYK, Tiff, certain sizes and also needed to be able to adjust the colors as well. I was then told that I needed a software program called Adobe Bridge. That proved to be worthless but try returning a computer software program once you open the package. And then another program, Photoshop Elements, proved to be worthless as well.

But I finally got it figured out with a program called Photoshop CS3. Because I can't stand reading instruction manuals I was certain that I could learn the program in just a few short hours. Well, a few weeks later I really did contemplate committing suicide. But eventually, with the help of a few great people I made slow but steady progress. Then a few months ago I was talked into upgrading my camera. So at great expense I traded in my Nikon D200 for the new Nikon D300s. The salesperson helped me configure the camera and I photographed three more homes while I was in Montana.

Unfortunately, the salesperson failed to tell me that all of my computer programs were now worthless and I sat in my office in Bozeman and spent hours trying to get the damn computer to work with the new images I made. Finally, after much frustration I returned the camera and was told that I needed the latest version of Photoshop. So at great expense I purchased CS4 and installed it in my laptop. Three hours later I returned to the photography shop and expressed my frustration. And of course the sales person apologized and said that I also needed to download another software package from Nikon. And after doing so, fortunately, the entire package finally started to work. But after "Photoshopping" a few hundred images on my laptop it became apparent that because the angle of the screen never lets you see what something will really look like once on DVD, I had to upgrade the PC in my office and redo all of the images. I simply cannot describe how frustrating all of this has been.

Nonetheless, Photoshop is a sophisticated, professional computer program for editing photos. It is very complicated and when I say that I really have spent hundreds of hours (which minute by minute dramatically increased my blood pressure) in frustration and agony trying to master the program I'm not kidding. To further complicate matters I really do have five different portable hard drives as well as a lap top and a desk top computer. I have images stored and backed-up up all over the place. Trying to find what I needed was very difficult and time consuming. It has been a very, very frustrating few months.

Nonetheless, I am very happy to say that I now have a very good understanding of most of the program and am completely capable of editing my photos. With that said I am very happy to say that I now have edited over four hundred great images and plan on sending them to my editor (as soon as I can figure out how to burn DVD's of everything. I just pray that I don't delete all of my hard work by hitting the wrong button!) On the other hand, in the future, I just actually might read and follow the directions or take a class or something. But, as all real men know, we don't like to ask for help or follow the advice of those more knowledge than us. It might make us mere mortals look stupid or like we really don't know what we're doing. And, god forbid, we should look incompetent or stupid. That would be an absolute threat to our manhood!

OTHER COMMENTS Lots of people think that the late Michael Jackson was weird. People think like that because of the way he was presented in the media. Personally, I think the man was an absolute genius. I put him right up there with Einstein, Mozart, Beethoven, Copernicus and a few others. Stop and think about this. The guy was sued over a thousand times. If someone stubbed their toe at his ranch they would sue him. And rather than fight it in court Michael would just pay them off. People realized this and, of course, took supreme advantage of him. So imagine…… here's an unemployed dad and he says to his son, "Look, we can get twenty million dollars from Michael if you just say that he touched you." So the kid thinks about this and realizes that he could do a lot with twenty million dollars. And of course, new bicycles, stereo equipment and other stuff sounds really great to him. So he agrees and goes with his dad to the police. And, of course, they make Michaels life miserable. And, of course, the tabloid press has an absolute field day and comes up with all kinds of crazy stuff. I learned a long time ago to be leery of what you read. Crazy stuff, sex and violence sells newspapers and magazines and the media is definitely a commercial venture.

I've seen the Michael Jackson movie, "THIS IS IT", twice. It portrays the man as a real person and an absolute innovator. If you want to see what a real genius looks like go see this movie. The music, rehearsals and dancing will astound you. And you'll see Michael in a different light as well. Each time I saw the film the audience sat astonished at the level of the man's ability. And when the film was over, no one, not one single person, moved from their seats. They (myself included) sat in the theatre completely mesmerized until the last credit was shown and the lights came on.

My latest book projects are mostly on schedule. Unfortunately, my book of short stories has hit some delays as designers and printers have other projects to complete before they get to mine. I really wanted this book out by Christmas but am not certain that will happen. Nonetheless, the book is done and just waiting for the printing company to get it on the presses. As mentioned earlier my latest coffee table book tentatively titled RUSTIC LUXURY (I'm not yet thrilled with the title), is just about ready to be sent off to the editor. Making the images was easy for me and the most fun. Editing the photos was a significant nightmare but I loved learning the new computer stuff. Writing the text is always the most time consuming. Details such as the type of material on the counter tops, types of stone used in the masonry, the furniture builders, interior designers, contractors, etc., all have to be listed correctly and rechecked to insure accuracy. This part of the process is labor intensive but it needs to be done. Nonetheless, whenever a book comes out someone always calls or emails me stating that they were the individuals who installed the carpets and are upset because I didn't mention their names, their children's, parents and wife's name, business address and where they went to school. I have a standard response stating that I can't please everyone but send me your info and I'll do the best I can to include the material in the next reprinting of the book. With that said if anyone finds an error in my books please let me know. I'll do the best I can to keep the book accurate. And I am serious about this.

Many people have asked the status of my TV program. I really did put time and effort into this project and unfortunately it's just sitting in a computer somewhere. I have had many people ask to purchase an edited version of the several hours of footage we produced so far. I think that we filmed six or eight complete homes as well as several rustic artists doing what they do. With that said it's very expensive and time consuming to edit such material and, in truth, I am so busy right now with books and other contracted projects that I've put that project on a back burner. There is only so much one person can do in their lives and I have enough projects to occupy every minute for the next five years.

Business has picked up very dramatically here in my gallery. We have taken on several new, large projects from around the country and greatly look forward to working with these new clients. It's mostly custom made items as several new, large projects are now under construction. We also sold one hundred and twelve hickory chairs and twenty hickory tables to a new restaurant that is opening in Minneapolis. It will be a great place once the facility finally opens this coming summer.

Now that I'm older I think I'm getting weirder. I do things now that twenty years ago I would never have done. Sometimes I actually watch cooking programs. And I occasionally take notes! When I'm in New York City I occasionally visit high end fabric shops and spend time checking out material. And because my ten year old daughter is involved in all kinds of dance lessons we watch a number of dance programs as well. And they are entertaining! Nonetheless, I still can't stand religious programs and the shopping networks are out of the question. However, I watched with interest the shopping channel that sells sexual devices. It's usually on late at night and, frankly, I am a bit stunned that the two ladies that describe the devices can do so with straight faces.

On another note, all of the things that bothered me years ago, all of my hang-ups (for lack of a better phrase) are still with me and, I am absolutely certain will plague me until the day I die. But most of the time I don't pay attention to them. Instead, I prefer to pay attention to the things that interest me, to the things that I'm good at and to things that make me happy. Lots of times the "chatter" in my brain gets old, nonproductive, detrimental and outright boring. So I aggressively tell myself to "SHUT UP". It usually works and I'm able to get things done that need to get done. If you want to read a really great book that may change your life pick up a copy of "MY STROKE OF INSIGHT" by Jill Taylor, Ph.D. I read it in a few days and I look at things differently now.

About six months ago my wife and I had dinner with three other couples at a local "trendy" restaurant. We sat at one long table and I spent time talking with the couple directly across from me. The husband was a chiropractor and the woman was a "counselor" of some sort. In time we began talking about varying diseases and health issues that plague the country. Eventually, surprisingly, the woman admitted that she refused to have either of her kids inoculated against childhood illnesses. Neither of her kids had received any of the necessary "shots" to boost their immune systems. She did this because, she said, inoculations cause all kinds of horrible diseases such as autism and other afflictions. Needless to say the conversation went right down hill after her comments. I assured her that the there was absolutely no scientific connection between autism and the shots that kids regularly receive. She said that there was mercury and all kinds of other toxins in the vaccines given today. I assured her there was not. Thermiosal, a preservative containing mercury that was once used in the MMU vaccine (Measles, mumps, etc.), was removed from the vaccine years ago. No child receives any inoculation containing mercury and there is (from what I've read) absolutely no correlation between vaccines and neurological disorders. With that said, however, the rates of autism continue to rise.

But the woman I was sitting across from took my comments personally and became quite indignant. The evening ended on a "down" note for me and, although I see her around town she refuses to acknowledge me. Nonetheless, I wish for just one second that she would type in "Whooping Cough" on the internet. On several sites are actual videos of infants and kids struggling with the disease. It's a horrible sight and no one in their right mind would ever wish such a disease on any one. And I'm certain that if the woman who refused to inoculate her children saw the videos she would have second thoughts about inoculating her children and protecting them from potentially fatal illnesses. Frankly, I think the woman should be sent to prison and her kids taken from her. A few years ago I had a severe case of whooping cough. It was absolutely horrible and I honestly thought, on many occasions, that I was going to die as I lay on the ground coughing my lungs out gasping for air. I tried to explain this but the woman just wouldn't listen.

So over the next few years I'll have several new books out. One will be a large book just on the architecture of architect Larry Pearson of Bozeman, Montana. His work is in another league and deserves the effort I've put into documenting his projects. His company is named PDG, Inc., and can be found on the internet.

I have another small, $25 book coming out as well. This will be an affordable book of photos culled from my other publications over the past thirty years. It will be arranged by rooms including kitchens, living rooms, bedrooms, etc. I don't have the name of the book yet but I'll mention its title and release date as time goes by.
And my book of short stories is ready to go to the printer as well. This has been no easy task either. Printers have very specific requirements regarding design, type face, font, paper, trim size, PDF's, bindings, covers, colors, etc. We did find a few people who could do all this for me but they wanted $5k to oversee the project. So, instead of hiring an outside agency, I hired my friend computer guru Norman Van Deist to do the work for me. We should have the entire book ready for the printer in a week or so. And at significantly less cost! And it will be printed here in the USA!

And then, with a little luck, a year from this Christmas, I'll have another book on the market as well. I've been working with Chef Tim May from the Clayoquat Wilderness Resort on Vancouver Island. My family and I spent four days at his resort and were knocked out by the quality of food he and his staff prepared. After our fourth meal there, I asked him if he had ever considered doing a book of his own recipes. And within ten minutes the owner of the resort, the chef and I agreed to do a book on the food they prepared and served at the resort. As the facility, the immediate environment and the aesthetics of the entire setting are nothing less than astonishing this will be no ordinary book of recipes. I should have the entire project done by October of next year and, hopefully, on the market before the winter holidays! Bon Appétit!

The following year will see the appearance of my mega book. This book will include about six hundred photos (600!) and will be a super-size publication of the greatest rustic homes and lodges in North America! I've been working on this project for the past three years and am thrilled that we are getting close to publication! More on this as time goes by.

And so the fall is nearly over. The brilliant leaves from the hardwood trees have fallen and the many gaggles of geese that past over my home are now probably in warmer climates. I only hope that they have avoided the hunter's guns and find their way back north this coming spring. My boat is now out of the water and we have winterized our cabin on Lake George for another cold season. I miss the place already. Thanksgiving is only a few weeks away and we will be in Boston to celebrate that fine holiday with friends of mine that I've known for the past thirty years. My family and I will be in Chicago for the Christmas holidays but I can only stay a few days as I have commitments back here in New York. Then I'll travel back to Montana the first week of January to work on a few projects. In April, we'll travel back to Key West during my daughter's school vacation and enjoy the "green" colors, tarpon fishing, great food and warm weather. I sincerely love the Key West trip but, in truth, I really spend most of my time writing stuff and feeding the wild cats and chickens.

All in all life is good and I hope it is for you as well.

My best to you,
Ralph

PS No animals were injured during the writing of this newsletter and, even if no one else does, I approve of all of its contents!
PSS. I had my semi- annual physical exam a few days ago. I should be able to walk again in another day or so. Nonetheless, my doctor tells me that I am healthy.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I'm presently sitting at a show in Gunstock, New Hampshire. It's called the Lakeside Living Expo and there are about two hundred and fifty exhibitors here. The show has been very well attended by the retail public and I've sold a hundred or so books and a few pieces of furniture. The site for the show has been exceptional and there have been virtually no hassles getting my exhibit set up. And at four PM today, I get to load my truck and trailer, make a few local deliveries and then drive five hours back to my home in Lake George, NY. In general, it's been a fun experience and I've enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting new ones.

But there's a lot more to it than that. And I will freely admit and confess right up front that I really am getting too old for my present of life style.

Ralph Kylloe Rustic Furniture

My wife and I began loading my truck and trailer last Wednesday morning. After an hour we were both exhausted. It's not like I sell paintings or coins or fabric. I sell rustic furniture. And it's not light furniture. The stuff weighs a ton. My wife and I could not load several pieces as the weight was just too much for the both of us. But we did the best we could. Later that day, my old friend Tom Welsh (sometimes we can't stand each other but we are always friendly when we need something) came by and helped load the heavy stuff. Tom is 6' 5" and looks like a retired professional football player. At any rate, he didn't complain too much and we had the truck and trailer loaded in a few hours.

Tom was also doing the show and he had his truck and trailer already packed and ready to go. Once we were fully loaded, we took both vehicles to my cabin and spent the night swimming and fishing. My daughter, now ten years old, caught the only fish that evening. She reminded Tom and I, both serious fishermen, that she did catch the only fish and felt the need to tell our neighbors about her success. Needless to say, I was proud of her but she didn't have to brag about it all night.

We were up at five the following morning. As the day broke I took my psychotic ten month old yellow lab retriever for a swim. She is definitely a water dog and for hours on end will endlessly chase sticks tossed in the lake. After about her tenth retrieval she spotted a few ducks swimming fifty yards off shore. Needless to say she gave chase. My only wish was that the ducks would just fly off, but NOOOOOO. They just kept swimming and the damn dog kept following them. Once she was more than three hundred yards off shore and clearly out of site I hopped in my boat and finally pulled her out of the water more than a mile off shore. She also felt the need to jump back in the water when we were traveling about fifty miles per hour. And it took several minutes to turn the boat around and pluck her from the cold water.

After breakfast, Tom and I took off for New Hampshire. Traveling was easy at first. Then on RT 11, we hit serious construction sites and were required to stop on many occasions. And on several occasions we had to drive at five MPH over dirt roads for miles. A four hour trip took nearly seven. Neither of us were impressed with the traffic. Once at the exhibit we had to wait a bit to unload our vehicles but inside of three hours my booth looked great and Tom's was well under way. In the evening, after a dinner of Chinese food, we stopped at a local Wal-Mart. It was surprising to us that the Gunstock Resort (where the show was being held) was selling their Gatorade for two bucks a container. Tom and I bought equal size containers for 87 cents each at Wal-mart.

Then the fun began. Because this was a low budget excursion I allowed Tom to stay with me in the same hotel room. The room contained two single beds. Without mincing words, Tom snores like a jack hammer. He also sneezes, burps, gurgles, wheezes, yawns, coughs, clears his throat and mumbles to himself. The noises and sounds, and other biological inflections, coming from him, were constant and unrelenting. I woke up angry several times during the night and went for long walks. But I got over it.

Nonetheless, the show opened around noon of Friday and many people "mulled" around looking at all kinds of great stuff. During that time, I sold several books and answered questions of all sorts. But I'll tell you, once you've answered the same sort of question a thousand times it really does get a bit boring. The usual set of questions include, but are not limited to, the following;

    How do you get the bark to stay on?
    How did you get into this business?
    Are these real antlers?
    What kind of wood is this?
    Where do you get your materials?
These questions, in truth, are well intended, innocuous and innocent, and I'll answer them all day long. But then many of the comments are "darker" as well, including;
    Why is this so much money? It's just a bunch of sticks.
    I can do this stuff and I'll make a fortune. You must be getting rich.
    I heard these things are made in China.
    Are these pieces made from plastic?
    My furniture is better than your furniture.
    My home is much better than any of the ones you show in your books.
    Did you really do these books or did someone else write them.
    Who made the photos for your books?
    This piece is marked fifteen hundred dollars. I'll give you three hundred in cash for it.
    You killed the moose just for his antlers and head?

One individual grilled me for several minutes on how to retain the value of their log home, when is the best time to sell it, what they could do to increase its value, etc. My only response to them was to see a realtor in their neighborhood.

And, as always, I had at least ten people bring photos of their homes to show me and all the while praying that I would want to include their home in one of my books. I will also say that I do find it a bit disturbing when someone comes into my booth, sets a drink down on one of my tables, picks up a few of my books and spends a half hour looking at the pictures. And all the while having no intention whatsoever of purchasing one of the books that now had grease stains from the popcorn on their fingers and rumpled pages.

One of the most conniving incidents I've had at a show happened the year before. A man and his family came into my booth and said that the show promoters (whom I know quite well) had said that I should give them one of my $60 books. I asked them about it and they assured me that they were legitimate and had been promised by the promoters that I would give them a book of their choice. Because I had lots of people in my booth I signed a book of their choice and off they went. Later on, I found out that the promoters had not requested a copy of my book and that the man, in front of his family, actually stole a book from me. I was hoping that the same guy would have showed up this year because I really would have called the police on him.

Here's another tale that happened at last year's show. I had sold a very high-end rustic settee, complete with leather upholstery, to a client. Of course, I had to deliver the piece which was an hour north of the show. (When people say it's only a half hour that really means a full hour!) So in my rented U-Haul truck at 75 cents a mile and at about 6 miles per gallon of gas, I drove to the clients home. After considerable effort (up a small stair case to the second floor) we placed the settee in a great spot. It looked absolutely wonderful where it was. After the delivery I spent the next six hours returning to my home. A week later the guy who bought the settee from me called my gallery and said that the piece just didn't work for him and he was returning it. A week later, he showed up with the settee and wanted a full refund. I gave him a check and should have charged him for the extra hundred and fifty dollars it cost me for gas and mileage on the big U-haul truck.

Nonetheless, life goes. The show opened at noon and closed at 8 PM. It was a very, very long day. And, of course, once back at the hotel, I had to put up with Tom and his body noises all night.

The following day, Saturday, the show opened at ten in the morning. The traffic was excellent and I sold many books and talked with all kinds of interesting people. I survived the day by drinking three, large size Red Bulls. At eight that evening about fifteen of us went to an open air restaurant on Lake Winnipesaukee and had a great seafood dinner. All of us commented on the economy and talked for hours about the rustic furniture business and how crazy it really is.

Sunday, the last day of the show (in fact, any show), is always hard. I did sell one large sideboard (the heaviest piece I had with me) and was a bit disappointed that I would have to deliver it that evening. Breaking down at a show has to be one of the hardest things to do. In general, you're tired, a bit frustrated and just want to go home. Nonetheless, at four PM, dozens of vehicles made their way to the exit doors and people started loading up. I was incredibly fortunate in that the show promoters had hired a dozen or so high school kids and they were an absolute blessing by helping me load up my vehicle. And by 5 PM I was on the road!

But, of course, finding the home where I had to deliver the sideboard was no easy task. The place was in the boon docks. And when I finally arrived, the people who were to unload the furniture were not there. But a half hour later four huge high school kids showed up and set the piece in the perfect spot in the home. Seven hours later I finally arrived at my cabin on Lake George and passed out. Needless to say, that my three cats and my dog (along with my wife) insisted on sleeping with me. But at least I didn't have to put up with Tom's snoring.

On another note, I feel the need to apologize to the people who subscribe to my Newsletter. Many people have emailed me asking when my next release will be. In truth, I've started writing my Newsletter many times over the past few months. But during the past winter, I literally wrote a five hundred page book of short stories. That book, titled "Short Stories and Strange Thoughts" is now at the editor for a final punctuation check and then off to the printer. I should have copies for sale by October. With that said, I could have saved myself about 20% on printing costs if I had the book printed in China. But for some reason I felt that I wanted to keep American workers employed and not send the money overseas.

So regarding my failure to send out my newsletter, my point is that at the end of the day I just haven't been able to motivate myself to write another ten pages of stuff. Nonetheless, I think I'm back on track. Along with my book of short stories I have another book titled "Images of Lake George: Photos by Ralph Kylloe" coming out this spring. This large, full color book will contain about 200 photographs of Lake George. I really have spent the past five years working on this book and I'm thrilled to have it nearly completed. I'm also working on three other large rustic books as I write this. As a rule I have a number of attorneys who review my contracts. They specialize in Intellectual Property Rights and handle all of my contracts, copy right issues, licensing, litigation, royalties, options, schedules and more legal stuff than my old brain can handle. Some years my legal fees are astronomical but my legal advisers are invaluable to me. They solve problems and let me do what I do best. So once these last books are on the market, which should be at varying times over the next two years, I'm done. That's it…no more. Twenty five books published is plenty enough for any one person to do.

Regarding my photography (yes, I really do make all of the photographs for all my books, contrary to what some people say), I switched over to digital a few years ago. In truth, it's infinitely easier and far cheaper to use digital then film. But once I get the images in my computer, the nightmare begins. Photoshop is the program we use for editing digital images and frankly, it's a very, very complicated program to use. It has caused me to nearly shoot my computer on several occasions. But I'm a persistent guy and I'll get the hang of it sooner or later.

Speaking of books, I've done 21 so far, I think the one I'm the proudest of is my book on the history of the Old Hickory Chair Company. That came out first in 1995 and then I updated it in a second printing in 2002. There is an enormous amount of work in this book and I firmly believe that the information would have been lost had I not spend the time to research the entire movement. I actually started buying and selling antique hickory furniture more than thirty years ago. Frankly, I loved every minute I wandered around Indiana researching the ten different companies that made hickory furniture beginning in the very late 1890s and up until the 1960s. Of the more than five thousand I printed I only have about 20 copies left and it will not be reprinted. So if you want one let me know.

On another note, you never know what's around the corner. If we did we would all be very rich…..and maybe a lot happier as we could avoid the nightmares that are occasionally come our way. We don't live in a vacuum. We have to work and live with others. This is often far more difficult than we would like it to be. Success comes from working with people you get along with. And it also comes from people who do what they say they are going to do and on time. It's also incredibly interesting to me how two people can experience exactly the same thing and offer completely different interpretations of the event.

With that thought in mind, and on a more somber note, I've had a few slaps in the face the past few months. I had to sue an individual for return of a large deposit I had given him a few years earlier. I gave him every opportunity to complete two different projects and he never did. Of course, the judge sided with me and ordered the return of my money. But just to make it easy on the guy, I told him I just wanted the furniture he had promised to make me. He agreed and promised, on record and in front of a judge, to deliver the item to me on a certain date. When the date arrived he told me that he had sold the piece of furniture and handed me the money I had given him two years earlier. I then had to endure a tantrum from him about how I had canceled the order and what a jerk I was. From my perspective, he clearly failed to see that all he had to do was to build the furniture I ordered and deliver it when he said he would. That just doesn't seem so unreasonable to me. Some people just don't live in a real world. I guess being two years late and never once calling me was not a factor for him. This sort of stuff is troubling, stressful and time consuming.

Frankly, I've been worried about the direction and health of the rustic furniture business for quite some time. Many builders have come to me wanting me to buy their furniture. Galleries have closed and I have been asked to help liquidate their furniture. During this past winter several large projects had been put on hold around the country and I have been told that 85% of the architects in the Aspen/Vail region of the Rocky Mountains have gone out of business. It is not uncommon for there to be two or three individuals coming into my gallery on a daily basis looking for work or wanting me to buy their furniture. It is never fun to say "no" to someone. But I have to be honest with everyone who shows up here. We just don't have enough work for someone to be in my office full time and I can't buy every piece of furniture that shows up at my door. Business in my own gallery was slow throughout the winter but during the past few months things are again selling like hot cakes and the phone is ringing. And we have taken on at least three new projects that will occupy us for years. As I write this the stock market is climbing and people are again purchasing things from us at a very quick pace. In short, business is good…..but not so good that it can't get better.

A lot of the problem has been all the nasty news heavily circulated in the media. If that's not enough to make you want to jump out a window I don't know what will. Here's a thought for you: several years ago a publication was started in California that only offered good news. They went out of business in two years. Strangely, people thrive on calamities, disasters, the macabre, horror tales, the strange and the ignoble. I really get tired of the so called pundits ranting and raving about how we're all going to hell next week. Frankly, it's not going to happen.

I also grow tired hearing the pundits and the quasi-intellectuals complaining about the ills of big government. Consider this for just a moment, each person working for the government pays taxes. Each of them has to have a car and pay rent, each has to eat and pay insurance bills. And I would like to think that each person working for the government does something productive like keeping the doors for the Library of Congress open, working on disease control for the CDC or rescuing idiots who sail into hurricanes or need help when they fall off a mountain. As long as the people working for the government are creative and productive I really don't care how big it gets. We have a very organic culture and economy. Things change. We grow. We learn stuff. The world is not falling apart. Trust me on this.

But if we do decide to cut the size of the government where should we do it? Should we downsize the prison system in America? Should we release half of the criminals back out on the streets? How about cutting the Center for Disease Control? Or the National Institute of Health? Maybe we should not fund cancer research or work to create new vaccines. Or how about NASA? We could cut their funding but we might lose our ability to use our cell phones. Or how about the National Weather System? We may not be able to forecast hurricanes or tornadoes but who cares? Or how about the Environmental Protection Agency. So what if low tech companies dump mercury in the water? Or how about cutting the Defense Department? Do we really need more cruise missiles, nuclear weapons or body armor for our troops? I really don't know. Or maybe we could sell off Yellowstone National Park or Yosemite. That could bring in some good money and I think a series of high end condos overlooking Old Faithful could be very profitable!

I have absolutely no doubt that the government wastes money. And it truth, democracy requires, in fact it demands, that citizens participate by calling attention to waste. To do less is absolute cowardice and hypocrisy.

This year I'm exhibiting at the Adirondack Antiques Show at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY, this fall. The dates are September 19-20. I and a large number of other dealers, will be selling rustic antiques on the grounds of the museum. This is always a high point in the rustic antique business and people come from across the country to both buy and sell their goods. And the autumn is really a superb time in the Adirondacks. It's usually peak fall colors and the museum setting really is quite beautiful. For more information contact the museum at 518-352-7311.

I also mentioned in my last Newsletter that I will be speaking and showing slides at the Cody High Style Conference in Cody, Wyoming, this coming September. This event will be held at the Buffalo Bill Historical Museum in Cody, Wyoming. The conference opens on September 22 and lasts through the weekend. The conference focuses on western design and includes great exhibits of furniture, art, fashion and jewelry. Please call 307/587-4771for more information on this event.

In my last Newsletter, I had a number of people email me regarding my comments about health care. I said that people need to take better care of themselves and my comments included suggestions to stop smoking, drinking excessively, get some exercise and stop making pigs out of themselves at the dinner table. People are not supposed to be fat. They look like slobs and clearly demonstrate that they have absolutely no control of themselves. And then when they have heart attacks, develop diabetes, need bypass surgery and on and on they expect the medical profession to take care of them. And all their care means significantly higher premiums on the insurance that the rest of us have to pay. So I suggest that all the smokers, eaters and drinkers should take a serious look at themselves. You might not like what you see. Have some respect for yourself please and get healthy.

With that said I realized that I too had put on a few pounds. So three months ago my wife and I joined a local health club and three times a week we religiously exercise. So far I've lost about ten pounds, lowered my blood pressure and feel better than I have in a long time. And my ten year old daughter will enjoy having me around and not have to see me lying in a coffin, dead from a heart attack. Think about this for a minute. If you want to kill yourself go ahead but just for a moment consider how many people will be hurt by your actions.

On another note am I missing something here? Have I been out of contact with the real world or am I just getting too old to think rationally? Didn't we send the people of Afghanistan billions of dollars in weapons and supplies when they were fighting the Russians years ago? Didn't we give them really expensive stinger surface to air missiles to shoot down Soviet helicopters and fighter planes? And didn't all this stuff come out of the pockets of the generous American public? And so now the Afghans are battling us and killing our soldiers? I just don't get it?

On another note this past Sunday, July 25, the association I belong to on Lake George held its annual beach party. I am proud to say that I cooked hotdogs for more than a hundred people over a three hour period. And in the evening the Ralph Kylloe Band played for three hours and entertained more than a hundred guests of all ages. Playing in a great rock and roll band really is fun. During the last set just about everyone at the party danced their hearts out and had a great time. It really is a wonderful thing to see grandparents, parents and grand kids all dancing together and being a little crazy. The only problem was that during the last set the wind died down and the stinging insects nearly ate us alive. But we got through it and have been invited back next year. So if you're looking for a great band here we still have a few dates available this summer.

And so the summer is upon us. It's been cool and rainy here in the Adirondacks. I still swim in the morning just as the light replaces the dark and, often, late in the evenings I'll walk with my dog and family down to the beach for quick dip in the lake. Nothing is ever so bad as it seems at the moment and problems have a way of resolving themselves. The beauty of the world around us always thrills me and the peace of a walk in the woods in the early morning calms the demons in my mind that occasionally plague and torment me. I find, as I get older, that it's far more comforting to think of good things than of bad things. Think I'll go pet my dog for a while before I close my gallery for the day.

My Best to all,

Ralph


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Monday, April 6, 2009

I've had several people email me complaining about the untimely and outright absence of my News Letters. In truth, I've been busy with other things. And there's only so much energy I have to do things these days. Business has been slow throughout the winter but in terms of finance we are actually ahead of years past. There were several very large projects that we submitted proposals, drawings, samples and prices to. Large projects always seem to take longer to actually move forward especially when there are architects, interior designers, decorators, family members (who have no idea what they are talking about) and numerous other individuals all trying to make one decision. Fortunately (for me), orders are finally being placed and checks are arriving in the mail. And, thank God, spring is finally here.

It is interesting to note that a day does not go by now when a rustic furniture builder does not show up at my gallery wanting me to purchase their furniture or are looking for a few commissions. I've also had several rustic galleries from other parts of the country call me and ask me to purchase part of their stock. And several people have come by my gallery asking for either full or part time jobs. It is, I suppose, a sign of the times. With all that said it's the very high end, expensive stuff that's selling from my gallery. And I can assure readers that it makes me quite happy to accept the checks!

On the other hand I've had a few people come by wanting me to dramatically cut my prices on any number of items. I'll happily negotiate prices on some things, when I can, especially when they want to purchase several items. But a few people have come by and acted like idiots demanding that I accept their offers. Negotiations can always be done in a very civil manner but when some jerk demands lower prices I have a tendency to want to tell him to go screw himself. This happened twice to me in the last month. Demanding, arrogant people are the bane of society. I can't stand them. Right after Christmas we decided to remodel our kitchen. It started out as a five thousand dollar upgrade. Of course it quickly turned into a hundred and fifty thousand dollar expansion of the kitchen and bathroom with new appliances, cabinets, showers, faucets, vanities, etc., etc. And of course we had to have a new fireplace as well. This was all well and good and I am thrilled with the results. But try having four carpenters and a mason show up in your living room every morning at seven AM while you're trying to get your day started and your daughter off to school. And this went on for four months!

I really do love the guys who did the project for me. They had built my summer cabin as well as a number of other projects for me and I enjoy having them around. But it was the dust and the mess that nearly caused us to either commit suicide or file for divorce. Further, and I suspect that many readers are fully aware of this, there are literally hundreds of decisions that need to be made. Colors, shower heads, shower doors, tiles, flooring, counter tops, lighting fixtures, appliances, door knobs, cabinet handles, artwork and on and on. We literally spent hours and days just on decisions. And of course we would get into long disagreements (actually arguments) in the lumber yards and supply houses. It was a challenging experience. And just to save my marriage and the love of my ten year old daughter (my wife and daughter supported always each other) I acquiesced on many occasions. Finally, however, it's done. Now all we have to do is wait until the snow and ice melts so we can clean up the back yard that presently is occupied with piles of construction debris all over the place.

None the less, to make matters more frustrating we also had a new, high tech, energy efficient heating system installed in our home. Frankly, we were thrilled. The heat was even throughout the house and every room was nice and warm. It was great until we got our first month's bill. Needless to say I about fell over when it was about $1,300 per month to heat the home. So we brought back the people who installed the system and as well as the people who supply the gas just to insure there were no leaks in the line or any other problems. And of course the system was working fine and in perfect order. A week later I went out and had had a wood stove installed in my fireplace. The next month my heating bill was a hundred bucks!

Book Projects

I mentioned in my last Newsletter that I finished writing a book of short stories and it will be on the market probably this summer. The normal or average book contains about 80,000 words. Being an obsessive/ compulsive individual I wrote about a hundred and thirty thousand (130,000) words for this book. I was like a damn that burst. When I get into something I really get into it. I loved every second of it. I really would sit at my computer twelve hours a day and write. I found that I had a lot to say.

Once the writing was complete I looked for an editor. When I "Googled" Book Doctor (that's the name for editors) there were more than twenty million entries listed on the internet. So I email five different ones that had very professional credentials and experience. After a brief review of their work I sent each of the editors the exact same story for a "free" sample edit. A week later I received emails with their edits attached from the five different editors. It was astonishing to see the different approaches each of the five took with my work. Two of the people rewrote just about every word I had written. The stories came out to be the "voice" of the editor and were not at all reflective of my style of writing or my personality. Another wrote a lengthy comparison of my work to several famous literally icons I had never heard of. Another just mentioned that he really loved my work and encouraged me to write more. (This was significantly less than helpful.) I finally decided on someone from New Jersey who loved the Adirondacks. Her edit included correcting all of the "typos" as well as comments that included "suggestions" on character development, tension and build-up in the story, etc. What was so nice about her was that her personality did not appear in my work. She actually challenges me and works toward clarity in my writing. And I greatly appreciate someone who encourages me to get better at something rather than just do the work for me.

But having an editor is like owning a large business on the verge of bankruptcy and being married to a billionaire. You really need to have that person around and in your life. So it is with an editor. They are absolutely necessary and invaluable. But thick skin is a necessity as well. Many people don't take criticism well. Many times it's very necessary to realize that criticism can be an attempt to help change something for the better. Presented in a positive way criticism and encouragement can definitely improve any attempt. Me?..........on the other hand………..I can't stand critics. I hate their sniveling comments and their pejorative, arrogant attitudes. (I am incredibly fortunate, however, to have two great editors to work with. One does my coffee table books and the other does my novels and stories!) But I'll get through this as my new editor is, in truth, much more professional than I am. And it's quite necessary to be fully aware of this. Some people are just more experienced and more talented than others. It's OK to learn something new sometimes…and I am not always right!

Nonetheless, I should have the book to the printer within the month and pray I can get the book onto the market in a timely fashion.

Other Books

My books continue to sell well. They have been very well received by the public and many editorial reviews have been very positive. Other than my book of short stories I am presently working on another large book that will include just the extraordinary homes of architect Larry Pearson. This book will be on the market the fall of 2010. It promises to be an extraordinary book once complete. And I'm also working on a very large mega book that will be on the market in the fall of 2011. This will be the largest book ever completed on the subject of rustic design.

Appearances

I will be speaking and presenting a slide show at the Cody High Style show in Cody, Wyoming this coming September. My subject at the event will be Innovations in Rustic Architecture and Design. This show is the premier event in the world of Western Rustic Design. Not only is there a major furniture exhibit but there is also a great runway fashion show, jewelry and clothing exhibits and great entertainment as well. This is always my favorite event of the year. Cody is just outside Yellowstone National Park and a drive through the park with its peak fall foliage is worth the trip in itself.

Moaning and Groaning Comments

I've listened intently as our leaders talk about the rising costs of health care. Apparently health care costs far exceed all the combined expenditures taking place in the country today. Our leaders have come up with all kinds of plans to insure the health care of American citizens. But our leaders have completely missed the mark and they are without a doubt ignorant, shallow and/or self serving. Keep in mind please that the medical profession makes a lot of money taking care of us. However, I have a solution that would in the first six months save at least fifty percent of the money we spend on health care.

STOP SMOKING, STOP DRINKING, STOP USING ILLEGAL DRUGS, GET OFF YOUR FAT ASS AND GET SOME GOD DAMNED EXERCISE, STOP MAKING PIGS OUT OF YOURSELVES AT THE DINNER TABLE, LOOSE THE UGLY FAT THAT HANGS FROM YOUR FATASS, PROTECT YOURSELF WHEN YOU'RE HAVING SEX AND DON'T DRIVE LIKE AN IDIOT! And for god's sake don't have fourteen kids when your uneducated, unemployed and don't have a cent to your name. And how some people can expect that I'll pay for their stupidity and arrogance is beyond me. Personally, I think that any person who is unemployed, on welfare and already has two kids should be sterilized.

Now……how hard is this? It seem like none of our politicians are speaking out about this kind of stuff. In reality the medical profession in the western world is a horrible system to rely on for our personal health. True….. they can really do wonders but there are over a hundred thousand deaths per year due to mistakes by the medical profession. There are twenty four million unnecessary prescriptions for antibiotics written per year. There are about two and a half million unnecessary surgeries per year as well.

When in the world are we going to take better care of ourselves? And why don't our leaders pound this kind of stuff into our brains? Here are a few other suggestions that we should enact. People who smoke should pay twice as much for their insurance as I, a non smoker, do. Why should I have to pay for their stupidity? People who are overweight should pay on a different schedule than fit people do. If you're twenty percent overweight than you should pay fifty percent higher premiums. If you're fifty percent overweight then you should pay a hundred percent more than I do. I'm sick of supporting people who don't take of themselves.

On another note a month ago I spent a weekend in New York City with my family. We visited four museums while were there, including the Museum of American Folk Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. With the exception of the Met and a few pieces at MOMA and the Guggenheim……………..what an absolute bunch of TRASH! Honest to god I just can't believe what people get away with today. True there were many great pieces of art at the museums but the majority of it defied comprehension. It's an absolute embarrassment to American culture. And please don't email me saying that I don't understand modern art. I've spent my entire life studying art and I do understand it. And why some people pay big amounts of money for some of this garbage is beyond me.

On another note I dare not ramble on about bonuses, Bernie Madoff, Ponzi scams, bailouts, contracts, border wars and illegal drugs and a ton of other stuff. I really do prefer to think about the fact that spring is now here, fishing season is starting soon, and in June I'll be back in Key West with a group of friends fly fishing for tarpon!

But I have to tell you. I'll be sixty two at the end of June and I'm actually getting weirder. I'm not kidding. I spent part of this afternoon watching cooking programs. The chef on one show was talking about preparing lamb chops. Frankly, I didn't like his recipe. He was not using enough ingredients in the stuffing. He should have used more mushrooms and onions just a pinch of celery salt. How he could have made such a stupid mistake is beyond me.

And a month ago I have my eyes examined. My glasses were just not strong enough and I had trouble focusing on details. When my new glasses arrived I was shocked. I hadn't seen my own face clearly in a while. I was both shocked and depressed at the wrinkles I had acquired. I guess I'm not twenty years old anymore.

And another thing that's really aggravating is the volume control on TV. Whenever a commercial comes on the volume jumps about fifty percent. It drives me nuts.

With all that said below is one of the tales I'm including in my upcoming book SHORT STORIES AND STRANGE THOUGHTS. This is one of the more "normal", non-offensive, more civil stories. I hope someone enjoys it. Let me know what you think.

The Ageless Man
By
Ralph Kylloe

Two men were killed at exactly the same time in different parts of the country. One died in a car crash while the other perished when he was caught between the gunfire of two rival gangs. It was a sad event for the families of both men. One of the men who died was a priest and a well-respected one at that. The other was a gambler of the most unsavory type. He was not one to be invited to prominent social gatherings.

Moments after their deaths, both men stood before St. Peter just outside the pearly gates of heaven. It was an awesome scene. The gates themselves were highly ornate and quite majestic. They appeared to be made out of pearl only thick and flat like iron. And they seemed to both glow and hum at the same time. When St. Peter opened the gates to meet the two men a strange warm breeze engulfed the pair who both stood in a state of astonishment at the originality and uniqueness of the moment. It was not like anything they had ever imagined.

After a few minutes St. Peter greeted the men. He knew both by their names and smiled softly to each of them as he stood there. In time, he spoke. His voice was more of a whisper than anything else. The two men had to quiet their souls to hear him.

To the priest he said, "Tell me about your life. Of what are you most proud?"

The priest began speaking."I served the lord for all of my adult life. I baptized hundreds of people and, through my deeds and sermons, I saved thousands of souls. I followed the commandments of our god and made the world a better place," said the priest.

"And why did you do this?" St. Peter asked.

"I followed the word of God because I wanted to go to heaven," said the priest.

"Ah! A noble thought!" said St. Peter.

The gatekeeper than looked directly at the gambler. His eyes seemed to peer right into the soul of the man before him.

"Please, tell me about your life."

"Well, sir. It's like this. I wasn't the greatest man to ever walk the earth. I gambled and drank occasionally. I cheated on my wife and drove my car too fast. I occasionally smoked a cigar. I didn't go to church that much and the only thing I ever prayed for was a straight flush or three of a kind. I never finished school, and I did cheat on my taxes quite often."

"That was quite a life," said St. Peter. "Tell me if I'm wrong please," spoke the saint. "Did you not send money to support an animal shelter on many occasions? And did you not give money to homeless people? And didn't you pay the taxes on your parents home for years and never asked for the money to be repaid? Why did you do these things?" asked St. Peter.

The gambler thought for a few seconds and then said, "Well, sir, here's the deal, I really loved animals and I suppose I did give money to shelters for people and dogs. And my folks didn't have the money to keep their house. So I paid their taxes. It was no big deal really. I did what I did because it was the right thing to do," said the man.

Nothing more was said between the three men for several minutes. The two men standing before the great saint grew nervous. Then St. Peter smiled and cast a long look at both men. The gates behind the great man then slowly began to open. Suddenly the priest who had baptized hundreds of people and saved the souls of many others disappeared. St. Peter then looked directly at the gambler, smiled, and said, "Come with me." With that, the two men entered heaven.

A few months later, the gambler was watching horse races on a big screen TV and enjoying a peaceful afternoon. It was a slow day in heaven. In time, St. Peter floated by and sat down on the couch next to the gambler. They greeted each other warmly. After talking about the races and the local gossip for a while, the gambler asked St. Peter if he could answer a few questions for him.

"Absolutely, anything. Just ask" said St. Peter.

The gambler chose his words slowly and wisely.

"Well, Pete (in heaven everyone went by their first names. Titles were forbidden), I arrived at the gates with a priest. You spoke with both of us at the same time. I haven't seen him around and was just wondering what happened to him. He seemed like an okay guy to me."

"Ah yes" said St. Peter. "I remember him well. I sent him to a different place to consider his life. He'll stay there for about fifty thousand years or so. He was a good man, but his head was in the wrong place. Up here, we don't give people answers for major problems. We hope they figure things out for themselves. Well, to make a long story short, his life was guided by ulterior motives. For everything he did, he wanted something in return. He didn't baptize people and preach and lead a godly life for nothing. He wanted to ultimately come up here to heaven. He did good things because he wanted something. His approach was wrong. You on the other hand weren't looking for any favors. You did things because they were the right thing to do. You weren't looking for payback. There was no motive in your actions. And that's what we look for up here in heaven. And that's why you're here. But I'll tell you. Everyone on earth wants something these days. Sometimes it's good just to help others and expect nothing in return. I just don't know what's gotten into people down there."

The two men smiled at each other for a few seconds. Then they spent the rest of the afternoon watching races, smoking cigars and drinking single malt scotch. It was a grand day in heaven and the two men greatly enjoyed the company of each other.

My Best to all,

Ralph


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Monday, December 15, 2008

I apologize for the very long delay with my Newsletter. I've been busy and truthfully, it really does take just about a full day to write ten pages of stuff. Typically I sit down at my computer at about 5AM. I answer a dozen or more emails that came in during the night. It's surprising how many "Night Owls" there are in the world as many of the messages arrive between 2 and 4 AM. I thought I was the only one up between those hours. Nonetheless, an hour or so later I'm done with the emails and actually start to do some writing. A half hour later I get my daughter up and get her ready for school. Three days a week my wife and I drive her the four miles to her school and then go to my gym for an hour or more of exercise.

Once home I sit back down at my computer and return to writing. I know what I'm going to say but I have customers in all day and am distracted. The phone also rings probably thirty to fifty times a day. Fortunately, most are just one minute calls. Some however, last an hour or more. So without rambling on about it it's tougher and tougher these days to produce ten pages of stuff.

But all things in life change. Priorities and interests grow in different directions. During the past two month or so I've taken to writing short stories. It's what I enjoy doing most at this point in my life. I've written stories all my life but usually just delete them when I need more space on my computer. Several people during the last few years have encouraged me to get serious about writing so that's what I'm doing. It's funny how a little encouragement goes a long way. Most people don't know how to encourage others and many people don't know how to accept it. And most people don't understand encouragement or choose to ignore it even when someone is offering it to them. Many talents are never developed and people often die without ever having bothered to even realize their own potential. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Thomas Edison. He said that "if people ever did what they are capable of doing they would literally astound themselves." Frankly, there is supreme honor in trying. It is dishonorable not to try.

In the past two month or so I've written twenty three short stories. They average between five and twenty five pages each. I have a few more stories to complete and will have them done with a few days. And so this coming spring a book titled "SHORT STORIES AND STRANGE THOUGHTS by Ralph Kylloe" will come on the market. I greatly look forward to its release and I hope that readers find the stories both insightful and entertaining. This is why I've been so tardy with my Newsletters.

Those people who have read my Newsletter for a while will find that this new book is extreme Ralph Kylloe stuff only much more bizarre. I really didn't hold back and I loved every second I worked on these stories. I've sent a few of the stories to a friend or two. They loved them. Unfortunately I bombarded one good friend with three or four stories a day and I think he's sick of hearing from me. Regardless, he loved my stories and has continued encouraging me to write more. So that's what I've done and that's why I'm so late with my Newsletter. Nonetheless, this has been a great adventure for me. To some degree I've secluded myself in my study and have spent hours pounding on the keys of my computer. As of this morning I've written about five hundred pages of stuff (I really have!). And the stories really are quite good! (At least that's what I have been told by other writers.) But I'll keep people posted on the progress of this book as time goes on.

While I'm on the subject of books, my latest effort "CABINS" is finally on the market. It's another large sixty dollar book. I featured several traditional rustic homes in the book but also included several contemporary homes with white walls as well. The owners of the contemporary homes decorated them in the rustic style or have included rustic elements and furnishings in their settings. I included these residences to show people what can be done with just a few simple rustic accents. Homes don't have to be made of logs to be rustic. And much of the furniture we offer here in my gallery really falls into the category of art. Ultimately, these pieces blend well into all kinds of settings.

So here's a deal for you. Amazon.com sells my book "CABINS" for $37 dollars plus shipping. I'm selling first edition copies for thirty dollars ($30) plus ten dollars shipping! How can you beat that? And I'll even sign the books as well!

And just to entice people here's another deal for you. I'm also offering a few of my other books on sale as well! That includes:
Cabin in the Woods $15
Hickory Furniture $15
Rustic Fireplaces $15
Adirondack Home $30
Fly Fishing the Great Western Rivers $30

The prices listed above are 50% discounts off the retail price! Shipping on each of these books is ten dollars and if you order more than one book we can probably put a few books in the same box and ship them for the price of one! At any rate we'll offer this deal until February in time for Valentine's Day! These books make excellent holiday gifts. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanza or nothing at all, I think you'll like these books and your friends will certainly enjoy them as well. Like guitars and fly rods one can never have enough books!

I'm also working on a book on the intricacies and nuances of rustic architecture. I hope to have this book on the market soon as well. This will be quite an extraordinary book. I'm still thinking about the title but the book will be a "must-have" for anyone considering hiring an architect. More on this book soon. I'm also negotiating with a European publisher for a book on log cabins. And I have contracts for two other books that I'm diligently working on. I'm also involved with a book on landscapes. I've spent the past few years making images of scenic vistas both here in the Adirondacks and in the West. And so I'll do my best to get this book done as well. In truth its 90% complete now. I have nearly two hundred great images complete and the text is mostly done as well. I just need to find a publisher. Nonetheless, I'll keep people posted on the progress of these other books via my website.

Some people think that I'm crazy and can't possibly be doing all this stuff at once. However, it's like an attorney whose written ten thousand wills. It gets easier as time goes on. Besides, it's nearly impossible for me to sit still. If I relax for just a second the demons attack me. (I'm not kidding.) More than likely many people who are tormented know exactly what I'm talking about. Stop and think about this. Ever wonder why some people work so many hours? I suspect that if some of these people don't do something every minute of the day their personal demons attack them!

On the other hand, my writing and my business are just small parts of what I do. Being a father is far more time consuming and far more involved. It's also far more rewarding. Running my gallery can sometimes be a real headache and dealing with my builders can be a nightmare beyond belief. Customers very often come in to my gallery and want to sit and tell me their life stories and their problems (all of which, in truth, is often quite fascinating).

One of the hardest things I have to deal with is when furniture builders I don't know come in and spend significant time looking at the pieces here in my gallery. I know and they know that I know that their only intention for being at my gallery is to figure out how different builders make things and with the complete and unabashed intention of making copies of what we offer. What really is upsetting to me as when they say "Oh, I can build this." This morning a man and his wife came into my showroom. He was a rustic furniture builder. His wife literally picked out four pieces of my furniture and told her husband to make exact copies of what I have. He then asked me if I would sell him the bark and the legs so he could make his own furniture. As my daughter says…"I don't think so". But I was cool about it and I didn't insult the couple or throw them out. I certainly wanted to. But I didn't. Nonetheless, I politely asked the people to leave. I was very clear with them when I said that no one ever became famous by copying the works of others. They had to find their own "voice and their own styles." I guess I'm maturing nicely but I really did dislike the couple. Where some people get the balls to do that kind of stuff is beyond me. The only time the woman was upset with me, however, was when I threw a 2x4 through their windshield and smashed the driver's side door with my sledge hammer. They also weren't happy when I sprayed them with mace. They finally left when I pulled out my TASER gun and pointed it at them. I think they finally got the message. Hopefully, they won't come back.

Deliveries are always fun and possess certain challenges as well. Usually, I like to just leave off a piece of furniture and go home. Many of my deliveries are hours away from my home and the return trip will be exhausting. When I was young I literally drove a hundred thousand miles a year. Now at sixty one years old I just can't sit for hours on end. My back and my legs ache after being in a vehicle for just a few hours. But very often when I arrive someone wants me to help arrange their entire house, hang paintings, chose paint and fabric colors, want me to stay for lunch or dinner, meet their friends, and give me a very extended tour of their home while they provide endless details of who made this or that piece of furniture, where it was made, etc., etc. Nonetheless, if I didn't enjoy the conversations I would excuse myself and go home. But I really do love spending time with people. It's just that I'm becoming fully aware that I don't have many years left and I really haven't even started my life yet. This may seem like a strange thought but life is over so quick. I do my best these days to not waste a single moment.

I will admit that the past few months have been scary. The economy has taken a serious nose dive and no one knows what's going to happen next. Daily, the terms, "Depression" and "Recession" roar through the airways and news media. And in truth, I really did spend significant time on three very large proposals for potential customers during the past few months. And it's been a bit disturbing when the customers have not called me back. The fear factor really does drive our economy and I will say that I have been worried. Consequently, I have significantly cut back on my spending. Nonetheless, people have continued to come in and every day we've been making small but significant sales. And as of yesterday I've heard back from two of the three potential clients and it appears that they plan on moving ahead with their orders…which, in truth, will keep a few of my builders busy until spring! So from my perspective, things aren't that bad. I also have to keep in mind that this is the change of seasons in my area. Summer is gone as is the fall. Winter is almost here. There are far fewer people walking in my gallery this time of the year than in the warm seasons.

But apart from everything else this is what I do. Every small business has problems. If it was easy all businesses would flourish and everyone would be making money. Here's the bottom line. If you're willing to work very hard, and if you can maintain very high quality in your service and products and if you keep your prices fair you'll do OK. If you don't you'll be back on the streets looking for a job in no time. There is nothing profound about this and I offer no great insights. Just work hard, be original and be fair.

Speaking of my website: I plan on significantly updating it over the next few weeks. So keep in touch please. I'll be placing a ton of new stuff on my site and taking down a lot of the pieces that have been sold.

For just about the past five years my nine year old daughter has begged me for a dog. Since we have no other children it's been hard to refuse. And so a month ago I relented. First we went to the local shelter. Frankly, my heart went out to all the animals they had but none of them were right for us. Two weeks ago my daughter showed me an ad in the local paper for golden lab puppies. So that night we drove an hour south and looked at the dogs in an old farm house. The only one left was a gorgeous ten week old female with huge feet, blond hair and blue eyes. I walked in the door first. The puppy came right over to me and pee'd all over my feet. It was less than an auspicious beginning. My daughter immediately fell in love with the little beast and fifteen minutes later I handed the cash over to the former owner. He didn't give me a receipt and I'm certain he will not declare the cash on his income taxes but he did give me the dogs AKC papers.

Ten minutes into the ride home the dog threw up on the back seat of my new car. A half hour later she did it again. And then she pooped all over the place inside the vehicle. It stunk like hell. Silently, I cursed the dog. But we finally got home and cleaned up the stinking mess. Once inside our home the puppy terrorized my three cats and pee'd on an expensive oriental carpet in my living room.

But I fell in love with the stupid dog. Her huge floppy ears and her big eyes are nothing less than irresistible. And although she is my daughter's dog and she promised to walk her and clean up after her I've risen from my bed every night and taken her for a fifteen minute walk on frozen, snow covered ground.

And naming her was no easy task. I liked Beulah or Bertha or Jerry Garcia. We finally decided on "Riley". Not a perfect name for a dog but at least the discussion is over. Riley Kylloe is now a family member.

Nonetheless, puppies and young dogs are crazy. She actually has psychotic episodes twice a day. Whether she is inside or out she doesn't stop running for an hour. She likes to pull papers off my desk and rip them to shreds. She did this to a lengthy (25 pages) paper I had just written and edited. I now understand why elementary school pupils use the expression "my dog ate my homework". Dogs really do eat homework! And of course she has to sleep with us every night. In the middle of the night on several occasions I thought at first it was my wife but then realized it was my crazy dog slobbering all over my face.

So the day after Halloween, my daughter invited ten of her friends over for an "After Halloween" party. I'm not used to ten kids and I'm not used to a dog. Three cats that leave me along I can handle. My wife knows when to leave me alone. God bless her. But ten kids and a puppy are too much. I didn't want to play "bobbing for apples" or decorate cup cakes. I didn't want to cook hotdogs for ten kids and I didn't want to referee the squabbles between kids who wanted to play in the back yard and the few who wanted to play with the Wii game on my TV. And on top of it I had several customers in my gallery and I had to deal with them as well. But I'm a good dad and a good businessman (I hope) and I did the best I could. No one yelled at me and all the kids went home reasonably happy. And even though they ate a ton of candy, hot dogs, potato chips, cupcakes, sodas and other unrecognizable food stuffs none of the parents called me complaining. All in all it was a good day and I can now sit and write stuff that I should have done a few months ago.

On another note I was the chef at a party for a few hundred friends this past summer. I knew many of the people and we all had a great time. One very heavy man came back to me six different times over the course of an hour. Each time he came back I served him another hot dog on top of his pile of chips and beans. As I had my grill near the picnic tables I couldn't help but notice that the hot dog man also consumed a few cans of beer with each plate of food he consumed.

As the day progressed he eventually came over to me and chatted for a while. He was not shy about the fact that he weighed nearly three hundred pounds. He also told me that he was on complete disability as he had had three heart attacks and was scheduled for bypass surgery a few days later. The guy was only forty five years old and he laughed when he talked about the government checks he was receiving.

Frankly, I wanted to tell the guy that I hoped he dropped dead right there on the spot. To me there was something wrong with this picture. Apart from the fact that the guy is now probably now dead why should my tax money go to pay for this guys abuse and stupidity? Frankly, the guy made me sick. I'm not going to ramble on about personal responsibility but I think that many people share my sentiments.

Here's a little episode from a few months ago.
8-28-08. It was a strange morning. I had received a parking ticket and I was going to court to contest it. We have a Post Office Box where we receive our mail and I had parked in front of the post office and ran in to get my mail. Because it's busy in the summer time all of the local residents park in the stripped zone in front of the post office, run in and retrieve their mail. Dozens of people do this every day. And I have done this just about every day for the past fifteen years.

And so here I am with my car running. I was literally pulling out of the parking place and a state trooper pulls right up behind me and demands to see my license and registration. So I turned off my vehicle and gave him the info he needed. He was tough cocky cop who thought he was God. He wrote me a ticket for illegal parking even though I was literally in the process of driving away. While I was parked waiting for the officer to write the citation another car pulled up right behind the cop. From the vehicle came a very elderly lady. She left her car running and deposited her mail in the outside mail box. So as I was being handed the ticket I told the cop that if I was to get a citation then the lady behind his car should receive one as well. Of course he didn't like me telling me his business so he ordered me to get back in my vehicle and drive away. Fortunately the car directly in front of me was pulling out of a legal spot and I promptly pulled in, put a quarter in the machine and patiently waited to insure that he gave the driver of the car behind him a ticket as well. Seconds later the cop knocks on my window and orders me to leave. With that I got out of my car and assured him that I was in a completely legal parking spot and that I had already put money in the machine. "And I'm going to stand right here to insure that you give the other vehicle a ticket just like you did to me", I said.

With my comment the cop turned red in the face. I honestly thought I was going to be arrested or beaten to death. But the cop just turned and walked away. So I went to court this morning and was fully ready to demand a trial with a jury to determine my fate or innocence. And there I sat for nearly three hours while the judge deposed of drunks, speeding violations, public urinators, petty thefts, unlicensed drivers, juvenile offenders and bail jumpers. The district attorney was also there handing out justice and sending a few people to jail. Two people were escorted in wearing fully striped prison garb and in shackles. And they were relatively intimidating looking individuals I must say.

So about two hours into this scene an elderly man was brought in wearing hand cuffs. He immediately started cursing and insulting the judge and prosecutor. He had been arrested for stealing three bottles of wine from the local grocery store the night before. Apparently he had jumped bail months earlier and had a long list of crimes which the prosecutor read loud enough for everyone in the court room to hear. But he was an old man, stooped and thin and wearing ragged clothes. He could not speak well and he needed a shower. In time it became apparent that he had gone more than twenty four hours without his insulin and I thought for certain that he was going to collapse right on the spot. But he continued to insult the judge and the prosecutor and deny that he had any criminal record. He also screamed at the arresting policeman. Everyone in the room thought he was going to die on the spot or be thrown in jail. It was very apparent that the judge was now quite upset. Nonetheless, the judge ordered the man out of the court room and into the custody of the local sheriff.

So of course my case was called next. The judge took a second to compose himself. I wish he had called for a full recess or lunch. But there I stood ready to argue about a parking ticket. I was fully prepared to ask for a jury trial. The judge read the charges to me. I didn't understand violation 239573865 or what the implications were. So when the judge asked if I understood the charges I said "no". And I could tell he was frustrated by my answer.

But there's a twist to the story. Apparently the eighty five year old lady who had parked behind the officer was also given a ticket and was in court a few days before my own appearance. Apparently she screamed at the cop and the judge and caused quite an uproar because she had just been trying to send her mail. She complained that because there are no parking places locals should be allowed at least five minutes to do their business at the post office. After a half hour outburst from her the prosecutor dropped the charges and dismissed the case. And the lady was aggressive enough to demand an apology from the police officer and would not leave until he apologized. And of course he did!

And I was quite pleased when the prosecutor said that they were dropping the charges against me as well! I was disappointed that I didn't have a chance to argue my case but was happy to leave the court house and all the bizarre characters behind. I know this is not a very intriguing story but I had to wait nearly three hours in the courtroom until my case was heard. And because writing for me is great therapy I thought I would ramble on for a few minutes to get the frustrations out of my head. It really was a waste of a good morning but realizing that there are a lot of people in the who are much weirder and have far more problems than I, is, in reality, good therapy. Because of this experience I actually do feel better about myself! Nonetheless, I apologize for bothering readers with this kind of stuff.

I spent the past three weeks in October in Montana. I had and absolutely great time. I photographed three or four great homes in the Bozeman area as well as in Big Sky. I also had the supreme pleasure of driving up to the Glacier National Park area and photographing a great lake side home there as well. The nice thing about the trip was that it was peak foliage in the Rockies and I was knocked out by the beauty of the entire area.

On my drive back down to Bozeman I couldn't help but stop by one of the great rivers in Northern Montana and fish for a while. So I hiked in to the wilderness for quite some time and on my very first cast into Clearwater Creek I landed an enormous 22" cut throat trout. A few minutes later I was shocked when a state trooper showed up. I was very happy that I had a legitimate out-of-state fishing license. But that's not what the trooper was after. He politely informed me that there were several very hungry grizzly bears in the area and that I should be very careful. I assured him that I would take the necessary precautions. With that I drove about twenty miles to a small town where I purchased a can of "Bear Spray" from the local sporting goods store. An hour later I was back on the stream casting for trout. Within a half hour I landed a few other 14" trout. But that was it. I spent the next six hours casting up and down the stream but had no hits. And I saw no bears!

I also had the great pleasure of attending the Cody High Style show in Cody, Wyoming. The Western Design Conference was at one time held in Cody but was moved over to Jackson Hole a few years ago. Nonetheless, the resilient folks in Cody offer another fabulous event with many of the finest rustic furniture builders in the country showing their latest creations. The Cody High Style show is held the third week in September and its well worth a trip out there.

In all honesty I really missed visiting Cody in the fall and had not been there in three years. Nonetheless, I greatly enjoyed seeing many old friends and their work. In the past I had been a judge at the Cody show and had been a speaker there thirteen different times. I certainly hope I'm invited to speak there next year as it is one of the great events in the rustic design world.

On another note I really do see the Republicans as ruthless and arrogant. They love smear campaigns. They love to ruin lives and make people look bad. I recall the "Willie Horton" ads against Michael Dukakis. And I remember the "Swift Boat" books and ads against John Kerry. And I recall the seventy million dollars the republicans spent trying to put Bill and Hillary Clinton in prison. And now Barack Obama is on the receiving end of the republican's tactics. He's been called a Muslim (what's wrong with being a muslin? Christianity has just as many fanatics and crackpots). Republicans complain about his middle name. There are actually sweatshirts and coffee mugs on the market saying that Obama is the "anti-Christ." They say that he associates with terrorists. They complain that he wants to sit down for talks with our enemies. Well, why not? How else do people expect to resolve problems? They complain about his lack of experience and there have been rumblings about all kinds of other crap as well. I could go on and on about this but it would be really great if people just sat down and figured out how to solve problems.

Here's another thought. I really don't care what someone does in their private lives. No one is perfect. Every last person on the planet has skeletons in their closet. I just want politicians to do the job the American people want and need them to do. I don't expect angels. I just want problems solved.

On another note I have watched with horror the past few months as our financial institutions are literally melting down. And I listen intently to the pundits on TV blame the FED, the government, the regulations, etc. Here's the bottom line. It's the god damned greedy CEOs, owners, presidents and bosses of these large institutions that are raping their own businesses. When I hear of individuals who are making two hundred to five hundred million dollars a year plus bonuses I want to throw up. These people are nothing less than common thieves. And it's shocking to hear of the buy-outs, the retirement packages and the settlement packages that are in the tens of millions of dollars. These people are nothing less than common criminals. These people are nothing less than tyrants.

And then they (we) expect the US Government to bail them out. Well….. screw that shit. The people who have done this to publically and privately held businesses belong in prison. If a guy can get a year in jail for smoking a joint then a god damned CEO should go to prison for life for raping a company. The government should go after the bank accounts, all the homes, boats, jewelry, sail boats, art work, cars, private planes and everything else that the white collar criminals have stolen from these companies. The government should be relentless. But that won't happen because we have an illiterate arrogant president (George W. Bush) who hides behind the guise of fighting terrorism and defending freedom. Well, for Christ Sake, the CEOs of AIG, Fannie Mae, Freddy Mac, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sacks, Lehman Bros., and dozens of other bosses are TERRORISTS. They are raping the country and destroying the financial back bone of this nation. They are literally stealing from the pockets of taxpayers. And more than likely the taxpayers have to bail out these financially bereft institutions.

And for God's sake stop the stupid war in Iraq and bring our troops home. We have more problems here than we know what to do with and we don't need the government wasting our tax dollars in Iraq.

And what really irks me is that the top republicans spent a week in a hotel a month ago. Their sole purpose was how to get back the White House and the Senate. They should have spent the time figuring out ways to solve real problems. They should have the interests of the American people in the forefront of their minds and find ways to solve the horrible problems we all face.

Here's another thing that's absolutely crazy. Ike, the hurricane, slammed Texas and the other gulf states a month or so ago. It also slammed Cuba. So our god damned government goes and offers CUBA, who has caused us nightmares for years, five million dollars in relief aid. What kind of crap is that? Why don't we take the god damned money and build better damns in New Orleans and wherever else updates are needed.

And you have to love the CEO's of the big three motor companies. What an arrogant bunch of creeps. They fly their private jets to Washington and beg for money. It's funny that you don't see Toyota pleading for public funds. I wonder why Toyota can make great automobiles and American companies cannot. I wonder why the Toyota company is so profitable and why their company runs so smoothly. My Prius get fifty miles to the gallon of gas. In truth in the past twenty years between my wife and me we've owned probably fifteen new Toyotas and we have never once had a problem with any of them. I'm not going to say any more on this subject or I'll have a heart attack.

THANKSGIVING 2008
I am often reminded of the blessings I have. My wife, daughter and I drove to Boston to spend Thanksgiving and a few days with friends. Our friends not only have two great daughters but a fifteen year old, low functioning autistic son well. In truth, those readers who have experience with severe autism know that life can be trying. On our second day of visiting their son had a severe seizure and was rushed to the hospital. He stayed there for four days. His parents stayed with him. So we took their two daughters and had a grand Thanksgiving dinner at a fancy hotel in Boston. I wasn't happy about the three hundred and fifty dollar bill for the dinner but I count my blessings every minute of every day and am incredibly grateful that I have a healthy child. I also feel the need to say that parents, like our friends, who raise their handicapped kids at home are nothing less than angels. I personally don't think I could find the strength to do such a thing.

With that said my puppy is now tugging at my leg. I am certain she needs to go outside to relieve herself. I am thankful that she decided not to use the oriental carpet in my living room but just wish I didn't have to put on water proof clothes and walk outside into the ice storm that's presently "slamming" us here in upstate New York. Take care, Ralph

PS. I've calmed down now.



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Monday, July 28, 2008

I spent the past three weeks wandering around Europe. I was with my wife and daughter as well as my sister-in-law and father-in-law. The trip was mostly business but I took some time to enjoy the sights and culture of the area.

Because we used our frequent flyer mileage we had to fly out of Newark, NJ, which is five hours south of my home in Lake George, NY. It was the closest airport to where we could get a European flight on the dates we needed.

From the start I will say that there is a difference between European airlines and airlines that are run by Americans. Our flight on Lufthansa took off on time. Ear phones for the movies were free. Within an hour we were served a delicious hot meal that included fresh shrimps in the salad. Cocktails were free throughout the entire flight. Later in the night cognac and Baileys were served to the passengers. And you could drink as much as your little heart desired. No charge at all. As the sun rose we were served a delicious hot breakfast with croissants, eggs and cheeses. The flights attendants were the best I had ever experienced. Professional and confident in every way we were treated with respect and care throughout the long flight. And we were sitting in coach class! I wondered how the first and business class passengers were being treated.

And so as the sun rose we arrived in the legendary city of Paris. I had arranged with our hotel to pick us up but after waiting an hour we hired a van to take us to the city. My first impressions were one of disappointment. The outskirts reflected modern architecture, industry and snarled traffic. But in time we arrived in the inner city and the opulence and beauty of the most extraordinary city in the world.

Our hotel was in a great neighborhood near the Eiffel tower. Once we settled in we took a bus tour of the city and all the tourist hot spots. It really is an amazing place. Everyone should spend a week in Paris but don't even think about going there in the summertime. There are just too many tourists at that time of year. At any rate we visited the Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and several other museums as well. I had been in Paris before but I still marveled at the culture and architecture. All of it was quite extraordinary. And of course we ate several great dinners at sidewalk cafes. But don't be fooled by the cafes. Most of them are geared toward the tourist trade and are not averse to serving "cultured" fast food to tourists who can't read the menus, speak the language or complain about anything. We found it necessary to ask the locals where the great restaurants were.

With all that said driving and walking are the most dangerous activities in Paris or any other European city. The drivers of both motorcycles and cars are out of their minds. We learned to cross streets only in legitimate, clearly marked, cross-walks and only when the traffic lights told us to do so. And it's necessary to look both ways before walking onto any street. Driving, on the other hand, is for people who have lost their minds, are stupid, masochistic and just plain ignorant. Drivers, both foreign and domestic, really are crazy.

Because I was smart (at least I thought I was) I had decided to walk the streets of Paris or take a cab whenever necessary. So on the last day of our visit to Paris we returned to the airport where I had rented a large van to accommodate the five of us, our luggage and a wheel chair that was occasionally used by my father-in-law or anyone else in our group who was too exhausted to walk any longer. So I picked up the van from the airport rental agency and was disappointed when it was too small to accommodate us. So I returned the vehicle and asked for a larger one. No Problem…..just another half hour of paperwork and I was again on my way. Tragically, after spending another hour packing the new van it became apparent that it was also too small. So I returned that van and spent another half hour standing in line filling out paper work. In time it became apparent that the largest vehicle at the Charles DeGaulle airport was a modified school bus with manual transmission. I didn't complain. I took the bus. And on the bright side of the experience it comfortably accommodated the five of us and all of our luggage. It was also large enough to allow all of us to sleep comfortably for a week if needed. And if we had the entire membership of the Lake George Chamber of Commerce it would have accommodated them as well.

Driving the bus was like driving a monster truck. And driving it in Paris and on European highways was far worse than root canal work, a proctoscopic rectal exam and childbirth all rolled into one. First of all unless you're fluent in several written and spoken European languages you can't read the street signs or road maps. And god forbid they should have the highways numbered or clearly marked. It just wasn't so. At the same time the GPS we had with us, which had been programmed for Europe, was totally worthless. And since we couldn't speak the language we could not effectively ask for directions. It was like being lost at sea with no compass.

When I say that driving a stick shift bus/truck in Europe is a horror beyond all horrors I mean it. And honest to god, I was driving on the highways at eighty miles per hour and people were passing me doing a hundred fifty. And motorcycles were just a blur. They would weave in and out of traffic like flies around a dead horse. It was just plain scary. There were three days when I would have gladly divorced my wife. Had my finger been on the trigger of a nuclear weapon I would have pressed it. The thought of driving twelve and fourteen hours and not being able to find your hotel in another city, or getting so lost you hated everyone, is nothing less than nightmarish. That's how it was when we drove. And because no one else could drive a stick shift I was the one behind the wheel. And keep in mind that gasoline in Europe is about $8.50 a gallon!

But it wasn't all bad. I saw no accidents on the highways. And if you drive down any highway in America you'll see skid marks all over the place. There was none of that on the European highways. But something else was remarkable as well. In over two thousand miles of driving I saw only one squashed animal. And it was a small squirrel.

The reason for that is that all of the highways and many of the secondary roads are lined with ten foot high wire fences. And on top of the fence is another one foot of barbed wire that faced away from the road. I'm sorry but deer just can't jump over an eleven foot fence. Consequently there are no road killed deer or other animals.

Stop and think about this. You can drive down just about any highway in America and see dead deer and road killed animals all over the place. It's like a war zone. Frankly, it disgusts me. A year or so ago I heard a report that said animal collisions cause over a billion dollars a year in damage to vehicles. They also cause over forty deaths to humans each year. So why don't we build tall fences around our highways? The arrogant republicans argue that it's too expensive and that it's good for the economy to have animal/vehicle collisions. It requires people to pay big money to have their vehicles repaired or to buy new ones all together. It keeps people employed and keeps insurance rates high. Regardless, maybe if we built the fences it would save lives and save the American people billions of dollars a year. It might also save the lives of millions of animals as well.

But the highways in Europe are far safer than one is led to believe. Even when I was in the left hand lane no one passed me on the right. And the roads were all perfectly smooth. They are that way because polymers (plastics) are mixed in with the asphalt and concrete when the roads are constructed. The polymers allow the road to expand and contract as the weather changes. We don't do that here in America because Ronald Regan ordered polymers be removed from our roads. If our roads lasted longer, he argued, all of the road repair companies would go out of business. I see it as just another rape of the American public by those in power.

On the other hand I have never seen cleaner streets or highways anywhere. There was literally no trash, garbage, blown out tires, plastic bags, empty bottles or cans, newspapers, luggage, or any other junk anywhere on the highways. And the funny thing is that we saw no workers or anyone else cleaning up a mess. The Europeans actually do take pride in keeping their roads clean. They just don't make the mess that we do. This was embarrassing to me. Frankly, we are a nation of slobs. We just don't give a damn. We toss garbage out of our car windows and think nothing of it. We have the attitude of "let someone else clean it up". To me it's disgusting. But enough of the bad stuff for a while. From Paris we drove east through the wine country which was both nightmarish (because of the poor directions and road signs) and extraordinary. The French countryside really is incredibly beautiful. The rolling hills, the old world architecture and the ambiance of quaint villages were nothing less than enchanting. In the evening we finally found our chateau just outside of Strasburg. It was an old world place set on a river with manicured grounds and gardens. A wedding party was in full swing on the river bank and my daughter and I were tempted to join in the fun. We didn't feel quite right about it, however, as we were dressed in jeans. That night we walked into the small town of Oswald, found a local restaurant, struggled through the ordering process and had a great dinner. The following day we toured the old section of Strasburg. It was marvelous. But I couldn't help but feel a bit disconnected as the town was perfectly preserved and as picturesque as could be. Along with great old world architecture and colors it also offered a prodigious selection of tourist trinkets, bistros and street corner vendors willing to take any and all of your money for stuff that you absolutely don't need. I think I've been to Disney land too many times. From Strasburg we drove through some great country and onto Salzburg. Austria is gorgeous. Tiny towns sit nestled in the foothills of towering mountains. Both chalets and farms reflect ancient architecture. Rusted delivery trucks delivered fresh bread in the mornings to many small homes in local villages. Chickens and ducks ran between the cars as I drove my bus through tiny villages. It was as romantic as any place could be.

In time we found our hotel in Salzburg. In the morning I went fishing on the Ager River about an hour out of town. The section of river we fished was private water. My guide, Hennes Hogarth, a native Austrian, spoke enough English to make me comfortable. Hennes, a profoundly friendly individual, is an exact copy of Arnold Schwarzenegger….only more extreme. Imagine, for a second, Arnold, in his best Austrian accent, shouting "no, no, you got to do da rolly thing wit your wrist before you cast da line". This was Hennes at his finest. Around noon time we took a break and had lunch at the local restaurant on the shores of the river. Three other gentlemen joined us. Classy in every way the four men spoke in German about fishing. I could pick up different words and was thrilled when they asked me about fly fishing in America. And I did my best to describe the many opportunities for fly fishing in my part of the world. The food, I had the fish and Hennes had the goulash, was superb.

I caught trout all day. And Hennes stood by my side coaching my every cast. He was also the best caster I've ever fished with. The river was easy to fish and quite picturesque. We stayed on the water until total darkness. I arrived back at the hotel near midnight. My family was waiting in the hotel lounge and happy to see me. It really was a grand day.

In the morning we had breakfast in the hotel and wandered along the banks of the Salzach River. A bit later we took a tour of the local mountains. We stopped and listened to the guide give details of Adolph Hitler's retreat, Eagles Nest, which stood before us. The drive through the mountains was nothing less than glorious. Later that day we stopped at a small town along the banks of an alpine lake. Offering cultural tourist trade items, gourmet lunches and Bavarian beer the town was as picturesque as could be. That night I took my family to a great restaurant that had been in the same sunken basement and the same family for seven hundred years. The ambiance was great and the aromas of the food were intoxicating. Unfortunately before our dinners arrived my daughter fell ill and I returned to our hotel room with her. It was a small price to pay to keep my daughter happy. I was told the dinners were superb.

From Salzburg we were to travel further East to Vienna. But I was sick of the driving and the crazy drivers. So I called the hotel in Vienna and cancelled the rooms. We all agreed that it was the right thing to do. Our plan was to drive through the Alps and spend a day or so in the south of France before returning to Paris for several more days of tourist stuff. The drive back was grueling.

The main highway we were driving dead ends in Innsbruck. Imagine thousands of cars and trucks during rush hour exiting a major highway into a major city that offered nothing more than side streets, no traffic signals, no directional signs and nothing more than psychotic drivers going every direction possible. Of course we got lost. It was an absolute nightmare. But, in time, after trying every street possible, we made our way out of Switzerland and into France. Then came the city of Dijon.

I had been in the world's capital of mustards years earlier and loved it. But this time it was a horror beyond horrors. Imagine streets so narrow that both of the rearview mirrors are knocked off at the same time. After an hour of not finding a hotel or parking place, and pleading with ones wife for directions I headed back to the highway in total despair and frustration.

But just before I was to enter the highway I turned right and drove a few miles along a scenic body of water lined with massive old growth hardwood trees. A few miles down we came across a small village with ponds and canals. In the center of town was an outdoor café. I parked the bus and went for a walk with my daughter. I had to get out of the car. I couldn't deal with people anymore. Fourteen hours of driving was too much. The others in the vehicle went into the café and ordered dinner and drinks. My daughter and I wandered through the town for sometime petting the local cats and dogs. Eventually, after my nerves settled, we sat down at the table and had a great dinner. The owners told us of a nearby hotel and I slept like a log when I finally hit the bed.

In the morning we loaded the bus and made our way back toward Paris. But as usual we couldn't find the right roads. But in my heart I'm a wanderer. So I just pulled off the main road and drove for many miles through the country side. It was, for me, the happiest time of the trip. The tiny towns and villages in the south of France are nothing less than the quintessential experience. I made photos of the areas throughout the day. It was really thrilling. I fully understand why Monet, Manet, Renoir, and many other impressionist painters loved the area. The colors are soft and gentle, the forms passionate and the architecture and environment inviting. It is an artist's paradise. It's the closest place to heaven on earth I can think of. Near one small town we found a picturesque park along side of a canal. Several house boats were moored along the banks. Each boat offered intense, passionate colors as well as deck furniture, bouquets of flowers and the aroma of fresh baked breads and cooking bacon as the occupants prepared for the day. Each boat was an extraordinary painting in itself.

In the park sat a small dock. On the dock were several ducks and a few geese. As animal lovers we love feeding the many creatures we saw throughout the trip. And so without much thought we pulled a loaf of bread from the bus and walked the few feet toward the dock to feed the birds. Once the ducks saw us they quickly made their way toward us fully aware that we were going to offer them food. Once we started tossing food the ducks happily gobbled up our offerings. Strangely the geese passed by the food and made their way directly toward me.

Keep in mind that I love animals and I happily smiled as the big goose made his way toward me. But a few feet from me he opened his wings and started screaming at me. Then he bit my leg so hard that I screamed. And with that two French gentlemen who were enjoying lunch at a nearby table broke in riotous laughter. And the damn goose didn't stop biting me until I hit him with my camera. Keep in mind that I don't like using a three thousand dollar camera as a defensive weapon but what else could I do? And the damn goose followed me all over the place nipping at my bare legs whenever he wanted. But it was a fun thing for us as it lightened our moods that had suffered greatly from the difficulties of driving.

Frankly, in retrospect, we would have preferred to stay in the south of France. Wandering around with no set agenda seemed to suit all of our needs. But we had made hotel reservations in Paris and we were all tired of being in the bus. Eventually we found the right roads and endured heavy traffic as we approached the city. But tragically I missed a turnoff and was dumped unceremoniously into the heart of Paris. It was a nightmare beyond nightmares. The stress was so horrible that as I write this my blood pressure is rising. Around and around we went. Traffic circles were like dodging bullets, reading signs were impossible and other drivers, I'm certain, took great pleasure in tormenting me as I struggled to find my way. And through all this I'm certain that my father-in-law cursed the day his daughter married me. But eventually we found signs for the airport and the car rental return area. After circling the airport twice we finally arrived at the place where I could say good-by to the truck that I had cursed for twenty-five hundred miles. And of course the driver who was to return us to our Paris hotel was not there. He finally showed up two hours late.

The drive to our hotel was also a nightmare. It was pitch black outside when we started the twenty mile trip. The driver could not speak English but politely entered the name of our hotel into his GPS. Well to make a very long story short he entered the wrong address and nearly dumped us off in a horrible neighborhood at midnight. He just couldn't find the hotel and no amount of coaxing from us would make him use his cell phone to call the hotel.

But finally, after much frustration, we arrived at the Best Western in Paris. Frankly, I would not have chosen the place but it was advertised as just a few blocks off the Champs-Elysées and near many of the attractions we wanted to see. But the moment we walked into the place we were disappointed. It stunk like a cheap hotel. There were no people to help with our luggage. The "original" paintings on the walls were nothing more than glossy posters in fake plastic frames. Even the book case in the lobby was filled with the bindings of old books nailed to the wall. And the rooms stunk like a cheap brothel. And all this nearly caused a divorce. Nonetheless, we were all so tired we just agreed to spend the night and resolve the situation in the morning. After fourteen hours of driving and putting up with all kinds of stuff I slept like a log. In the morning I wandered downstairs, searched the internet and found a great hotel near the Louvre. It was expensive but I just wanted a place where I would feel safe and comfortable. After making the reservation I woke my wife and daughter and told them what I had done. They were thrilled. I asked my wife to oversee the move to the new hotel and she agreed. I then told my daughter to get dressed. She giggled with delight when I told her that we would be going to Disneyland Paris! It would be just her and I! We needed some fun time together and she had been very tolerant of all the "adult" things we had done over the past few weeks. You would think I would learn from my mistakes. But NOOOOOOO. The man behind the counter at our hotel told us it was easy to get to Disney. "Just take the local subway and you'll be there in no time", he said in slaughtered English. And so we walked out of the hotel door and right into three French policemen who were in the process of arresting a hooker and her client. Try explaining that to a nine year old daughter. And of course she wanted to know all of the details. Another block down the street we passed a guy urinating on a tree. "Daddy, let's get out of this place", said my daughter. I did my best to accommodate her.

So we found the "M". That's the subway in Paris. I now look at the experience as a descent to hell as we walked down the stairs and into the labyrinth of tunnels, tubes, street vendors, beggars, noise and people. We asked several official looking individuals for directions. They all said the same thing. What it was, even at this very moment, I do not know. So we just wandered around in both terror and frustration. Finally, a good hour later, we saw a tiny sign that said "Disney Parc". To make a long story short I paid for tickets for the train ride and we made our way further underground into the bowels of Paris. My daughter made it through the gate first. Then it was my turn. To my horror when I was halfway through the gate, it slammed shut automatically trapping me. But I squeezed through the barriers and was horrified when ear splitting alarms went off. Of course everyone looked at me as though I was a criminal. At that moment thoughts of spending a year in a French prison raced through my mind. But no one paid much attention and we sped off to find the right station and the right train. In time we boarded a train, got off at the appropriate stop and then transferred to another train. Finally, after more than two hours we got off at the right stop for the Magic Kingdom! And for the rest of the day we battled crowds, vendors, two foot long hot dogs, more vendors and all the magic that is Disney. First was the tea cup ride. I nearly vomited after being spun endlessly around. Then we took a trip on the Pirates of the Caribbean roller coaster. I screamed my head off while my daughter laughed at me. Then we wandered throughout the park and enjoyed several more rides. The live presentation of the Lion King in English was nice but not as professional as the Florida Disneyland or the Broadway production. Then my daughter got sick.

We wound up in the Disney infirmary where the nurse, who couldn't speak English, dispensed a few pills to take away my daughters aches in her stomach. Then, more walking and looking at princess dresses. Two hours later we were back in the infirmary. This time it was more serious. The nurse, who spoke excellent English, fretted over my daughter. We were immediately led to a bed. Blood was taken. All the vital signs were recorded. This time significant more drugs were given and I were told that if the condition did not improve she needed to be seen immediately by a physician in Paris.

My daughter was obviously concerned but seemed more interested in the guy next to us who was throwing up all over the place and the individual across from us who was experiencing a heart attack. Two hours later we were back on our feet and waiting patiently for the daily parade. Keep in mind that July is peak tourist season and the park was more crowded than ever. Unfortunately the crowds along Main Street were twenty five people deep and front row seats were impossible. We were disappointed as all we could see were tops of the bouncing heads of the dancers. Then it was all over. The fireworks didn't start until 11PM so we decided to return home rather than wait.

Earlier in the day, however, I had an interesting experience while having lunch at one of the many cafes at Disney. My daughter and I sat down right next to an Arabic couple. We politely smiled to them and made small talk with the couple about the crowds and the heat. The gentleman was wearing designer jeans, a polo shirt and a very stylish blazer. His shoes were perfectly polished and his hair was neat and trim. He was also attached to an IPod but I could not hear what he was listening to. I could only imagine. His wife was wearing a totally black burka and only her eyes were visible. I caught her stare a few times as I tended to my daughter. Near the end of lunch I jokingly said to the man that I was surprised that he was wearing such stylish comfortable clothes while his wife suffered in the heat inside of her burka. There was dead silence for a few seconds. I really didn't know if the man was going to laugh or kill me. But I asked the question in a serious manner and I looked forward to his answer. Moments later the man stood and said, "It is our way. Do not interfere". With that he looked at his wife and she immediately rose to leave. As she passed me I could hear just a few faint words from her. "Thank you", was what I think she said. They disappeared into the crowd. I am certain that he declared me to be an "infidel" and asked his god to strike me down at the earliest possible convenience. Fortunately, it hasn't yet happened.

The train ride back was easy. We got off early at what I deemed to be the correct stop. But I felt like an absolute fool when we ascended the stairs to find ourselves in a less then desirable section of the city. We had gotten off a stop too early. But we struggled through it. A few miles down the road we found the Louvre and expected to find our hotel and the rest of our family waiting for us. That was not to be.

Like an absolute, arrogant idiot I couldn't remember the name of the new hotel and I didn't write it down before we left for Disney. Surely the last hotel where we stayed wouldn't know and we had no cell phones to call. The photos of the hotel on the internet showed it to be right by the Louvre. Where was it? After more than an hour of more walking I realized that if I could get back on a computer I could look up the site where I found the hotel. The hotel would surely be listed. So we went into a grand building only to be told that their internet service was down. And finally, after a half hour of explanation, they mentioned the name of our hotel! It was the Lotti and it was only another mile down the road. Like a thrilled kid I dragged my daughter another mile and walked into our building! And to my joy they knew who I was and gave me the key to our room. Unfortunately, it was the wrong room and I had to return to the desk, wait in line, and then get the correct key. It was well after midnight when we finally passed out. Just another twenty hour day in the crazy life of Ralph Kylloe.

We slept till noon the following day. In the afternoon we walked in the gardens and park near the Louvre. We went on the Ferris wheel and other carnival rides. My daughter enjoyed a pony ride with a few other kids. We ate some food and enjoyed a dramatic sunset over the city. As the evening settled in a handsome couple asked me to make a photo of them with their camera. The man was decked out in his finest and the young woman, in a beautiful low cut, sexy dress, was the desire of all men. And so I posed them in front of the Louvre and made several great photos. I then told them that Paris is the city of lovers and rambled on further about being in love and all the passions that go with it. I asked them to change their pose to reflect the romantic nature of the city. They didn't move an inch. I made a few more images of them anyway and handed their camera back to them. As we walked away my daughter said to me "Dad, that was his daughter".

The following day was Bastille Day in France. Two million people lined the streets of Paris to see the Parade. To make matters more interesting The Conference of European Leaders as well as leaders from all the Mid East countries was being held in Paris at the same time. More than fifty of the most powerful men in Europe and the mid East were in hotels within just a few blocks of where we were staying. Limos with consulate flags were everywhere as were thousands of fully armed guards from many branches of the French security and military forces.

On one of my many walks throughout the city I was photographing horizontal and vertical lines in the unique architecture (photographers and artists do such things). Into the view of my camera walked a very masculine, fully armed French military man in full battle regalia. He was a serious guy. In truth I liked his looks. So I followed him for a block or so making photos of the setting and him from across the street. I'm certain that he was fully aware of what I was doing as he was looking directly at me. In time I found myself on the same side of the street as the soldier and no more than forty yards from him. Suddenly he raised his machine gun, looked me right in the eye and shouted "HALT". Trust me when I say that this was a very scary situation. I really didn't know if there were laws about photographing security people in France. Nonetheless, I immediately stopped what I was doing. He was now pointing directly at me with one hand and handling his machine gun with the other. I slowly put down my camera and open my hands to appear nonthreatening. I walked directly toward him. He spoke several words in French. I had no idea what he was saying. I spoke back in English. He looked me right in the eye and said "Camera…You Photograph." Then a buddy of his appeared who was also fully armed. I could feel my blood pressure rising. The two of them stood shoulder to shoulder and motioned for me to come closer. I did. The one soldier then put his arm around the other and said to me, "You take picture of us". The two of them were smiling as they struck a macho battle pose. I lifted my camera and to my dismay realized that my camera battery was now dead. Nonetheless, I acted like I made the photos anyway and then quickly disappeared into a crowd. I never saw them again. Why this kind of stuff happens to me I'll never know.

We were told by the concierge at our hotel that the best place for citizens to see the parade was on the Champs-Elysées just a few miles from us. So in the morning the five of us put on our walking shoes and began the long march to the parade route. When I say that hundreds of thousands of people had exactly the same idea I'm not kidding. An hour or so later we realized that it would not be possible to see the parade so we turned around and headed back to the hotel. Hundreds of thousands of people all trying to see the same thing was not our idea of a good time.

Nonetheless, on the way back several very impressive formations of military jets and bombers roared over the city to the delight of the people below. Then from several thousand feet in the sky eight parachutists jumped from their plane and landed perfectly in front of the stands where the dignitaries sat. It was very impressive. And of course we couldn't help but watch the fully armed military helicopters land right in the park in front of us. It was both noisy and exciting.

That afternoon my daughter and I wandered the parks and delighted in feeding the pigeons, ducks and the fishes in the many ponds and fountains that are common throughout the city. That night the crowds were treated to a spectacular fireworks display near the Eiffel Tower. It was quite extraordinary. I visited the Louvre twice while I was in Paris. It's an astonishing place but my taste lies more in the Romantic periods. The Louvre contains mostly high religious art and I grew tired of looking at angles, dead religious figures, wars scenes with bodies all over the place and virgin mothers holding naked infants with halos over their heads. At the same time my daughter was embarrassed by the statues of naked men all over the place.

Regardless, I walked through several salons (galleries) and up a set of stairs. On the first landing Venus de Milo rested and was ignored by most visitors. Down another long hall that contained many huge paintings is a doorway on the right. The floors are covered with parquet oak panels. The walls are a soft yellow. An overhead sky light illuminates the area. Exactly forty paces into the salon is a wall on which hangs a single painting. A barrier exactly thirty two paces from the entry to the salon prevents people from getting too close to the painting. On the wall behind the barrier and behind a thick glass casing rests the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a very striking image. Few people know what they are looking at. Most people have photos of themselves made with the Mona Lisa in the background. Why… I don't know. The average individual spent no more than thirty seconds looking at it. Then they wandered off to let the hundreds of people behind them have their thirty seconds looking at the world's most famous painting.

I had seen the painting some twenty years ago on my first visit to Paris. It was in a different salon at that time and viewers could view the painting from just a few feet away. I was mesmerized by the painting then and was mesmerized by the painting now. I had studied the painting for many years and as I peered at the masterpiece again I had tears in my eyes. The painting itself stands as a monument to the supreme creativity of all humanity. It is a joy beyond belief.

As clouds passed over the sun the light in the salon changed dramatically. The quirky smile on the figure in the painting seemed more pronounced as the room darkened. The strange and surreal background of the painting becomes more mysterious as the light faded. The hands of the Mona Lisa, which always seemed too large to me, take on a different meaning as the light changed. Further, the colors of the painting intensified as the afternoon wore on. I know the history of the painting well and the greatness of the artist has not escaped my notice. I actually felt sorry for the thousands of individuals who did not spend time with the lady. It was their loss. Knowledge and patience is the key to joy and happiness in life. Most people have no idea what they are missing. Their lives are statements of mediocrity because they have not bothered to cultivate themselves.

I also twice visited the Musee d' Orsay while I was in Paris. The museum is on the banks of the Seine River just down the road from the Louvre. The Musee d' Orsay is devoted primarily to the Romantics. Its impressive collection of Impressionistic artwork thrilled me. They also had a great exhibit of Art Noveau furniture and a stunning exhibit of early photographic works as well. I loved every second of both my visits.

One evening the five of us visited a very stylish restaurant that doubled as a sidewalk café. Our waiter was very charming and spoke enough English to get by. He was the consummate "jokester" and we laughed with him often while he served us drinks and appetizers. Ordering dinner was more difficult. We changed our minds several times and he had to rewrite our orders as we changed from mashed potatoes to baked potatoes, etc, etc. Finally my daughter ordered and changed her mind several times. Eventually, the waiter went around the table to repeat and clarify our orders. When he got to my daughter he asked, "And the bitch will have?" I really thought I was hearing things and chose to disregard his statement. But when my sister-in-law mentioned his comment we didn't know what to do. So we just shut up and enjoyed a great dinner. It's something my family will hopefully laugh about as the years go by.

On the day we were to leave we rose at 2:30 AM. Our flight was at 6AM and we needed to be at the international terminal at least two hours before the fight. The taxi trip to the airport was fraught with mishaps. All of the main roads were closed for Sunday morning repairs and we had to put up with a frustrated driver for quite some time.

Nonetheless, we got through security and all the guards and stuff. We flew TAD, the Portuguese airline for our flight home. The flight took off on time and within an hour or so we landed in Lisbon for a four hour layover before our next flight. So we had a great lunch and enjoyed looking through the tax exempt stores for all kinds of luxury goodies. We bought nothing. We then boarded our plane for the seven hour flight home. As before, we sat in coach class. Nonetheless, we were immediately offered cocktails and snacks. Further, each seat on the plane had its own TV screen. And each passenger had their own choice of ten different movies to watch. I watch the Rolling Stones new movie See the Light. I liked it so much that I watched it for a second time as well. Then I watched a drama about a guy who was deported and then the rolling stones movie again. A few hours into the flight we had a delicious dinner and then near the end of the flight we had a hot breakfast. Throughout the flight free cocktails were offered to all the passengers. The landing in New Jersey was as smooth as fine wine. Getting through customs was a breeze and I was thrilled to be home.

Then the nightmare began. I couldn't remember where we had left our car and I couldn't find the ticket to retrieve the vehicle even if I could find it. But with a little effort (actually wandering around the monstrous parking lot in ninety degree weather) we found the car and started the drive home. Keep in mind that we landed in Newark and had to endure New Jersey rush hour traffic….but I could read the street signs and the map! The drive home was five hours. When we finally arrived home we had been awake for nearly twenty four hours and passed out in our bed with our clothes on.

But it was a grand trip. I showed my daughter Paris and all that comes with it. We toured the birthplace of Mozart and walked on city streets in Europe that were a thousand years old. We had several great French dinners and saw the Swiss Alps. We visited the most famous museums in the world and spent Bastille Day in Paris. And we even went to Disney Paris and enjoyed ourselves on the teacup ride. When I asked my daughter what she enjoyed most about Europe she calmly said, "feeding the pigeons". In truth that's the heart of a nine year old girl….but we could have fed the damn pigeons in Central Park and saved myself ten grand.

Nonetheless, that evening I picked up a large U-Haul truck and spent the rest of the day packing it for a show in New Hampshire. The following morning I got up at two thirty and drove five hours to set up a booth at the Lakeside Living Expo in Gunstock, New Hampshire.

To make a very long story as short as possible it was a great show. The traffic was incredible and the crowds just didn't seem to stop. I sold probably a hundred and fifty of my books and signed a hundred more that people brought with them for me to sign. Initially sales were slow but picked up dramatically near the end of the show. Many people throughout the three day event expressed sincere interest in my products and I suspect (and hope) that many of them will contact me with they finally need furniture for their homes presently under construction. Will I do the show next year? Absolutely..And I greatly look forward to it.

With that thought I'm now going to pass out for a few hours. I have band practice tonight and deliveries that have to be made. In between all that I'll try to get some rest before I drop dead of a heart attack from too much running around. My best to all of you, Ralph



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Friday, June 20, 2008

A few weeks ago someone walked into my gallery and spent quite a bit of time looking at my books and the furniture. We spoke for quite awhile about music, fly fishing and other stuff. He asked me how I want to be remembered. I thought about the question for quite some time. I went back and forth as the question is at best difficult. After several minutes I said, "I want to be remembered as being a good Dad". All the other stuff is important but doesn't come near the importance of being a good father and a good husband. Over the past few weeks I thought a lot about the question and how I answered it. Nothing comes close to being a responsible, caring, loving dad. I believe that. I hope others do as well and act accordingly.

Well, here's some excitement for you. Last week was Americade here in Lake George. Seventy thousand motorcycles were registered and about a hundred thousand people took over my small, quaint town. The roaring of motor cycles all day and night for the entire week just about drove us crazy. And one afternoon three motorcycles and a car crashed right in front of my gallery. Bodies were lying all over the place. Ten minutes later the police and ambulances arrived and took their time hauling away the carnage. It was a horrible accident and traffic was backed up. And exactly forty five minutes later there was no sign of the accident whatsoever. I do not know if anyone was killed. I hope not. But there was a very strange presence on my front lawn. I'll let people know if I hear or see any strange spirits over the coming weeks.

And so summer is upon us. The campers and trailers are here. The arcades and T- shirt shops are hoping to make enough money to pay their bills and taxes. People will make pigs out of themselves at the ice cream shops and hot dog stands. In the evenings I can smell the smoke from camp fires around the lake and I look forward to taking a cool dip in the water as darkness falls upon us. We'll spend most of the summer at our camp on the lake. I rise each morning just as the dawn breaks. I put on my slippers, bathing suit and robe and walk the fifty yard trail down to the beach. The ducks that nest on our lawn will probably still be asleep. I'll enjoy the scene before me as I remove my slippers and robe. The water will be perfectly clear and calm. I'll slowly enter the water and walk out until I'm waist deep. I'll then dive in and endure the cold rush and my tired body, which still is half asleep, jumps to life. I'll make two or three other dives and then return to the beach. The ducks will be honking at me as I approach the shore. I'll see the faces of a few of my neighbors peering through their windows. I'm part of the morning ritual in my neighborhood and known as the "goofy guy who swims in the morning". It's a bit of private time that I allow myself. I don't care what people think. They're missing one of the great joys in life.

The spring and summer is an idyllic time of the year. The "green" returns and I smile when I see the new growths on the trees and plants of all sorts in my yard. The deer and turkeys that we feed all winter are now gone only to return when the first snow falls late in the year.

Over the past few months we added a new bedroom and basement onto our house. We finally have the space to put the many years of collections somewhere other than the living room floor. My nine-year-old daughter recently decided that she no longer likes the moose antlers, deer heads, camp signs and rustic furniture in her room. And so for the last week we've been busy painting her bedroom walls pink, blue and purple. And on the walls where once stood historical photos of the Adirondacks now rest posters of Hanna Montana, the Jonas Brothers and High School Musicals. I am not certain that her taste in colors and culture blend with log cabins but I pray that someday she realizes the inherent virtues of rustic living. Nonetheless, it's her life and not mine. I can only be a good example and a good role model. After that she's on her own.

The black flies of spring are also here. I spent a few days with Barney Bellinger making deliveries and looking at new projects in the Lake Placid area a few days ago. In the evening of the first night we fished a small pond for Brook Trout but caught nothing. From there we drove nearly two hours south to Big Moose Lake. Nearly exhausted I pulled off to the side of the road on the trip down. Barney turned his vehicle around, came back, woke me up and insisted that we drive a bit further to the Inn where we would be staying. I rallied and drove the extra fifteen minutes. Once at the Big Moose Inn, a marvelous place, the owner took Barney and me to the local restaurant where we had a delightful dinner with a Belgium couple who were also staying at the Inn. We were quite delighted to hear the stories of the man from Belgium as he was quite an avid fly fisherman.

From there we returned to the Inn, had a few more drinks and then passed out in very comfortable rooms on the shores of Big Moose Lake. In the morning the visiting couple followed Barney and me into the interior of the Adirondacks where we fished a different pond for Brook Trout from small, very light weight boats.

Before I go on with this story I will state emphatically that Barney Bellinger, arguably the most accomplished and respected rustic artist in the East, is absolutely crazy. He really is. He has been known to hike, by himself, twenty four miles, and I mean miles, into the wilderness of the Adirondacks, with his boat and a sixty pound pack and fish for four days, completely by himself. And then return refreshed and rejuvenated. I'm sorry but my idea of camping today is the Best Western or the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone. And a hike to me , today, is pushing a shopping cart around the local grocery store.

But here's my point. Anyone who has spent time in the northern wilderness knows about black flies. This past weekend I wore gloves and netting over my head. I was still bitten to pieces. In the middle of the day Barney mentioned that I might want to wash my face off as blood was pouring from wounds caused by black flies. As I sit here my face and hands are swollen like grapefruits and my skin itches worse than an attack of poison ivy. And for the life of me I don't understand why the insects avoided Barney. He's sits in his boat and by the camp site with no netting, gloves or insect repellant. And he comes home completely untouched. And yet the bugs attached me with a vengeance. It's just not fair.

Nonetheless, we had a great time. Barney landed a large trout and cooked it around a campfire for lunch. It was a very pleasant meal and a very pleasant few days. Near the end of the day it took me two hours of driving down a goat path just to get back to a paved road. I had to admit that I had no idea where I was but I was thrilled to get home, see my family and take a shower.

This past week Barney invited me to travel down to Cape Cod with him for a few days of fishing for strippers. We would be towing Barney's motorboat with us and stay at a friend's wonderful home right on the water. Unfortunately I could not make it. But just to emphasize how nuts Barney really is consider this. He has been known to paddle his tiny canoe out into the ocean and fish for hours. And it's really dangerous…especially at night. One evening he didn't return to the shore until 1PM and his family and friends thought he had drowned. But he eventually showed up with stories of great fish, strong currents and huge waves. Considering that his canoe is only ten feet long he runs a great risk whenever he paddles off to do battles with fish and the elements. Nonetheless, I'm sorry I couldn't travel with him as our conversation about all kinds of things usually goes on for hours. I just pray that he makes it back to his home as he owes me a few pieces of furniture!

This summer will be a horrible insect season for us. A strange, moldy virus has killed 80% of the bat population and we are left defenseless against all kinds of flying, stinging creatures that thrive on sucking the blood from poor defenseless humans. And as readers know each bat eats between three thousand and four thousand insects per night. Bats are the allies of all humanity.

On another subject I usually watch an hour of TV before I go to bed. The past few weeks I've been intrigued by a program titled Women Behind Bars. It's a reality program about women in prison. In truth I find it quite disturbing. Several of the women told stories of being abused as a child and of being repeatedly beaten by drug addicted, drunken husbands. Then one day, while again being abused, they take out a gun and kill their attackers (aka husbands, boyfriends, etc.). And for that they get life in prison. No doubt each case is unique. In truth, each abused individual could just pick up and leave their homes once they realized the violent nature of their spouse. Or they could have called the police or something. But there seems to be a lack of justice here. If someone was beating me and I had a gun, I would, without a doubt, defend myself. It seems to me the logical thing to do. It just scares me to think that someone can spend the rest of their life in prison for defending themselves.

But here's another interesting comment on the program. I found the commercials during the program to be intriguing. I wonder who the advertisers think is actually watching the program. Several commercials were advertisements for beauty and make-up products. One ad seductively showed a gorgeous woman having eye shadow applied. Another was for a shampoo that would render ones hair "silky soft"! I wonder if the advertisers are trying to get the incarcerated women to buy their stuff or if they think women on the outside are spending time watching the unfortunate members of their sex rot in jail cells. Whatever the case, it's a strange program.

SOMETHING ELSE
Men are different then we were years ago. A good friend of mine, Brian Correll, whom I fish with in Alaska every year, had a dinner for just men a few weeks ago. Barney was there as were a few architects, artists and other professional individuals. Ten of us attended the event. Brian lives on a great lake and has a modern home decorated with great art, rustic accents and stylish furniture. Normally, one might not think that men would get together for dinner. And if we did we would speak of nothing other than sports and women, drink cheap beer and eat cold pizza. But we're all older now and hopefully more sophisticated. We cooked ourselves a wonderful gourmet dinner (I can't pronounce the dishes we made) and spent the evening talking about art and cooking. And we did it all without the aid and assistance of our wives and/or girlfriends! I just hope that we're not getting to old or weird to do the things that most men (at least younger men) partake in.

A MOMENTARY SLIP INTO REALITY
I spent the past fifteen minutes on the phone speaking with a gentleman who runs programs at Walter Reed Hospital. It sickened me to hear his stories of the single, double and triple amputees, young men and women, who come to him for help. It sickens me to think of all they have given up to do battle in some foreign country. There is nothing we can do to repay them for their sacrifices. My one comment will be that our present president has driven the country into near bankruptcy, done absolutely nothing about global warming, stuffed the pockets of his oil friends with money, lied to the American people and ruined the lives of many of our finest citizens by sending them into a stupid war from which there appears to be no solution. I personally think the president and his entire cabinet should be impeached and sent to prison. But that's just me.


OTHER STRANGE STUFF

So who do you trust? Seriously. How many people in the world can you really trust? How many close friends do you really have? How many people actually trust you? What would you be willing to do for someone if they asked? Do you do what you say you are going to do? Just how trustworthy are you? It's an interesting question to ponder but well worth the time. With those thoughts in mind consider this….…what's "holy" to you? Take the question seriously for a moment. Are you getting out of life what you wanted? Are you getting better at something? Are you achieving your own potential? Are you enjoying yourself? Do you respect yourself? Are you a good person? Do you have the respect of others? If you think about it these are really hard questions to answer.

On another note: things are more difficult for me these days. It seems that I have less and less time to do the things that I want. Business has picked up dramatically in the past few weeks. As a result my ability to get what I want done is compromised. Nonetheless, it's necessary to take care of business first. As much as possible I make my own deliveries. It is time consuming and as a sixty year old man the furniture gets heavier and heavier each time I load my truck and bring things to the homes of my customers. And it seems that the endless hours on the road wear on me. And to think that in my earlier years in the antiques business, I put a hundred thousand miles a year on my truck. It seems, at this point, like a hard way to make a living. But I've loved every second of my adult life and continue to enjoy writing books, photographing homes, talking with customers and doing the many things I do.

A few years ago a good friend of mine mentioned that when he dies he wants to see "smiling people and happy faces". This individual heads a very large hedge fund and makes decisions on a daily basis involving millions of dollars. And it's not his money. His fiscal responsibility is enormous and his job, when all is said and done, is to make people happy. And considering the economy today he doesn't have an easy job. But he conducts himself honestly, professionally and enjoys what he does. I think that's all we can ever really ask of anyone or of ourselves. I really don't know where I'm going with these comments but it seems that working to please others and ourselves within the realm of honesty is a noble thing, it's a holy thing. To do the best we can and not settle for insignificance or mediocrity is, to me, a holy act. It's worth striving for and its reward in itself.

So I just finished creating another book. It should now be off to the printer and in four months I'll get a UPS package that will contain two hard-covered copies of my newest book CABINS. Frankly, by the time they arrive I will have forgotten about the book and, in truth, I probably won't even look at it for a few days. I'm usually tired of looking at the same images and, in reality, I’m on to something.

Books are much harder to do then people actually realize. The hardest part for me is being gone from home. I love traveling, seeing great homes, making the photos. But it's the lonely nights in hotel rooms that gets to me. I don't hang out in bars or drink myself into oblivion. For me the photography is easy. It's what I do. It's like a lawyer writing another will. It gets much easier as time goes by. The writing is also easy. Writing for me comes naturally. In truth, I could sit and write stuff all day long and never run out of things to say. But I have other things to do, like run a business, be a good Dad and husband and so I can't just sit at my computer and "bang things out". I would like to but reality calls. The hardest thing about doing books is having to work with other people. I'm not kidding.

Working with my editor is a dream. She carefully corrects my grammar and offers suggestions on how to improve sentences or a thought. Nonetheless, for me the most difficult thing is working with the book designers. It really drives me crazy is when a "designer" chops up my photographs and decides to put them in predetermined rectangular boxes. Designers are not artists. They are computer technicians who, in my opinion, don't know anything about art. They think they do but they don't. Each of my photographs is very carefully composed. They are perfect "still-life's" in the finest artistic tradition. They are well balanced, offer movement and direction, have great depth and are perfect objects of art in their own right. (At least I think so.) And then to have some jerk come along and chop off half an image to make them fit in a box drives me nuts. And I fight with my dear editor "tooth and nails" over this. And each time I get to the design stage I swear that I'll never do another book again. But after battling back and forth for a week we usually arrive at a good compromise and I'm 95% happy with the final outcome. Nothing is perfect (especially when you have to work with other people) but I really do strive to bring my projects to a new level.

And so at this very moment I'm working on three other books. And once they're done…..…I'm done. I've completed twenty books so far and I have other interests that I would like to pursue as well. I have not paid attention to my website as I should have. Nonetheless, if you go to my site now you'll see that it's been greatly updated. It's not completely done yet but we've changed the format, many of the images and revamped the entire thing. Over the next few weeks we will be adding more and more photos. At the same time I've added several new sections and posted new furniture in several different areas. And we are now offering some different items in our gallery as well. I am very proud to offer the extraordinary hand painted chandeliers, sconces and table lamps by both Veronica Nemethy and Nancy Magnell. Nancy studied with Veronica for years and brings a new dimension to hand painted shades. The shades Nancy creates are in the style of the great Hudson River painters. Her work is reminiscent of the lamps created by Handel and others from the last century. Veronica Nemethy is a nationally recognized artist and I have offered her exceptional paintings and frames through my gallery for years. I also have a few of her shades here as well. We are also now carrying old world iron lighting including sconces, floor lamps and chandeliers. These will be an excellent addition to the numerous antler chandeliers that we have carried in my gallery for many years.

We're also now offering very high quality leather goods including dining chairs, wing chairs and ottomans, and couches as well. The dining chairs offer a southwest mission style to the dining sets that we have offered for years in my gallery. The wing chairs blend perfectly with rustic furniture and rustic settings. And we have kept our prices significantly below our competitors on these pieces. Check them out under "leather goods" on my website.

About fifty percent of the pieces we sell here in my gallery are custom orders. It's a bit disappointing because many of my regular customers who shop here never get to see some of the really great, high end custom pieces we do. So we are adding a "custom pieces" section to my site to show off just a few of the great pieces we've done in the past.

One surprising thing is how many people want me to design and furnish a cabin for them. Keep in mind that I'm not an architect or a schooled interior designer. But the most interesting project that has come along in a while is that I've been asked to design and furnish a rustic home in Siberia! Needless to say that there are lots of questions that need answers before we begin but it should be an interesting project! And I hope I get a chance to visit the home if and when we complete it!

We will be in Europe for part of the summer visiting both Paris and Austria. I will be meeting with a few clients over there and photographing old world rustic homes for another book project. It promises to be an exciting trip but I am not looking forward to gas at ten dollars a gallon. When we return I will be exhibiting furniture and accessories at the Lakeside Living Expo on July 18-19-20 at the Gunstock Mountain Resort in Gilford, NH. From what I understand the show is now sold out of exhibitor space and promises to be the premier East Coast event for all things rustic. At least fifteen log home companies will be there as well as many rustic furniture builders. For more information on the show please go to www.lakesidelivingexpo.com I'll also be presenting a slide show in the evening, signing books and playing my bass guitar with some of the other exhibitors at the show! This promises to be an absolutely great weekend.

And this fall I will be exhibiting at the Adirondack Antiques Show to be held between September 19 -21. The show will be at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. This promises to be a really great exhibit and it is once again being held at the museum where it originated. The show was moved from the museum years ago and will return there this fall. Be sure to attend! For more info call the museum.

On another note don't think for a second that gas prices will go down. Believe me they won't. And that's not a bad thing. We are an incredibly wasteful society. And if people stop driving their monster cars we'll put significantly less greenhouse gas in the atmosphere. And that will at least slow down global warming. I know that a lot of people will bitch at me for saying this but something has to be done. Personally…I drive a Toyota Prius. Right now we're getting just about 50 miles per gallon of gas! And we've made a lot of other changes as well. Instead of just going to the grocery store we also stop at the post office, the bank, the book store and other places as needed as well. We also put a timer on my hot water heater in our home so we only heat the water in the early morning and the evening. We also put florescent bulbs in most of our lamps in our home and gallery. And we now recycle all kinds of stuff that before were just thrown in the trash. And in truth we feel good about doing this extra stuff and it's really no big deal to take a little extra time to do what's necessary. I hope others will jump on the "bandwagon" as well.

And so I sit here and reflect on this past week. I photographed a gorgeous home in Vermont a few days ago. Unfortunately I'll have to go back to redo a few images as the sunlight was just too strong and left too many harsh shadows on the interior of the home. I'll get that taken care of early next week. Just outside my office window I have a birdfeeder that caters to humming birds. It's a busy place and the "hummers" battle with each other for their turn at the feeding stations. It cost me about five dollars a week in "food" just to watch these marvelous creatures live their lives. It's worth every cent.

Yesterday, I spent the morning as a chaperone for my daughter's class. In the morning before I was to arrive at the school my daughter pleaded with me to not sing, dance or rap in front of her school mates. I was to do nothing to embarrass her. From the school we walked as a group over to the fire department exhibit where they presented a nice program on preventing home fires. We all had a great time. But the four mile walk there and back nearly killed me. That afternoon my daughter thanked me for acting like an adult and not embarrassing her!

Two nights ago I fished by myself on a small pond near my home. I have a very lightweight ten pound canoe that's only seven feet long. I probably caught and released fifty small pan fish as I paddled around the lake. And I marveled at the slight breeze that blew pollen gently on the water creating fantastic, surreal patterns. Near the end of the evening my wife and daughter met me at the dock to help pack my gear. From there we went to the local watering hole called the Rustic Inn and had a pizza for dinner. And later that evening I was thrilled to watch the Celtics beat the Lakers in dramatic fashion. And, to my absolute delight the Celtics won the national championship. And, Tiger Woods won the US open as well!

And so Father's Day was a treat for me. We spent the day at our cabin and swam in cold waters of Lake George. In the afternoon my daughter and I baked cookies. We probably ate too many of them as we both took a short nap on our couch watching an episode of Sponge Bob. We also took the kayaks out for a cruise and then cooked some chicken on the grill as the evening fell upon us. Our three cats sat at our picnic table with us and watched our every move hoping for a morsel. Throughout the dinner and evening we talked of simple things and the things to come. It was a great day. My best to all of you, Ralph



Thursday, March 27, 2008

It's been a tough few months for me. I've neglected a number of things that are important. Unfortunately, my computer took a serious crash a few weeks ago and even though I had everything backed up I lost a ton of stuff including an enormous amount of email that was sent to me during the middle of January and early February. So if I have not responded to anyone please email me again and I'll do my best to catch up with correspondence and business. In particular I had been speaking with a dentist in Canada about a number of interesting projects and if that individual can email me again I would appreciate it. At any rate my computer crashed five times. Finally I took it back to the place where it had been purchased and they, for $300, rebooted the beast and checked it for all kinds of problems. When I picked it up they said everything was fine but failed to mention that I had to reinstall all of the software. Needless to say that for me, reinstalling software (I don't even know what it is) is a serious problem. Finally, I called my old computer guru Norman and he mercifully found time to come over and take control of the nightmare. After spending quite a bit of time, Norman, who I greatly respect, informed me that my very expensive custom made computer was, in reality, a piece of junk (it had nine different interior fans to keep the thing from overheating) and needed to be replaced. Norman called the store where it was purchased and after asking a few simple questions and receiving several insults from the store owner simply hung up the phone with a polite "thank you". I would have told them to go screw themselves. But Norman is more socially sophisticated than me!

That afternoon I purchased a greatly updated computer and spent considerable time trying to restore data. Those of you who both depend and rely on computers understand the angst and frustration they cause when they fail. Nonetheless, my new system is up and running and I'm back in business. I should also mention that I have not maintained or updated my website in quite a while. Right now I have about thirty new pieces of furniture in my gallery and beginning next week we plan on redesigning the site and adding many new images. So sit tight and check back with us soon!

In my last newsletter I mentioned the LAKESIDE LIVING EXPO that will be held in New Hampshire the third weekend in July. Response to the show has been quite impressive. Several major furniture builders will be exhibiting there as well as many other exhibitors who offer services and products related to rustic lifestyles. I have been involved in several major projects in the Lake Winnipesaukee area and the quality of the area and the homes being constructed and/or refurbished is quite impressive. Individuals who offer quality products and services would do well to exhibit at this show. Personally, I've taken three booths at this show and will be offering impressive pieces by Barney Bellinger and other builders as well. I'll also be signing books and giving a presentation/slide show about rustic design in the evening. I'll also be bringing a few musical instruments with me and lamp builder Bob Stump and I will be providing musical entertainment throughout the day! Contact Blair Anthony at 518 479 EXPO for more information.

I also feel the need to mention the LAKE, HOME AND CABINS SHOW that is held each year in three different locations, including Madison, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, MN and Chicago, Ill. In the past I've exhibited at two of these shows and did well at each. In all honesty I would exhibit at these shows again but my crazy schedule has me running all over the place trying to finish up a few books I've been working on. Nonetheless, for more info on the LAKE, HOME AND CABINS SHOWs call please call 1.952.471.1192 And if you're a consumer looking for products or services related to rustic living you'll find attending these shows educational and productive. And you'll meet some really great people as well! In February, coinciding with my daughter's school vacation, we spent eight days in Key West. I love it down there. I've been visiting the Keys for more than thirty years and feel very comfortable visiting there during warm weather. The flights down were non eventful and we picked up a great rental vehicle for the ride down from West Palm Beach. In general we stop at all the local tourist spots as well as the Bird Rehabilitation Center, Roby's, where, for a few bucks you can buy a can of dead fish and feed the monster tarpon, and several marinas where we have lunch and check out the fishing boats as they come and go.

For the past several years we've stayed at the Ambrosia House in Key West. It's an old conch Inn that's been completed rehabbed. The two small pools are heated and the lush vegetation is a sight for sore eyes. They have several cats and "Pinky", one of several felines, adopted us and slept peacefully with us in our room throughout our stay. On the morning of our first day my daughter woke me with the disturbing news that a policewoman was inspecting our rental vehicle. So without delay I put on my shoes, went outside and asked if there was a problem.

"Is this your vehicle, sir?"

"Yes it is, but it's a rental that I picked up in West Palm Beach yesterday", I casually said. I politely gave her the rental agreement which she carefully inspected. After speaking with her office via her radio the following conversation took place.

"I need to see your license, sir"

"No problem", I said as I handed it to her.

"Sir, the license plates on this car are registered to a different vehicle. And the registration for this vehicle is out of date. This is an arrestable offense, sir".

And of course as soon as she mentioned "arrest" my daughter started crying. And I could feel my blood pressure begin to rise. There are some people in the world that you can talk to and others you cannot. This officer was as stone cold as Mt. Everest. Not a smile cracked her face. She was all business and her demeanor indicated that she was accustomed to dealing with hardened criminals. It always makes me nervous when I see a police officer with their hand on their gun.

"Ma'am", I said politely, "I rented the vehicle in West Palm Beach and this is what they gave me. I'm being completely honest and we're just tourists trying to enjoy ourselves. I've given you all of the paperwork and I'm not hiding anything."

She spoke for several more minutes with someone at her office. I did not know what was going to happen but I really didn't want to post bail. My daughter was still crying and asking me questions like "are we going to jail?" I did my best to assure my daughter that this was just a misunderstanding and that we were not to blame.

"Sir, we're very concerned about this. It appears that the license plates on your vehicle are registered to a different car and, as I said before, the registration on this vehicle is expired." And a half hour after the "incident" began the officer calmly looked me right in the eye and said "I would get this taken care of immediately if I were you." With that she handed me my paperwork and left. Then the fun started.

Try explaining the above incident to a recording machine at the place you rented the vehicle from. Actually just try getting a real person on the end of the line. I hate recording machines. I can't stand them. I hate being put on hold. I don't want to try a different extension. I don't want to call another number or a different office. I want to talk with a real person. I don't want a god damned answering machine. I swear that people take classes on how to insult customers, how to ruin their day and make their customers miserable. Two and a half hours later I finally got to talk with a person and even then they could not believe what I was telling them. If they spoke English maybe they could understand But NOOOOOO.

But let me offer a suggestion. All someone has to do is at least acknowledge that I was having a hard time. Don't tell me it's not your fault. Don't disagree with me when I'm upset. Just say something like "it sounds like you're having a hard time with this" or "I bet its tough for you right now"….please don't yell at me or put me on hold while you go on a god damned coffee break or work on your god damned finger nails.

OK, Ok, OK I'll calm down. Finally I called a local vender for the parent company and explained the situation. A half hour later he delivered a crummy car that stunk like cigarette smoke to my hotel. He didn't look me in the eye or anything. He just handed me more paper work, the keys and drove off in the unlicensed, unregistered vehicle. I hope he was hit by a god damned truck. I hope his entire company files for bankruptcy. And I hope that each of the company's employees is denied unemployment compensation.

Once he left my daughter and I went to the local ice cream shop where I ate three large hot fudge sundaes and half of a key lime pie. The sundaes were great but the pie left a lot to be desired. I dearly love Key West. I really do. As soon as we enter the Keys I buy a twenty pound bag of cat food and feed the cats that seem to be all over the place. And in truth, I really do get up before the sun pops up and wander through the old section of Key West feeding the cats…and the wild chickens! It's a goofy thing to do but we love the animals and it's a great father/daughter thing to do.

I fished three times while I was there. One morning my daughter and I went out with a guide a few miles off the island. At first, just to keep my daughter entertained, we fished for smaller fish and caught several. But soon dark shadows appeared and kept coming closer and closer to the boat. The guide, a young guy, told me not to put my hands in the water because the shadows were sharks. And nasty ones at that!

Well it was apparent that fishing for little guys was over. The guide put a dead fish in the end of my daughter's line and tossed it overboard. Not five seconds later she was holding on for dear life as a seven foot lemon shark had eaten her bait. And so for the next hour we did battle with the monster as other sharks gathered to watch the commotion. Finally we got the beast to the boat and the captain asked if I wanted to unhook the thing. "Not a chance", was my reply. After a few minutes the captain removed the hook as the shark twisted and fought the indignities of capture and seduction.

A few minutes later I thought it might be a good idea to catch a shark on my fly rod. So without much thought we rigged my rod with a steel leader and five seconds later I was battling an eight foot shark. In truth the first ten minutes are quite exciting but after that it was nothing less than boring. My fly rod, a ten weight, proved to be insufficient to handle the beast. What I really needed was a stout broom stick. But nearly two hours later we unhooked the shark and watched him swim off. I nearly collapsed in the boat as both my daughter and I were exhausted. After looking at each other for a few minutes we called it a day and returned to the warm waters of our hotel swimming pool. It was a grand day, one that I'll long remember.

The following afternoon I fished with a different guide until well past dark. As the sun set I hooked up with a hundred pound tarpon that exploded a few feet from the boat and scared the bejesus out of me. He jumped several times and succeeded in soaking me as his tremendous body crashed in the water just feet from the platform on which I was standing. As it grew dark he towed us further and further out to sea. In time the lights from Key West dimmed and I worried greatly about being out of sight of land, especially since it was now dark.

The ocean that night was a strange place. There was no wind and no waves. Strange creatures jumped from the water and the silent radiance of luminescent creatures sent an eerie glow in areas of complete darkness. Sea turtles occasionally poked their heads up near the boat and I could pick out spy satellites on their north/south journey toward the poles as they kept watch on us mere mortals.

Occasionally the great fish on the end of my line rose to the surface and took line from my reel that I had worked so hard to retrieve. Two hours passed. I hoped that the great fish was as tired as I. As I fought the fish I thought of how fast time was traveling and that my life was now just a blur. I thought of the friends of mine who had died and I wondered who would be next. I thought of my business and was thankful that I had had the opportunity to meet as many incredible people as I had. I thought of how few really close friends I had at that moment and I wished that some of them were with me on the small boat in the ocean. All things end, I thought, and I hoped that my own life could go on for many years. It had only been in the past few years that I've really appreciated what I've become and who I am. Not bad for an inner city kid from Chicago who flunked algebra four times in high school I thought to myself.

In time the great fish grew weary and I was able to turn him to the boat. I could see his slivery sides as the guide shown his spot light in the direction of the great fish. A half hour later I had the fish near the boat. Just as the guide reached down to grab him a sudden burst of terror and energy tore through the fish and he exploded breaking the silence of the night. I felt great gratitude toward him but as I watched him swim off I wished that I had been able to remove the hook that was still in his jaws. I only wanted to make a few photos of him before he was released back to the sea but the broken line prevented me from removing the hook and snapping a few photos before he left. It was a grand evening and left me with memories that will be told to friends over the years. It is surprising that an event that lasted nearly five hours could be told in just a few sentences. And the words I would speak would never convey the passion and intensity of the experience. The event would be mine and mine alone to enjoy over the years.

The rest of the week went well. In truth, I use most of my time on these vacations to finish my books and for probably five hours each day I edit images, write text and captions and tried to keep up with business. I was able to take a nap on one day and the rest of the time I swam with my family, visited the butterfly museum and in general took in the culture of the island.

While there we really enjoy dining at the "down and dirty" places. We like the places that offer local flavor. One place that we had heard of was THE BLUE HEAVEN. Located away from the "tourist areas" we first tried driving there but could not find a parking place. The second night we got to within a block of the place by walking. Unfortunately a very serious fist fight broke out in front of the building and I wisely departed with my family before entering. And I did call 911to let them know of the battle. But I was not to be denied. The following evening we again walked to the restaurant and were thrilled to be seated almost immediately! The ambiance was nothing less than extraordinary. I enjoyed petting the cats that relaxed on the chairs, stairs and on the ground nestled snugly in the roots of trees. The chickens seemed to like our company as well. We tossed bread crumbs to them and they scratched the dirt floors looking for the morsels we offered. In truth, we enjoyed the food and ambiance so much that we ate there three times during our stay!

In the morning I took a shower and noticed a rash on my face. I promised myself that I would apply extra sun screen before I went fishing that day. The following morning the rash was more pronounced. I chose to just ignore it for the time being. I assumed it was just a reaction to something and that it would clear up in a day or two.

Our remaining time in Key West was nothing less than a blessing. The weather was great, the greenery was lush and the time spent with my family was something that words cannot convey.

The first leg of the flight home was uneventful. The second leg, from Washington, DC to Albany, was more interesting. I asked the attendant at the terminal if the flight was overbooked and she indicated that it was. Because flying is so expensive today we often volunteer to take a later flight in exchange for free airplane tickets at a later date. As boarding for the flight proceeded several people were denied access to the plane. Tragically at least eight individuals stood next to gate in tears and near hysterics when they were told that they could not board the plane even thought they had paid for seats. Apparently many of these passengers were traveling to Albany to take the Bar Exam the following morning. And unfortunately there were no further available flights that day. I approached the group and offered the suggestion that they should all rent a van and drive the seven hours to Albany. That suggestion was quickly nixed because they all said that they would be too tired from the trip to take the exam in the morning. One, not -so-bright individual suggested that they return home and retake the test in June when it would again be offered. That suggestion was immediately rejected.

So without further delay I offered my three seats and was given a hotel for the evening and tickets to Albany the following day. We were also given three free tickets to be used anywhere in the country. And in time other passengers realized the seriousness of the problem and gave up their seats as well. Finally, after all of the tears, threats of lawsuits and emotional outbursts all of the student lawyers got on the plane and took off for Albany. And I really do hope that they all pass the bar exam! And once they do I hope they file all kinds of law suits against the airline industry for overbooking, unsafe air planes, and overcrowding!

Upon my return to Lake George I visited my MD. That afternoon I started a three week regime of chemotherapy. The cancerous growths on my face had spread with a vengeance. As I write this I am in my second week of chemotherapy. I had the same procedure nearly twenty years ago and it was not fun. Its three weeks of treatment and then another month to heal. In essence an acidic cream that attacks cancerous and pre cancerous cells is applied to the affected area twice daily for two to three weeks. The first week is tolerable. But then the acid in the cream burns away your skin and it's quite painful. It's like applying a red hot spoon to your skin. It's also quite horrible looking. If you want to see what it looks like go to the following: http://www.sannerud.com/people/efudex/ I should mention that the individual in the website is not me. At the same time I actually admire the guy for posting the images on the web. And if anyone is interested I look about twice as bad as he does and it will get much worse before I get better.

A week into the experience I made the mistake of thinking that it really was nothing. I had made arrangements a month prior to photograph a few homes in Montana and meet with some business associates out there as well. In truth, I probably should not have gone.

My flight out was strange. It was a small plane and almost a full flight. I was thrilled that no one was sitting next to me. A few minutes after takeoff an attendant asked if I minded if someone in the rear could sit next to me and if I could please take the window seat. Apparently the individual in the rear was having a serious panic attack and needed an aisle seat near the front to calm down. Frankly, I wasn't happy about it but I said OK. At that moment I really didn't need an emotional individual who was having an anxiety attack sitting next to me. But it turned out OK. The woman was actually as psychologist and we talked for nearly three hours about all kinds of great stuff. When we got off the plane in Minneapolis she hugged me and thanked me for saving her life! Apparently she hates airplanes and I didn't blame her one bit! I should also mention that it was interesting to see a licensed, professional psychotherapist exhibiting real fear and not living up to the overstated image of mental health professionals as the paragon of mental health!

And so I spent the week in Montana photographing homes and sitting in on meetings. Of course the homes were gorgeous and the people I met with were charming and entertaining. The only hard part is sitting in hotel rooms in the evening. In the summers I go fishing but to spend twelve or fourteen hours in a room by myself is not pleasant. In truth it's very lonely and I missed my family greatly. And all the while the drugs I was applying to my face was taking their toll. Some of the side effects of the chemicals are irritability, mental confusion, emotional outbursts, sleeplessness and other stuff. In truth, the side effects are no different from how I usually am so I just didn't pay much attention to it.

The flights home were interesting. I am now convinced that both beauty and ugliness draws attention. Since at that point I fell in the latter category I was not surprised and not all that pleased with the stares I was receiving. And I really didn't know what to think of the attractive lady sitting next to me who felt the need to breast feed her child. I only wished that she would have at least made an attempt to cover her and her newborn so I and the other passengers wouldn't have to look at her. I might have assumed that she would have liked some privacy but I'm probably wrong.

But I look at my present physical problems as a minor inconvenience. It's not life threatening (I hope) and all that I can say is to make certain that you protect yourselves from the sun! But the most uncomfortable thing about it is the stares I get from other people. I really do look horrible and feel worse then I look. People look at me like I have leprosy and I don't blame them in the least. This getting old stuff is for the birds. Right now I think I'll go have some Twinkies and chocolate ice cream to cheer up.

Apart from all that business is quite good. I've been working on several design projects and more books as well. I've seen a few robins in my neighborhood and the thought of spring occasionally passes through my mind. I hope it's not far away. Take care, Ralph



Monday, February 11, 2008

Right now I’m sitting in an airport terminal bored and tired. It’s been a very stressful past few days and with nothing to do but sit and wait it’s probably better for my physical and mental health to write stuff then to eat more airport hot dogs. Yesterday morning I went to my gym where I continued my quest for both mental and physical health. Frankly, I don’t think all of my hard work is working because every time I look my hair (what’s left of it) is a bit grayer and there are more wrinkles on my face then I care to admit. Nonetheless, a serious winter blizzard was well under way but I was accustomed to driving in winter and just did what I was supposed to do under the present circumstances. On my way home I stopped at two different stores to purchase a few mattresses that would complete the new set of bunk beds I had set up in my daughter’s new bedroom. Both stores were closed. I then traveled to the local lumber yard where I purchased a few sheets of plywood that were needed by my contractor. The young man who cut the plywood to the sizes I requested should have been in a different career as he complained about the job, paid little attention to the task at hand and literally wasted an hour picking his nose and trying, half-heartedly to figure out the huge saw he would use to cut the wood. I sincerely hope that he never applies for a job at my gallery.

As my wife would be using my vehicle I stopped at the local gas station and spent another sixty five dollars to fill up the tank. Once back in my truck my cell phone rang. My wife informed me that my daughter was in great pain with a serious ear ache. I drove home to find my daughter hysterically crying because of the pain. I immediately drove her to the local hospital about a half hour away.

Hospitals are funny places. Most people who work in them just pay attention to their jobs and basically ignore people coming in for emergency treatment. The woman who first greeted us was very professional and got us through the paperwork in just a minute or two. Keep in mind that my daughter was crying hysterically and it took nearly a half hour for a nurse to come and take her temperature. Realizing the situation she correctly got an MD to OK the administration of some short term pain meds. Fifteen minutes later my daughter was quiet. That lasted for about a half hour. The meds wore off and my daughter returned to state of discomfort. Finally an MD arrived, checked out her ears and concluded that it was a simple, yet painful ear infection. Unfortunately, my daughter was again hysterical. And after fifteen minutes of no one helping I twice took her to the nurses’ station and asked for help. And there they sat picking their noses, shuffling their papers and talking on the phone. It was the closest I had come in fifty years to really loosing my temper. How trained nurses and doctors could ignore my daughter and not administer some pain meds to a crying little girl is beyond me. If I had gone to the station one more time I would have clobbered someone. Fortunately my wife found someone to help. But it was almost an hour before someone retuned with more pain meds. There is nothing more discomforting then to see you child in pain.

Once we had the prescriptions we drove the nearest pharmacy were I asked the female pharmacist to "rush" my order. Needless to say I was disappointed as I listened to the three pharmacists gab about their hair-dos, their vacations, their boyfriends, and other crap. I was also shocked when they could not figure out how to correctly fill a bottle with a liquid antibiotic. It was inconsideration, unprofessionalism and incompetence at its finest. It was a troubling morning. Finally, we returned home where my daughter fell asleep and I hurriedly packed my bags for yet another trip.

And so after great effort of driving in a storm I finally arrived at the airport where I did the self check-in thing, checked my luggage and made it through the security line. Wanting a bite of food before I departed I took a chair in the airport restaurant. Two pilots were seated at the table next to me. They must have just landed as they talked about landing their airplane in the seventy five mile an hour winds. Their comments about passengers on their flight being quite upset about the bumpy ride did not go unnoticed by me. Nonetheless, after a sandwich I found the gate and eventually boarded the plane where I found my aisle seat and settled in. Nonetheless, I did notice how the plane occasionally shook as strong gusts of wind slammed us even as we sat on the ground. In time a large gentleman indicated to me that he had the window seat and I politely stood while he struggled to take his chair. Weighing at least three hundred pounds he needed an extension strap to finally fasten his seat belt. To my disappointment his fat arms and bulging midsection spilled over into my space and basically engulfed me. I resigned myself to my fate and repeated a familiar mantra that the flight was only a few hours long and I could endure it. Better times were not far away.

But as I repeated this over and over I could feel the plane shutter from the increasing wind gusts. Eventually the flight attendant (I dare not refer to them as waitresses or stewardesses) announced that because of the winds the plane needed to be "lighter" in order to take off. The plane was significantly overweight for the flying conditions and they needed a few volunteers to take a later flight. In exchange volunteers would receive a free ticket anywhere in the states. Of course I volunteered.

Unfortunately there were no other flights that evening and I was forced to spend the night near the airport. I finally arrived at the hotel at about 10PM, had a late night sandwich and fell asleep. At 4 AM the phone alarm rang and fifteen minutes later I was on my way back to the airport. With no problems I was assigned a seat and made it easily through the security line. At 5:30 AM I boarded the plane and settled in. No Problem. I was a happy guy. But something did not smell right. And I mean that literally. Everyone else noticed it too. We sat on the tarmac for nearly an hour and then were asked to collect our belongings and leave the plane. It turns out that the entire contents of the on-board toilet system had spilled into the plane and because of unsanitary conditions the plane had to be cleaned before we could depart. I can assure readers that I was very happy to be seated in the front of the plane and that those passengers seated in the rear, whose shoes were now soaking wet from standing in raw sewage, were quite happy to leave the plane.

And so there we sat in the airport. We waited as cleaning people came and went and did what they were supposed to do. Hour after hour we sat. The pilots eventually inspected the clean-up job and were not satisfied. Eventually a serious professional cleaning service (an old individual with a mop) was called in and did what they were supposed o do. And so there we sat. Most of the passengers had connecting flights and almost everyone on the plane had to be rebooked on other flights. Finally after six hours of waiting we were allowed to re-board the plane. Once on the plane the flight attendants profoundly apologized for the delays and gave each passenger a coupon for a $25 discount on their next flight! Big deal, I thought to myself. Frankly, most people on the flight, myself included, were significantly inconvenienced and felt like using the coupon as toilet paper.

Eventually I landed in Detroit. I found the Passenger Services Desk and was told that I would have to wait nearly seven hours for a flight to Salt Lake City. Once I arrived there I would have to wait a few more hours before I could get a flight to Bozeman, Montana. But I had two choices. I could bitch and moan and feel sorry for myself or I could enjoy the time away from my phone and just look at the day as a grand adventure and something to write about in my Newsletter. Being an optimistic guy I’ve actually come to enjoy many of the airports around the country. Many offer boutique shopping, good restaurants and good bookstores!

And so I purchased the new John Grisham novel titled THE APPEAL and got through about half of the book as I sat in the airport. I also had a sushi dinner during my wait. But there is something unsettling about having a fresh sushi dinner in Detroit. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but raw fish would taste better if it was icy cold and the rice would be better if it was tasty and moist and not chewy and room temperature. I’m not complaining in the least because I did not violently vomit a few hours after eating the raw fish.

I finally arrived in Bozeman late that evening and by midnight I was sound asleep in a hotel bed. The following day I attended a few meetings, met privately with a few business associates and had a great dinner with architect Larry Pearson, his family and another individual.

The following day I sat through a four hour meeting with a few of the most creative people on the planet. Frankly, it thrills me to sit in with mega talented people. The time flew by so fast that it was noon before any of us realized we had sat there for four hours. I’m not going to discuss the details of the conversation now but will do so in the future. Nonetheless, I will be begin work on a book about the works of Larry Pearson this coming summer and hope to have the completed project on the market in the fall of 2010.

That evening I drove through a serious storm to Chico Hot Springs Resort, about an hour east and south of Bozeman. It was only about twenty degrees outside and snow covered everything. I paid the seven dollar entry fee at the lobby desk, changed into my bathing suit and quickly entered the outdoor pool where the steaming water registered 98 degrees. And there I sat, soaking in the hot water, for nearly three hours. And frankly, I needed it. The stars appeared and an occasional passing cloud dropped large snowflakes that shimmered brightly as they fell on my face. An hour into my "soak" I struck up a conversation with a couple of "locals" who had spent the day skiing and were now relaxing in the pool as they had done for many years. We spoke about all kinds of things and the individuals with which I was speaking were apparently quite bright and wealthy. They owned a large home on the shores of the Yellowstone River just a few miles away. Throughout the conversation I asked the man three different times what he did for a living before he retired. Strangely, although he asked detailed questions about my life, he commented that he had been a failure at a bunch of things in his life and basically refused to entertain my questions. I left the pool wondering what he did to earn enough money to own a ten million dollar home in Montana. I suspect that I’ll never know. But I do know that I had floated by his five bedroom home on many occasions as I drifted the Yellowstone River fishing for trout. I would have loved to have known exactly what he had failed at to own such a home.

The week prior to my Bozeman visit my family and I journeyed to Phoenix where I photographed a great home owned and designed by interior designer Heidi Weiskoph, the daughter of famed golfer Tom Weiskoph. Frankly, the home was quite spectacular and it took several hours to complete the photography of this project. It was, however, quite an enjoyable day. The images of this home will appear in another upcoming book of mine due out in the fall of 2009. The following day we traveled down to Tucson where I met with an old friend. The meeting was held in his home which is, without a doubt, the most spectacular Southwestern style home ever created. His home, appropriately called THE HACIENDA, appears in my book The Rustic Home. That evening we had a great dinner with a number of folks. Because we had unfinished business we agreed to meet again four days later. In the morning we drove back up to Tucson and then departed for Zion, Utah which was supposed to be a gorgeous six hour drive. It took us twelve hours to get there. The winds were clocked at seventy five miles per hour and the ice and snow made driving almost impossible.

But if you want to see some extraordinary country check out the parks in that part of the world. It’s just north of the Grand Canyon and the scenery is gorgeous. It’s well worth the visit. At any rate we spent the night in a beautiful rustic home and in the morning I made photos of the setting for another project. We left later in the day and made our way down through Nevada. Frankly, I really enjoyed the warm weather and the scenery and would have been perfectly happy to drive back to Phoenix. Nonetheless, my wife wanted to spend the night in the pentacle of sin, Las Vegas. So after talking with a few different people at different hotels we settled on staying at the Paris Hotel right on the main drag of Las Vegas.

Frankly, I can’t stand Las Vegas. Too many people doing absolutely nothing. I must admit however, that the food we had was great as was the room. But it’s a strange place and strange places draw strange people who have strange passions and interests. After dinner we attended a showing of an IMAX presentation on life in the sea. My daughter found it to be quite fascinating. I however, felt it was just another Hollywood scam and it was quite apparent to me that most of the film was photographed at the local aquarium.

At 6 AM the following morning I wandered down to the main floor for coffee and a quick stroll. In the casino I watched with interest as a group of men sat playing black jack and sucking down bottles of beer. And they were apparently having a great time! So far be it from me to comment on the interests and lifestyles of others. The world is a huge place and there are all kinds of people in it. Nonetheless, I have better things to do at 6 AM then gambling, sucking down beers or pulling the arms on slot machines. But, hey, what do I know? I’m just another strange guy trying to make his way through life. And who knows…. maybe one of the people dropping quarters in the slot machines or playing black jack will win a million bucks and live happily ever after!

The ride back down to Phoenix was quite enjoyable. In the middle of the desert we found a seriously, out-of-the-way-place that advertised Chicago Hot Dogs! So we stopped and went in. And the steamed, Vienna hot dogs and the very greasy fries were, in fact, quite delicious! But I must admit that both my wife and daughter have serious genetic disorders. How anyone can put ketchup and nothing else on a hot dog is beyond me. It really is one of life’s mysteries and I will forever be troubled by the character flaws in my family. Hot dogs require mustard, relish, tomatoes, onions and a splash of celery salt. Anything other than that is pure and unadulterated blasphemy.

That evening we relaxed at an in-laws home in Phoenix and enjoyed a great meal and conversation. In the morning I set out by myself on a return trip to Tucson and drove by the stadium where the Super Bowl would be played a few days later. The night before a tragic accident had demolished four vehicles and injured many. I vowed to concentrate on driving instead of looking at the plethora of tents, Ferris wheels and other attractions that surrounded the stadium.

On my first trip to Tucson, a few days earlier, I noticed a sign on the road that read “Visit the Ostrich Farm” about twenty miles north of the city. And so with a few hours to spare before my meeting I found the sign and the farm that housed not only ostriches but fallow deer and parrots as well. And so, without delay, I paid my five dollars and was given a large can of deer and ostrich food! And for the next two hours I entertained myself by feeding the hundred or so fallow deer and trying my best to keep from being killed by the ravenously hungry ostriches that can ripe ones skin to pieces with just one bite! But the most fun for me was the parrot house. For a few bucks you can have a small paper cup of honey. You then enter an outdoor covered pen and are immediately accosted by dozens of hungry parrots. They land all over you and several succeeded in ripping out the hair growing in both my ears and in my nose. And they battle with each other over which one gets access to the cup of honey! It really was quite delightful but a few days later I had to explain to my wife exactly why I had spent fifty dollars on deer and bird food. I just pray that I don’t get audited by the IRS this year because I submitted the receipts to my accountant in hopes of writing off the expenses of the deer and bird food on my taxes.

Once I returned to Tucson I attended various meetings with business associates. In the evenings I stayed with friends at their home and enjoyed myself more then I had in a long time. The conversations went well into the night and encompassed all kinds of interesting subjects. It was a breath of fresh air for me. I departed for Phoenix and the airport very early in the morning. The ride back to my in-laws and the flights home were, mercifully, uneventful. A few days later my team, the New England Patriots lost the Super Bowl. Oh woe is me!

And to add misery to company my computer has crashed several times during the past three weeks. I can assure readers that this has been a nightmare for me. I returned the computer to the place that custom made it for me and I was assured, after paying three hundred dollars that the machine had been completely checked out and was in fine condition. They didn’t tell me that I had to re-install all of the software and other stuff. To make a long story short and to save me the agony of reliving the nightmare I eventually bought a new computer and I pray that my newly hired computer wizard can save my past ten years of work and install it in my new computer.

But life is how you perceive it. I had an interesting experience a month or so ago that reminded me of many things. I was at my health club early in the morning and it was a very cold, snowy day. Out of the window I could see snowplows pushing snow around and a few people struggling to get out of their cars and into their workplaces. As I pounded away on a treadmill a car pulled into a parking place about twenty feet outside of the window I was looking through. The car door opened slowly. In time an elderly lady dressed in a parka and wearing goulashes appeared. From the back seat of her vehicle she retrieved a snow shovel and made her way toward me shoveling each step of the way. I really didn’t know what to think as I couldn’t see any reason for her to be shoveling snow let alone being out of her home on such a day. But she kept at it. And it was apparently no easy thing for her to lift shovel after shovel of heavy snow. And frankly, I was worried for her.

But in time she came within a few feet of my window. Then she returned to her vehicle and reappeared several minutes later with a broom. With the broom she swatted the steel poles right in front of me and spent quite a bit of time cleaning off some platforms that rested on the tops of the poles. Once she had the platforms cleaned she returned to her vehicle and placed the broom and the shovel in her trunk. Then she reappeared with some large bags that she brought close to the poles and my window. From the bags she produced a scoop and placed its contents on the platforms just a few feet from where I was using the treadmill. Within a few moments several cold and apparently hungry birds landed on the platforms and began eating the bird food the old lady had brought for them. After a few minutes a number of other birds landed on her shoulder and seemed to thank her for her efforts. A slight and unmistakable smile came across her face she as she held out her hands containing birdseed and a few breadcrumbs. Black capped chickadees that were sitting on her head flew down and ate the food from the hands of the old lady. Then the wintering blue jays showed up and gobbled food from the platforms. In time the feeding stations were refilled and slowly but surely the old lady returned to her car and placed the containers of food in the trunk. Then ever so carefully she made her way on the ice to the front of her vehicle, opened the door, entered and then drove off into the falling snow. It ‘s a strange tale and, in truth, probably none of the others who saw her from the gym that day gave the old lady a second thought. But to me it was a brief look into the spirit of humanity, if not just that of an elderly individual. I really admired her and her strength. The pure pleasure of doing something as simple as feeding the birds is an experience worth fighting for. The contact with other living things, things other than humans, and to in some way feel their gratitude is one of life’s grand pleasures. For me feeding the birds on a cold day in winter is far more gratifying then playing black jack and slurping down beer at 6 AM in Las Vegas. But that’s just me and what I do and think is not right for everyone.

NEW STUFF

And so now I remind myself that I’ve just been rambling for a few hours and most people will probably wish I would stop with this stuff and get about the task of writing about the rustic furniture business. OK, OK
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My TV show, RUSIC LIVING WITH RALPH KYLLOE will probably begin airing in July. We’ve put a lot of work into the show and are thrilled that it may finally be on the air! I’ll post the times and stations that will offer the program once we have some final signatures on the contracts.

In truth I’ve not exhibited at shows lately. And with good reason. There’s lots of work and my gallery seems to be full with clients at all hours of the day. However, a great new show is happening this year in the Lakes region of New Hampshire. I have literally delivered hundreds of pieces of high end furniture and accessories to that region over the past few years and this show promises to be great! I have personally taken three booths for myself and will be selling my furniture and books during the show. And I’ll also be giving a slideshow presentation about rustic design during the show! If you’re a builder or have a business related to Cabins and Lakeside Living I really do believe that this show will be a great opportunity to exhibit your services and products to a very affluent and sophisticated retail market. I’M NOT KIDDING. And if you’re a vacation home owner or desire to become one then you really should consider attending this show. You’ll find all kinds of stuff related to cabins, camps and living the rustic life. The dates are July 18-19-20. The show will be held at the Gunstock Mountain Resort near Gilford, NH., very near Lake Winnipesaukee, NH. Trust me on this…….this will be a great show! Call Blain Anthony at 518 479 EXPO or visit their website at www.lakesidelivingexpo.com for more information.

My books continue to sell well and I am hard at work on four others as I write this. I find myself turning down more and more offers as my time gets gobbled up with both my work and my family. I hope to last another decade or so as nothing would thrill me more than seeing my daughter grow to adulthood. In all honesty I should hire someone to take care of lots of small stuff but I enjoy traveling, seeing the homes of my clients and making photos of great family compounds. Today I find that I’m less tolerant of people who don’t do what they say they’re going to do and I have no interest in people who don’t try to do their best. Life is very short and it’s over so soon. I’ll be sixty one years old this June and there are so many things I would like to do before I take the great journey to six feet under.

At any rate it’s now time to pack my bags as I’m heading off to Key West in the morning. I need a vacation and I’m going with my family for a relaxing week of doing nothing more than being a good dad and a good husband. Nonetheless, as I find it nearly impossible to sit still even for just a few minutes, I am bringing my laptop, cell phone and my old Dobro guitar. And I can guarantee readers that if you want to visit with me down there I’ll probably be sitting on some corner of Duval Street playing my guitar and hoping someone tosses some spare change my way so I can buy another plate of oysters on the half shell at the Turtle Krawls Restaurant!

My best to all of you,. Ralph


Sunday, December 23, 2007

It's the holiday season and I'm going to refrain from complaining about all kinds of stuff. Nonetheless here's a little "tid bit" that happened to us a few nights ago that some people might find interesting.

We were having dinner at the local Olive Garden restaurant just south of us. Most of the time we do not frequent the "chains" but we've come to enjoy the Italian food offered at this restaurant. Because we eat there often we know many of the wait staff and often banter with them as they attend to our needs. But on this day we were waited on by a gentleman whom we had not seen before. Nonetheless I started in on him right away.

"What kind of a guy wears black earrings?" I asked. I was making reference to the several black earrings he wore in each ear. He just looked at me. "Do they ever get rusty?", I asked. No response. "Where are you from?" was my next question as he served us bread and water. Keep in mind that this was no typical waiter. He was more of a tough guy in waiter's clothes. I would not have expected him to be in his present occupation. His head was shaved clean and his face offered dark contouring beneath his bleak eyes. His tight shirt and unbuttoned collar suggested a muscular physique and I suspected that he sported several tattoos of varying nature. I was not surprised at what happened next.

After looking me right in the eye he spoke. "I lived on the streets of New Orleans for a long time. I busted heads for a living". I was not surprised. I asked if he was in New Orleans during the hurricane. He then pulled a dozen tattered photos from his shirt pocket and said "I lost my entire life in the hurricane". The photos showed a demolished home in absolute ruins. Wrecked cars, twisted trees, splintered lumber and carnage were all that was left of his home. He then went on to say that he had gotten nothing from FEMA and felt completely abandoned by his community and his government. His anger and disappointment was apparent as he talked of his nightmares. Eventually, out of frustration and abject despair he and his wife moved to upstate New York to be near other family members. I could do nothing more than listen to his story and offer condolences. I hope to never experience the difficulties he had. He faced a hard road ahead. I wish the man and his wife well.

I've thought about the waiter often during the past few days and I'm reminded over and over again at how incredibly lucky I've been. I do not feel blessed by some fictional supreme being, I simply feel grateful for my ability to work hard and the luck I've had. I really do give thanks for the progress I've made in my life. Many people are not as lucky.

I'm not big on organized religions or mandates from supreme beings. Frankly, I find the world's religions both astonishingly hypocritical and arrogant. Stop and think about this. Everyday throughout the world forty thousand children die of starvation. That's everyday! And our great religious leaders are sitting in churches worth trillions of dollars. And here in America they don't even pay taxes on their properties. If they really were "Men of God" they would sell their properties and their big cars and buy food to feed the hungry and provide health care for the people who really need it. Does this make sense or am I off the wall?

Throughout the years I've had many long talks with religious zealots and have been told on many occasions that I would not be going to heaven because I have not been "saved". Many people have told me that the reasons they do good deeds is because they will be rewarded when they die by going to heaven where they will sit all day long basking in the glory of god. That's at strange approach to life for me. Frankly, I don't need the bible and I don't need the ten commandants and I don't need some guy foolishly dying on a cross to rescue me from my sins. All that is just folly to me. I don't do good deeds in hopes of profitable return. I don't do things because I fear the wrath of God. I don't misbehave because Moses told me not to.

I do good things because it's the right thing to do.

This is not that hard to comprehend. At some point most people grow up. In our hearts we intrinsically know what will be good for us as individuals, good for our families, good for our communities, good for our countries and good for our world. Good deeds done for the sake of "going to heaven" or for some other mystical reason are, in reality, doomed to failure. Deeds done in the hopes of some sort of reward are founded on greed, mistrust, egotism and selfishness. It's a sad day when we can't give something and not expect something in return.

This discussion could go on for all eternity. But I would like to think that somewhere in the hallowed halls of our own minds we all understand this. The world would be a much better place if we acted in a less selfish manner.

For me this is still a wonderful season. Actually, I really prefer Thanksgiving as a holiday but Christmas has its place. For me both holidays are a time for acknowledging others and in some way thanking others for their friendship and help. Both are times to reflect on the absolute miracle of being alive.

I also believe in helping others (that's why I'm not rich). This year we "adopted a family in need". A local social service agency called and asked us to help a single woman with three kids. Her fourth child had recently died and the mother was in the hospital. So my daughter and wife spent a few days buying and wrapping several needed gifts for the kids. It was a privilege to help them. It was the right thing to do.

For me, I still think of the guy who lost his home in New Orleans due to Hurricane Katrina. I left him a twenty dollar tip and my sincere hopes that life would get better for him.

Here's a typical day.

Friday, December 7. Woke at four AM and responded to about ten emails by 5AM. I then fed the cats, my daughter and my wife in that order. I called two clients to assure them that I would be at their homes later that day. I then hooked up the trailer to my truck and had to mess around with my trail hitch and trailer lights to get them to work correctly. My wife and I, along with an early rising employee loaded a seven foot tall, two hundred pound moose antler chandelier in the trailer. My plans were to make the deliveries and then be home no later than three in the afternoon. We left my gallery at about 9AM. First we drove into Manchester, VT., where we visited the Orvis Outlet store. My wife talked me out of purchasing another fly rod as I really don't need another one. On the way out of town we stopped for hot dogs at an outside corner vendor. I would have preferred Mexican food but my daughter wanted hot dogs. Most parents will understand that an eight year old girl stuck in a truck all day long can become quite emotional unless she has the food she wants for lunch.

The drive up to Stratton Mountain Ski area was far more hazardous than I expected. Ice and snow were falling and the truck, even in four wheel drive, began to slip and slide on the winding mountain roads. Near the top of the two mile driveway to the private home we actually began sliding backwards on the ice covered road. In time however, we made it to the compound where we picked up a few items and left off a few pieces that were requested by the decorators. The home, an absolutely spectacular 12,000 sq. ft. structure, will appear in a new book of mine due out in the fall of 2009.

At any rate the descent down the mountain from the home was nothing less than hair raising. My truck and trailer actually skid down the road for nearly a mile before finally stopping. Needless to say that there was enormous potential for disaster and I was warned by both my wife and daughter about driving more than five miles per hour down mountain roads.

At the bottom of the "hill" I inspected my trailer hitch and kicked off a significant layer of ice that had built up. As I kicked away a chunk of ice broke off and hit me in the eye. A half hour later I rinsed both eyes with a bottle of water but felt no relief. In time my vision blurred and with tears pouring from my left eye my wife drove me to a hospital in Rutland, Vermont. And there we sat for three hours before finally seeing an MD in the emergency room. Apparently I had cut the cornea of my eye and was given treatment and meds to help heal the wound. By now it was dark outside and we drove slowly along winding roads on our way to another delivery near Woodstock, Vermont. Finally, at eight PM we arrived at our client's home and stood outside in zero weather for quite some time before they answered their door.

Because we were so late the workmen who were to help unload the chandelier had gone home. So with great effort we managed to drag the chandelier across the ice and snow and into a barn where it would sit for another month or so before it and three others we're building are hung. We finally left their place at around 9PM. We found a restaurant a half hour later and enjoyed a great meal and several cups of coffee. From there I drove for nearly four hours through ice and snow back to Lake George. My wife and daughter slept for most of the ride home. Around 2 AM we pulled into our driveway and I was thrilled when a message on my answering machine said that my meeting with another client in New York City in the morning, just a few hours later, was cancelled. As I collapsed in my bed I thought to myself.... "just another twenty two hour day in the life of Ralph Kylloe".

Here's another one for you. During the past two months or so I've been on at least a dozen different airplanes. And I'm happy to say that most have been brief, unremarkable experiences. However, my return trip from Bozeman, Montana, back to Albany just about set my hair on fire. My flight was to be at 1PM from Bozeman. I arrived at the airport at 10:30AM and returned my rental car. Once in the terminal I was disappointed to see at least a hundred individuals , all dressed in full camouflage outfits standing in line at the United Airlines ticket counter. And there we stood for more than an hour before an agent finally showed up and began checking us in. Because all of the people in front of me were hunters and all of them had bazookas and assault rifles capable of bringing down elephants and tanks, each gun case had to be opened and inspected. Finally, it was my turn at the counter to be awarded a seat!

Keep in mind that this was two days before Thanksgiving and I promised my wife and daughter I would be home for the holiday.

"I'm sorry sir, but the flight is significantly overbooked and you do not have an assigned seat. I can get you to Albany the day after Thanksgiving".

"What about later today?", I asked.

"I'm sorry, sir but the soonest flight is on Thanksgiving day."

"What time is the flight?", I asked.

"1PM sir"

"What time will I arrive in Albany?"

"About midnight."

"Please...can't you get me home so I can spend Thanksgiving with my eight year old daughter?"

With that the agent worked feverishly on the computer. And I could hear fifty people behind me moaning and groaning about another delay.

"We'll sir, I can get you on a flight tomorrow morning at six AM".

"Great, I'll take it!"

A few minutes later she handed me a ticket.

"Just a few comments sir, you'll have to get a ride to Butte, Montana (about a hundred miles away). You can spend the night in the Holiday Inn (it was free to me!)." So without complaining I took the ticket and the hotel reservation and rented a car. From there I drove four hours through ice and snow and finally arrived in Butte. As it was early evening I noticed an advertisement for a hot springs a few miles past the city! And so I drove over and spent a glorious evening soaking outside in 100 degree water as gigantic snowflakes fell from the sky! It was a grand evening.

In the morning I woke at 4AM and drove to the airport. Fog and clouds blanketed the area. And no one, and I mean no one, was at the airport. So I waited and waited. Finally an hour later someone showed up and unlocked the door. An hour later I was on the first leg of my journey. The first flight was to Salt Lake City. The second flight was to Dallas, then Cincinnati, then Detroit and then to Dulles in Washington, DC. And finally, fifteen hours later, we landed in Albany! I'm not complaining, I did make it home for Thanksgiving but that's just too many flights in one day. I probably could have taken a train or a bus and gotten home earlier. But I was just thankful to finally be home.

Other Stuff

I know I promised not to complain but I feel the need to ramble on for a bit. Something is wrong in our country today. And I am perfectly serious when I say that we need a violent revolution in our government because the way we are running our country is, quite frankly, disgusting.

Doesn't it bother anyone that one out of one hundred and fifty kids is born with Autism? Doesn't it bother people that breast cancer, Alzheimer's disease, leukemia and all kinds of other cancers are running rampant in our country? Is no one worried about global warming? It seems to me that our present leaders are only concerned about war. And Why? Because wars make money. We spend trillions of dollars on new war machines when we should be building better schools and libraries and medical research facilities. It sickens me to hear about kids with no health care or Christmas presents. It's disgusting to see millions of Americans in jail in our own country. True most of them belong there but I wonder if their lives would have been different if they were raised in a good home with good parents and food and education and health care. It disgusts me to see our young men and women losing their limbs and lives in wars that have no legitimate reason for existing and have no foreseeable conclusions. It disgusts me that we are having a war on drugs and I can buy just about any kind of illegal drug on a street corner in a nearby town. It nearly kills me to think that we still sell tobacco products when twelve hundred people die every day from using tobacco products.

And I'm sick of hearing about deranged individuals shooting up schools and malls.

And the drug companies are just as bad. It's astonishing that they make all kinds of laxatives and charge fortunes for their products when all people have to do is buy a box of bran for less than a dollar, eat a few tablespoons a day and they'll be so regular they won't believe it. And that would be the end of colon cancers and all kinds of other digestive tract illnesses.

I want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. Honest to God, I don't think that's too much to ask. So we need to have a mental revolution in this country. We have to dramatically change our priorities. The government is supposed to serve and protect its citizens. We would be the envy of the world if only we would educate our citizens. OK, Ok, OK, I'll stop for a while.

Other tid bits

A week ago I took my daughter for her weekly violin lesson. My wife also came along. She's taking violin lessons from the same teacher as well. So we entered the home and were greeted by the teacher. And for the first ten minutes of the lesson I sat patiently on the couch reading a book as my daughter practiced her lessons. The teacher, who could charm the socks off an Eskimo, could take no more of my insensitivity to the music before me and ordered me to stop reading and pay attention. And of course I followed her every command. She then handed me a violin and for the next forty five minutes instructed me in violin posture, finger positioning and technique. And I'm happy to say that I can now competently play Three Blind Mice on the violin! But that was not enough for my teacher. She said that I had great talent and that I should take more lessons because I could very quickly become quite competent. I will admit that I picked it up fairly easily! And I was quite proud of myself. But I'm certain that she tells everyone that so they will sign up for her lessons

Nonetheless, after my first session I was invited to stay a bit longer for the group lesson. So along with several six to eight year old girls I graciously played Jingle Bells for nearly an hour! And we did sound great! I do realize that I might have looked a bit out of place but in truth I had a great time and have given the teacher, as requested, a month's worth of tuition fees for my next four lessons!

On my way out the door I was also told that I needed to get my own violin as my daughters was significantly too small for me. I completely understood and vowed to have my own violin for my next lesson.

Once we arrived back home along with a few glasses of wine we had a great dinner. And then a few after dinner drinks as well. In truth, I really am not a "drinker" and usually stop at two cocktails. But this night we got a bit carried away.

Later that evening I remembered my promise to acquire my own violin so I "booted up" EBay on my computer and typed in "violins". I was not surprised to see over four thousand instruments in the category. I was very happy to see a violin offered for forty dollars and without much thought I typed in forty one dollars.

One thing I learned that night was to never, ever bid on something when you've been drinking. I checked my bid a half hour later and to my horror realized that I have typed in Forty One Hundred dollars. And keep in mind that bids are legally binding contracts. This was not a good thing because I really didn't want a Stradivarius violin I just wanted a violin so I could share the experience of learning music with my daughter. But I was cool about all of it. I didn't get excited. I just remained calm. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised when the auction ended the following morning. The final price for the violin was well over six thousand dollars! I was off the hook!

I will say that I did purchase a new violin on EBay this afternoon for $51 plus shipping! And I'm greatly looking forward to learning Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Mary Had A Little Lamb in class over the next few weeks. And we will be performing the songs before a group of proud parents at a Christmas Pageant in my area! If anyone is interested in attending the show let me know. I'll make certain that you receive front row tickets, a glass of red Cool Aid and Christmas cookies!

And talk about doing stupid things. About a month ago I was driving back from New York City where I had lunch with and meetings with friends and business associates. In front of me on the highway were two burly guys in full motorcycle regalia proudly wearing their colors. These were not just old guys on touring bikes. These guys were the real thing. The kept just over the speed limit but every once in a while one would roar ahead of the other and make lots of noise as he did so. In time they pulled off the highway and into a rest stop. I did the same. After using the restroom I stood behind the two bikers and waited patiently to order a coffee from the concession stand.

The bikers took their time about ordering. Finally they ordered double lattes with extra vanilla and nutmeg. After they placed their order they moved a few feet and allowed me to place my order. "I want a real mans drink. I want a large coffee, black. None of this fru fru stuff," I said. I then moved to my left to allow the guy behind me to place his order.

As I turned I was taken aback by the two bikers standing only a few inches from me. Towering over me one of the guys said "what did you mean by that crack?" Like a fool I said, "real men drink coffee". Now even closer one of the bikers, with chewing tobacco running down his chin, said "you don't like my drink?"

This was now very serious. I joke and kid with lots of people and only once did it back fire on me. This was the second time. I didn't know what to say. "I asked you a question" the biker said with a tremor in his voice. I was still speechless. "You don't like my drink?" said the other biker.

I was fully aware that I was now in potentially serious trouble. "I really hate people like you", came from the lips of the biker on my left. Several people were now watching wondering if I was about to have the brains beaten out of my head. I have to admit that I was scared. And I felt my voice tremble as I said "I'm just trying to find some humor somewhere." It was a feeble, stupid response but I will admit that I was painfully intimidated.

A few seconds later both of the bikers broke into giggles and then laughter. I thought for a moment they were going both go into cardiac arrest they were laughing so hard. "We got you man" they said. "We really got you!" They were pointing their huge fingers at me. Both continued their gut splitting outburst. "Hey man, we love doing this to people", the big guy said. "We scare em to death and love doing it. You should have seen the look on your face. You were great man. Don't pay any attention to us, Man, we're just having some fun with you." Moments later they picked up their lattes with extra vanilla and walked off to relax in a booth. I could still hear their laughter as I walked out the doors without my large, black coffee. I have to admit that the two bikers with all their tattoos, chewing tobacco and leathers were quite convincing. When I finally got home I took a triple dose of my blood pressure medicine.

REALITY STUFF

And so we are taking another direction here at my gallery. The gallery itself is doing very well. In fact it's doing so well it's caused me to inadvertently ignore my website for a while. That's because every time I bring a new pieces of furniture in they sell almost immediately. Which is a good thing!

Nonetheless, within the month I plan on launching the new and improved, industrial strength Ralph Kylloe Rustic Design Website! I think you'll enjoy the updates we're adding and please feel free to comment on whatever you like or offer suggestions or ideas on how to improve what we do here at the Ralph Kylloe Gallery.

I also made great progress on my TV show. I really don't like to talk about stuff until I have something concrete to say but at this point I'm thrilled with the progress we've made. I'll let everyone know when they can see the entire program.

Well in two hours we're taking off for Chicago to spend the holidays with family and friends. I'll be playing the blues with a few musician friends out there and will probably eat too much food and sweet stuff. Please drive carefully this holiday season.

My best to you, Ralph


Greetings from Ralph

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Sunday, November 4, 2007


They were a young couple, probably in their twenties. They sat in the row of seats directly in front of me. I was first assigned a complete row of seats to myself by an emergency exit but as I sat down I realized that the armrests did not retract. So I quickly moved to the very last row and sat in the center seat. I prayed no one would sit next to me. No one did and I smiled proudly to myself when the flight attendant sealed the door. The seats in the last row do not fold back but at least the arm rests retracted. It was to be a nearly seven hour flight and a row of seats to myself is a blessing beyond comprehension. I looked forward to taking a long nap, completely stretched out, during the long flight. At any rate the young couple mentioned above sat in the seats directly in front of me.

The plane took off and soon we were sailing smoothly through the skies on our way to Alaska! I relaxed with my shoes off and began reading a great new book on our sixteenth president Abe Lincoln. In time the young couple in front of me settled in as well and the woman sitting by the window reclined her seat just enough for me to see her face. She was a fairly attractive woman and although large she was not overweight. Their smiles and giggles suggested that they were newlyweds and very much in love. He constantly whispered unintelligible things in her ear and she giggled with each comment. And although I would never know, I could only assume the nature of their discussions.

After a half hour of their silliness the serious physical contact began. The crack between their seats gave me a partial view of their actions. I am sorry to say that I do not enjoy watching some guy sticking his tongue in some girl's mouth. I know I should not have been watching but when its two feet in front of your face it's hard to ignore. After a few moments I adjusted my pillow and reclined peacefully against my window. But I could not avoid or even escape from the amorous escapades of the couple in front of me.

And so this went on for quite some time. And I was not surprised when the couple pulled a blanket over themselves to conceal any other intimacies they were having.

In time the pilot turned off the fasten seatbelt sign and mentioned over the intercom that passengers were now free to wander about the airplane. With that the couple in front of me rose from their seats and went to the bathroom directly behind me. I was not in the least surprised when both of them entered the cubical at the same time. Keep in mind please that airplane bathrooms are tiny with just barely enough room for one person. There was no doubt in my mind what they were doing.

As my seat leaned up against the wall of the rest room I could feel the vibrations of the couple as they banged up against the wall and moaned and groaned in what was obvious to me not horrible constipation. Frankly, I couldn't help but giggle to myself. After a few minutes the door opened and the couple emerged. I suspect that they were surprised to see several people standing in the aisle staring directly at them and anxiously waiting to use the toilet.

The couple returned to their seats directly in front of me and promptly fell asleep.

A few hours later they were both awake and at it again. And in a short while they both again visited the bathroom directly behind me at the same time. I suspected that from the vibrations and noise they again enjoyed the physical pleasures of each other. And I really hoped that they enjoyed their little encounter.

Now...all this is all good and well in my mind. People have been doing this kind of stuff for millions of years. And I'm happy for everyone...I just wish that on some occasions people would use a bit more discretion with their amorous encounters. You never know whose watching.

Near the end of the flight the woman turned her head just enough to see my smiling face staring directly at her through the crack in the seats. I wonder what she would have thought if she realized that just about the entire plane knew about their little rendezvous.

And so I sit here in my room in Anchorage, Alaska. It's just getting light out now and it's been predicted that it will rain heavily everyday for the next week. I'm waiting patiently for two other friends to arrive at the airport tonight. I'll pick them up about twelve hours from now and then drive down to Cooper Landing in the dark while trying to avoid moose and bears that wander across the highway at night. About a dozen of us are staying at an old world rustic lodge and will fish the mighty Kenai River for huge rainbow trout. It's fly fishing only and strictly catch and release. We'll all have a great time and in the evening we'll tell stories about the fish we caught and the bears we saw.

9-24-07. End of first day. The fishing was very good. Not extraordinary liked I had hoped but we did catch fish. Although it rained in the morning it cleared up nicely. The scenery was spectacular. The second day was more of the same. Although bad weather was predicted the day grew warm and sunny. The fishing was again great but not extraordinary as we had often experienced in Alaska. At this point everyone was getting along well and having a great time.

Alaska at this time of the year is truly magnificent. The river we're on is a glacier fed body of water. The color of the water is a mesmerizing turquoise blue. The towering mountains offered a newly fallen dusting of snow and the leaves of the aspen trees were in peak foliage. And, even better, the tourists were gone as were the insects!

But melancholic thoughts often invade my mind when I'm in truly wilderness areas. I thought of my parents whom are both now gone. My parents had a troubled relationship. They should have divorced much sooner than they did. I was never close with my father, who, frankly, was in ill health much of his life.

But, I suppose, like many people on the planet I had issues with my parents, particularly my father. He never achieved the success he wanted in his life and he died living alone in a one room apartment. Few people came to his funeral. But I suppose, like all parents, he wanted a better life for his sons. There are many days when I wish I could tell him about my life. I wish I could tell both of my parents I'm OK and doing well. I often wonder if he would be jealous or proud of what I've done in my life. I do know that he would have given just about anything to experience the things I have.

But at some point in our lives it's necessary to get beyond stuff. It's necessary to realize that things happen to us that we cannot and could not control. It's best to realize the mistakes of others, learn from them and then move on and create the best life possible. There were actually eleven of us, in four different groups, here in Alaska. Three groups are staying at Gwins and the other group wisely rented a private home on the banks of the river about ten minutes from us. Considering that my group had no heat or hot water (and no toilet paper) for the first two days at the lodge and that the food was significantly less than it had been in the past we'll probably find other accommodations when we return next year.

Our fourth day of fishing was the worst. The wind was blowing at forty miles per hour and the combination of rain and snow stung our faces as we were pelted with frozen moisture. The landing where we were to launch our boat was closed so we traveled some fifty miles downstream to launch in a more secluded area. Once we were on the water we motored for an hour or so at a dead slow pace directly into the wind. In time we realized our efforts were fruitless and chose to fish in an unknown part of the river. After an hour or so we gave up, took the boat out of the water and drove an hour or so upriver to a very secluded spot. All in all is was a very slow fishing day. I sometimes wonder, however, about the sanity of it all as standing in hurricane winds, trying to cast upstream and doing our best to keep warm (to say nothing of the enormous expense) seems more like a sincere act of masochism than a fun filled outdoor adventure. Nonetheless, life goes on.

Throughout the week we saw bears and eagles daily. Near the end of the week three of us decided to try another river so in the morning we drove about two hours south to fish for Steelhead in a creek near Homer. Although we caught very few fish the change in scenery did us good. In the evening we wandered into Homer and had a drink at my all time favorite bar, The Salty Dog. The bar itself has more character than anyplace I've ever been in. I won't spoil the surprise but a trip to the bar from anywhere in the world is worth every cent. My only disappointment was that the floor of the bar has been nothing more than wood chips for the past thirty years. This past year a cement floor was added. Nonetheless, the ambiance of the place is still truly Alaskan.

After we sat at one of the long tables for an hour or so a group of very serious Alaskan bikers in full leathers and colors entered the bar and unexpectedly sat at the table with us. My group had had a drink and just for kicks I started to "mouth off" to the group (about ten of them) about their bikes. I commented to one guy about his bald head and told him that real bikers have serious tattoos. Without missing a beat he shouted "wanna see my tattoos?" With that he stood up, unbuckled his belt and started to unzip his pants. "No, No, No, that's OK", I said. Everyone laughed. With that the ice was broken and we all sat for an hour or so telling stories. I bought the bikers a round of drinks and listened intently as they told stories about their lives in Alaska as loggers, excavators, and truck drivers.

In time I got up from the table and ordered another round of drinks at the bar. Sitting at a chair right next to me sat one of the most beautiful women I had ever seen. She smiled directly to me and her piercing blue eyes humbled me as I was caught completely off guard. For just a few seconds I was speechless. Moments later I mumbled something about a good restaurant in town. I was surprised when I could even speak as her charm and good looks caused my knees to shake. And so for the next three minutes we chatted about nothing. It doesn't happen often and I suppose it happens to everyone. But there was a connection between us. Frankly, it doesn't happen often but such events are one of life's little thrills. But I'm a happily married man and am very loyal to my family. Nonetheless, it was one of those priceless moments I will not forget.

A few minutes later, oblivious to my encounter, one of my friends took me by the arm and marched me and my group across the street where we had an excellent dinner. Once the bill was paid I and friend Paul Bodor exited the restaurant and walked toward the vehicle. A minute or so later my friend Brian Correll exited the door and walked fifty or so yards behind us. Seconds later we heard a loud thump. We both turned to see Brian lying face down on the ground. In truth, when someone is hurt they usually yell or groan or something. But Brian was flat out. He uttered not a word. I turned to get the vehicle and my friend Paul ran to offer assistance. By the time I reached Brian he was screaming in pain. So without hesitation we loaded him in the van and drove him to the hospital. I must say that it was rather disturbing to hear him screaming in absolute agony as the physician and aids reset his dislocated shoulder. But as soon as it started it was over and we drove back to our lodge for a short night sleep.

Needless to say we woke late in the morning and were scolded by the guide as he wanted to fish. We did have a very productive day and I caught my largest fish of the trip...a gorgeous 28 inch rainbow trout!

But like all good things change happens. Trout fishing on the Kenai River in Alaska the last week of September is now on the map. There were far more boats and more fishermen on the river than ever before. Normally it's a fairly wilderness experience but this year it was common to see thirty or forty boats and dozens of fishermen all there for the same reason. It wasn't exactly combat fishing but it was more crowded than I had hoped for. Nonetheless, we will return the following year but we will fish there a week later in hopes of avoiding the crowds.

The following day I drove my buddies to the airport in Anchorage for an early evening flight. As I had several hours before my departure I wandered into downtown Anchorage for some window shopping and dinner. Once I parked my car I walked through the downtown area where I was accosted by several drunken street people asking for change. I ignored them all.

Near one street corner a large man was standing with several other individuals. I assumed that were all friends until I heard the big guy start to scream. Just twenty yards away I saw him walk up to a guy smaller then he and punch him ferociously in the face. The small man went down with one punch and didn't move. The big guy than started shouting "who's next?...who's next?" No one took him up on the challenge. People started running in all directions. To me the big guy was either really drunk or high on serious drugs. I wisely ducked into a restaurant. I really had no desire to confront a testosterone intoxicated wild man. I tried to find someone to call the police but no one presented themselves. A few minutes later I looked out the window to see the guy who was assaulted struggle to his feet and wander off. I suppose this kind of stuff happens in all cities but walking in Anchorage in the evenings is something that will ever concern me.

In time I boarded my plane for the flight home. I was stuck in a middle seat for the first seven hour flight and in an aisle seat for the last two connections. It was a long, eighteen hour day. Once home I had to spend the next day in bed exhausted more from the flights home than the actual fishing trip.

Finally back in my office and ready for work I was bombarded with tons of phone calls and emails each requiring attention and time. Two days later, and much to the chagrin of my wife and daughter, I boarded a plane and headed out to Montana to work on more books and projects.

I have to say that I dearly love Montana. I have friends there and the mountains and rivers in that part of the world speak an unspoken language of art and passion.

I photographed seven different homes during my three weeks there, each quite extraordinary and each nothing less than a bit of heaven on earth. The only problem is that people who live there are genetically deficient in their ability to accurately convey either time or distances. Here's a translation of their vernacular;
1. "Just a few minutes out of town", really means two hours,
2. "Just a few miles down the road", means a minimum of sixty miles,
3. "I'll get back to you shortly", means not at all or next month,
4. "The fishing is terrible", means fishing is great,
5. "The hunting is slow", means it's extraordinary.
6. The speed limit is 75 mph but it really means 90.
7. "It'll be done tomorrow", means next month.
8. "It shouldn't cost too much", means it's a minimum of a thousand dollars.

I think those reading this get the message.

I spent my first three nights at the Chico Lodge. They have very affordable rooms and their hot springs pool is nothing less than a delight. And the drive into work each morning is as picturesque as any in America. But frankly, I grew tired of the lodge. The old section where I usually stay is a serious fire trap, the bathrooms are down the hall and it's noisy all night long. And there are no TVs in the rooms. Not that I need one but sometimes it's necessary to just mindlessly relax after a long day.

Nonetheless, I spent quite a bit of time in the office of architect Larry Pearson in Bozeman. For my taste Larry is the best architect in the country. Working mostly in the rustic style his homes go far beyond the traditional realm of rustic. You can see several of Larry's projects in the past three or four books I've done. And if you want to get the inside scoop on his office or if you want to hire him to create the greatest rustic home in the world just for you please call me directly and I'll give you all the details.

Nonetheless, photographing homes is one of the great pleasures and adventures in my life. You never know what you'll run into on these projects. One home titled Cherry Creek required me to drive down a dirt road for more than an hour in the middle of nowhere. The road, actually just two ruts on a mountainside, passed through a valley complete with dramatic drop-offs, angry long horn cattle and rattlesnakes. But the ranch, albeit small, was nothing less than an absolute paradise complete with restacked historical buildings, horses, great scenery and a pond where I landed several gorgeous rainbow and brook trout!

I also photographed three homes in a private community there. The homes were nothing less than spectacular. Large in every way the buildings and mountain top scenery humbled me as I again realized that we are standing on a very small planet literally zooming through space. I was also conscious of the fact that we have so much potential as a species and that we have so little time in which to better ourselves and our planet.

I also made photos (you make a photo...you don't take one) of another great place that was built in 1904. The builder of the home actually worked on the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park. Unique in design I was quite pleased when the owner invited my family and me to visit with them for a few days the following summer. And the place is right on a great lake full of huge trout!

In truth, the fall colors were stunning. I spent one full day driving through Yellowstone with Larry Pearson and Dennis Durham. We left Bozeman before day break and as the sun rose over the park we were thrilled with the animals and scenery before us. Later that day we made photos of a great small cabin on the shores of the Clarks Fork River near Cody, Wyoming. It was one of the finest days of my life.

And don't for one minute think that I didn't fish while in the West. In the evenings, just about every evening, I found a great river or stream or pond to toss a few flies into. I hired a guide one day and fished the Madison River and another day I fished with Harry Howard of Yellowstone Traditions on the Missouri. Both days were thrilling. Perhaps the most awe-inspiring event occurred while I was traveling with a guide on the way to fish the Madison just outside of Yellowstone Park. On a small road we witnessed a pack of wolves feeding on an elk they had taken down. We watched in amazement for a good twenty minutes as they tore the carcass open and fed. The wolves were not more than twenty yards from us.

But in truth I was gone a bit too long. I was supposed to be out there for just a week or so but ended up staying for a little over three. Regardless of how much I love it out there my home is in the Adirondacks. And it truth, and although I have great friends in the Bozeman area, my evenings were quite lonely. I really don't go to bars or "hang out". And eating out daily gets really expensive. On many occasions, just to save a few bucks, I went to the local grocery store where I bought four pieces of dark meat chicken, a pint of cole slaw and ate dinner in my car. I can assure everyone that an evening spent in that manner is just not that thrilling.

When I was staying at Chico Lodge I found an out-of-the- way café owned and hosted by a great lady who made a great breakfast. She was a retired physics/science teacher and had opened the restaurant only a month before. We had several long conversations about quantum physics and Heisenberg's Theory of Uncertainty (it deals with the positioning of electrons around a nucleus) before 6AM over a cup of coffee. This may sound like a strange thing to talk about but finding another individual who knows about that kind of stuff is like a drink of cold water to a guy who just walked across Death Valley! Both of us were seemingly disappointed when hunters came for early morning breakfast. The owner then had to return to the work scrambling eggs and frying the skin of dead pigs to satisfy the needs of a dozen hungry men dressed in full camouflage. And I really liked the way she told the entire group of testosterone induced hunters that they could not smoke in her dining room. They all mumbled to each other but complied with her demands.

In time I left Montana. I arrived at the Bozeman airport at 6AM and was surprised to see dozens of men in full camouflage and tons of boxes and luggage already in line. The first week of hunting season was over and men with their gun cases and antlers hacked from the heads of dead elk and deer patiently waited their turn at the self check-in computer terminals. I stood in line for nearly two hours as luggage had to be weighted, antlers had to be wrapped, over weight packages had to be inspected and paid for and finally many passengers had to be re-routed as storms in the East prevented flights from reaching their destinations.

Unfortunately because I had rescheduled my flights from an earlier time I was stuck in middle seats on three different flights. Crammed in between big guys who smelled of cigar smoke, chewed tobacco tirelessly and who drank miniature bottles of scotch like water I endured endless conversations about killing and gutting animals.

At this point in my life I've come to the conclusion that airplane seats are getting smaller and smaller. I now refer to the cheap seat section of airplanes as "cattle cars". But I endure because paying hundreds of dollars extra to sit in first class seems a ridiculous waste of money to me. Needless to say I was thrilled to finally arrive home.

And as I sit here at my desk I remember all kinds of very human things that have happened here at my gallery. One particular event is worth noting.

A year or two ago, I really don't remember when, a group of people parked their vehicles in my parking lot and entered my gallery. They were a "chatty" bunch and in time I found myself talking with a very elderly gentlemen about fly fishing who was part of this group. Well, we talked for an hour or so and I enjoyed his company. I really don't remember if the group bought anything but I had a great time talking about rivers and streams and the big fish that both of us had taken throughout the years. When the group was ready to leave I gave the elderly gentleman an autographed copy of my book FLY FISHING THE GREAT WESTERN RIVERS. I suspect that he appreciated the gesture but in all honesty I can't recall his reaction. I never heard from him or any of their group again. Time passes quickly these days and I had long forgotten about the time I spent with them.

A month or so ago a woman came into my store and related the following story. It was her grandfather that I had given the book to and had spent time with a few years ago. He so enjoyed chatting with me and the book I gave him that he went home and tied several flies. It was his intention to give me the flies the next time he saw me. Tragically, he passed away before we could meet again but asked his granddaughter to give me the flies he had tied.

And so with tears running down her face the granddaughter handed me a small case that contained seven of the best flies I had ever seen. She was incredibly thankful that her grandfather had someone to share fly fishing stories with before he passed away. During my recent trip to Montana I used one of the flies that had just been presented to me. On my first cast a monster rainbow trout hit the fly and I successfully landed and released the eight pound behemoth back to the cool, clear waters of the Rocky Mountains. I wisely made photos of the fish before I released him and sent a copy of the image to his granddaughter when I returned home. I have not yet heard back from her. However, I suspect that artist and master fly tier Jim Crannell, the elderly gentleman who tied the flies just for me, was smiling down on me the day I landed the largest trout I ever caught in the lower forty eight states. Thanks Jim. I won't forget your kindness or your generosity!

In all honesty, stories and experiences such as the above humble me. I have been blessed to have had lots of such experiences and hope throughout my life to have many more. Such events are what keep us sane and grateful to be alive.

And so I sit here at my desk on a cold Saturday afternoon thinking about the things I need to do. In truth, it's getting harder and harder for me to write my "newsletters" as my time seems to be gobbled up by things that seem important at the moment. Considering all the disturbances that happen here it really does take a full day or more for me to write ten or eleven pages of stuff. I often wonder if it's worth the effort. But whenever I send out a newsletter I receive several emails from folks who share stories and compliment my ramblings. Sometimes it's worth the effort to do something without regard to financial incentives. Sometimes the act of doing something just because you like to is reward enough. The quest for personal expression and artistic endeavors goes far beyond the need for recognition and financial reward.

Reality has just again set in as I sit here and realize that I have to travel back to Montana next week for a few meetings that, frankly, I will greatly enjoy. The thought of interacting with brilliant creative people is an absolute delight. And when not in a meeting I'll photograph a few more homes and toss a few flies in the Yellowstone River in hopes of catching a trout. I really do have the greatest life in the world. I just hope that my wife and daughter don't throw me out of the house for being gone again.

My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. The photo above really is me. I still like to go "Trick or Treating". People look at me as though I'm rather strange but I'm used to it.




Sunday, June 17, 2007

It’s shocking to me how many people don’t take global warming seriously. I now do. But I’ll tell you, I really like my Toyota SUV. And I really like my eight cylinder Toyota Tundra pickup truck. Both have lots of room, all kinds of gadgets, I feel safe in them and both have all-wheel drive. The SUV gets about 18 MPG. And when I’m pulling my trailer with my truck I get about 9 MPG. But at $3.45 for a gallon of gas it’s a little depressing to spend nearly two hundred dollars a week just on gas. At the same time the global warming thing is in the back of my mind. Nonetheless, I’ve always been one to light candles rather than curse the darkness for hours on end.

So this past week I went out and traded in the SUV for a Toyota Hybrid Prius. It’s definitely smaller and does not have all- wheel or four wheel drive. But it does have all kinds of “cool stuff” in it. And a few days ago my wife and I went to New York City for a few days and the car is presently averaging 51.2 miles per gallon of gas! And it only cost me about thirty bucks to fill up the tank!

I want to be quite honest here. In my life time, between my wife and I, we’ve owned about twenty new Toyotas. And in truth, we’ve never had any problems with any of them. And on many of my trucks I’ve put 200,000 and 300,000 miles on them and never had any problems. So here’s the question. Why can’t American build great cars? Why do the Japanese, whom we destroyed in WW II, make us look like idiots? A year or so ago a big guy, who was drunk, came up to me after a late night gig and asked why I drive a “Jap Car”. “Because if American’s built better cars I’d buy them” I said. He didn’t appreciate my comment. I was very happy when he just walked away.

Apart from all that it’s now necessary to take global warming seriously. Without rambling on and on about it the people who read my comments are bright and well educated. As a nation we know what to do to solve the problem of global warming. I just hope that we choose to do the right thing. And quickly!

Three hours ago I got a call from my wife. She needed me to come to our cabin as soon as possible. So I dropped what I was doing and drove over. Our association was putting our boat docks in and I was requested to be there. I was one of the ones who needed to be in the water. Unfortunately, the ice had only been off the lake for less than a month. Nonetheless, without a wetsuit and in my bathing suit I plunged in and spent almost two full hours in 50 degree water. And as I now sit here the color blue is slowly leaving my body, the shivering is less than it was a few minutes ago and my skin, which for the past few hours has closely resembled prunes, is starting to look normal. But at least the docks are set and I can finally put my boat in the water for the year.

It’s now a week later. I was supposed to leave for Montana on an evening flight from Albany last night. All flights heading west were cancelled due to computer problems and bad weather. I stood in line for three hours at the airport. Once it was my turn with the reservationist I was politely told that I could travel to Detroit and spend the night there and maybe I could get out the following day (if the problems were fixed and the weather calmed down). I chose to postpone the trip and depart from Albany the following Monday. The ride to the airport from my home is an hour and because we hit rush hour traffic in Albany the return trip took nearly two hours. I just hope that this is the last “glitch” for this trip and in my never ending saga of “weird experiences” in airports and airplanes. Time will tell.

The only bad thing about postponing my trip is that I lost two days deposits on hotel rooms, my fee for fishing on a private river in Montana (non-refundable for any reason) and the opportunity to photograph a great home. But hopefully I’ll be able to reschedule the photo “shoots”.

On another note my photo trips out west are always filled with peril. I had six gorgeous homes lined up to photograph this trip. At the last second two of homes owners had to cancel my visits. This has happened often and is part of the nightmares of what I do. The worst are interior designers. They guarantee that the homes are ready. After I receive their assurances I make plane, hotel, car and a ton of other arrangements and reservations. Then, a day before I am to leave a designer will call and say that the home is not ready. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses. The pipes burst, the furniture is not in, the landscaping is not complete, the chandeliers are not hung, the window treatments have to be changed, the house burned to the ground, locust infestations, famine, nuclear holocausts, Communist invasions, anarchy and on and on. And the funny thing is that I go to great pains to make certain the homes are ready before I make my travel plans. I normally ask the architects, builders and others if the buildings really are ready. But bad things do happen and I understand. The down side to all of this is that travel is now extraordinarily expensive and my own time is important to me. Nonetheless, when photo shoots are cancelled I prefer take advantage of the situation by fly fishing in some of the greatest rivers in America and wandering around Yellowstone National Park enjoying the sights. Life is cruel sometimes! It’s best to make lemonade from lemons.

And so its Americade is here in Lake George this weekend. Right now there are fifty five thousand (55,000) motorcycles and a hundred and ten thousand visitors registered for the event here in my sleepy town of Lake George. Americade is a motor cycle rally. All day and all night heavy duty designer bikes roar up and down the streets like bees buzzing a hive. And for the ten days the bikers are around I’ll have no walk-in traffic here in my gallery. Bikers, frankly, don’t have interest in rustic furniture. And no one in their right minds would come to my area with this many motorcycles around. But in general the bikers here are great people. They’re not biker gangs or thugs. They’re just a bunch of aging, wealthy professionals trying to hold on to their youth and fantasies and getting a big kick out of a roaring, throbbing, vibrating machine between their legs.

And so just a few minutes ago my daughter asked me to come along with her to a birthday party for one of her eight year old friends. The party will be at her friend’s home where all twenty girls will swim in her pool, eat junk food and sing “happy birthday” at the appropriate time. And I always shutter when I watch the birthday child blow saliva and germs all over the cake when she blows out the candles. God help us.

Nonetheless, I’ll happily attend the party. I’ve been told by my daughter to not sing or dance or go swimming. I’m also not supposed to tell any stupid jokes or do anything else to embarrass her. So I’ll just bring along a good book, sit in a corner, eat a few celery sticks (the hosts token attempt at healthy diets), and not say anything to anyone least I embarrass my eight year old. And I’ll do my best to keep her happy!

On the way over I informed my daughter that she had to wear a life preserver whenever in the water. She didn’t have one with her so we stopped at the local department store. And of course the life preserver thing became a point of real contention with her. She didn’t like any of the ones “off the shelf” but I informed her that she was either going to wear one or we would be going home. The pool at the home where the party is being held has a very deep section and there would be lots of kids there. I choose my “power struggles” with my daughter very carefully. And I would not budge on this issue. We purchased a new life preserver and she wore it all day. I told her very clearly that the most important job I have in the world is to keep her safe. She seemed to appreciate my concerns. Just about every day ten kids drown in pools in America. And it only takes a second of looking the other way. I have been told that the worst thing that can happen to anyone is to lose a child. I will do my best to insure her safety. It’s what all parents should do.

On a related subject are you aware that every year more kids drown in private swimming pools than are killed by handguns?

Here are a few thoughts that have been on my mind for quite some time and I suppose it’s time to comment on them. We seem to be in an age of inconsideration. There are tons of little examples of inconsideration out there that drive me nuts. And they occur only because people don’t consider the effects that their actions (or lack of them) have on others. Consider this:

A. Last fall I promised my daughter that I would take her to the local water park for a late afternoon plunge in the wave pool. I picked her up from school and we drove to the park, paid the ten dollar parking fee and then the $26 admission fee for each of us. Once we arrived at the wave pool we were told that it was closed. Needless to say that this brought a tear to my daughter’s eye. I told the manager that they should have put a big sign out at the admissions gate informing people that the wave pool was closed. I also asked for a refund which he promptly denied. Refunding my money and putting a sign out would have been the considerate thing to do. We won’t visit the park again.

B. Motels sometimes drive me nuts. It is a bit of an effort to get off a highway, pull into a motel parking lot, go into a lobby, wait in line and then be told that the motel is full. I understand realities but it would be very considerate if they simply put a sign outside the motel that read “Full/ No Vacancy”. It would save me significant effort…especially when I’m tired.

C. Office people often drive me nuts. On many occasions I’ve approached clerks, sales persons, waitresses and waiters, check-out attendants, etc., and gotten the cold shoulder. I know they’re busy but if they would just look up from their work, look me in the eye and say “I’ll be with you in just a minute”, I would feel like a real person. I know that they know that I’m standing there and it would only take a second to greet someone and at least acknowledge my presence. It’s incredibly inconsiderate to be ignored.

I’m actually going to stop with the examples now. I can literally feel my blood pressure rising as I think of more examples of inconsideration. I am far from perfect but if we all just considered how our actions affected others it just might be a more considerate world.

Here’s some other stuff to ponder. I am often amazed at how apparently insignificant comments from other people or very minor events have triggered changes in my life. When I was an undergraduate I took a course in personality disorders. In one of the books I read that people with short attention spans squeeze their tubes of toothpaste in the middle. To this day I purposely squeeze toothpaste tubes from the bottom and roll up the tube as time goes by. God forbid that I should be identified as having a short attention span. Years ago I had a two second conversation with a well known artist. His exact words regarding one of my photographs were “needs foreground”. To this day I make certain that I purposely have a foreground and background in my photos. They are better because of it. And I thank the artist to this day for his comment. I also remember an incident when I was in fifth grade. I stood in front of the class and read my paper about my summer vacation. The class and the teacher were in stitches. It was a good report. Then one kid shouted out “it’s just a bunch of stupid comments”. His comments ripped into me and I didn’t write prose or essays for some twenty years. His remark was hard for ten year old kid to take.

In 1978 I took a winter survival course with Outward Bound, a wilderness adventure school. It was ten days of serious winter camping in the mountains of Maine. There was four feet of snow on the ground. Our packs were at least sixty pounds. For two days straight it was thirty below zero. And that does not include the wind chill factor. We slept in tents and sleeping bags, cooked our own food. We also did a three day solo. I made an ice fort and sat by myself and pondered life, my life day and night. Near the end of the expedition it rained for two days. Forty six people started out in the class. Eighteen of us finished the course. Frankly, it was both mentally and physically brutal. And very dangerous. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

In time I came to really dislike several of the people in my course. Near the end of the class one woman argued aggressively that we were all too tired and exhausted to complete our final ascent on a mountain. We were not capable of going on, she said. It was too dangerous. She spoke powerful words and people listened to her. The group acquiesced. They were convinced we could not go on. So we made camp and prepared to rest and recuperate. Frankly, this attitude made me sick and I told her so. I argued that we should go on. No one backed me up. But at that time I’d be damned if I was going to let some sniveling, filthy bitch tell me what I could or could not do. So I packed a tent and sleeping bag, took some food, put on my snowshoes and left for a solo ascent on the mountain. It was pitch dark when I left. I hiked up the side of a moonlit mountain for five straight hours before an instructor finally caught up with me.

Once the instructor reached me I was told that I was part of a group and the decisions made by the group applied to everyone. I was ordered back to the base camp. I complied. The instructor was correct in that it was both dangerous and foolish to wander into the wilderness alone and at night. But to this day I’m happy I left the group. I would do it again in a second and I would make it to the top. Screw the others. In many circumstances being a team player is critical. But to just blindly follow along when you know your own potential and the ability of the others, benefits no one. No progress is made and complacency rules. I don’t lead my life like that. I was capable of completing my climb to the top of the mountain at that time. I had the training, the supplies and the strength to go on. It was an incredible disservice on the part of the sniveling bitch to convince the others in my group, who were all capable of more, that we had failed and that we were weak. One of the greatest sins possible is to render people into passivity and complacency. It destroys progress and wrecks lives. Disasters come from blindly following the dictates of quasi-charismatic leaders who lead by bad examples and dissuasion. To this day, almost forty years later, I still think of the sniveling, filthy bitch that prevented people in my group from achieving their own potential. I wanted to stand on top of the god damned mountain. I hope she was hit by a truck.

And as I sit here and ponder all this I am reminded at how powerful our words can be. Things we say can and do profoundly influence the lives of others. It’s best to choose our words very carefully least we push someone in the wrong direction. Suggestions offered in a positive way enhance humanity. Debasing, demeaning statements only serve to destroy creativity, individuality and personalities. We are capable of such great things in our lives. And we need our teachers, parents, leaders and mentors to provide meaningful examples and meaningful words to help us find the strength and inspiration to help us achieve our own potential. We, as adults, often fail to realize how powerful and how influential we really are. It’s best to use our power wisely. I hope others understand this.

On another, quite different note I’ve been in the Antique business for many years. Three times a year there is a huge antique show on the east coast. I haven’t missed it in thirty years. For the first twenty years I had my way with the rustic furniture business. I had virtually no competition. Then, suddenly, everyone thought I was making millions of dollars and began purchasing all the things I’d been buying for years. Prices escalated dramatically. And fewer and fewer things started showing up. I used to be able to fill a thirty foot trailer with absolutely great stuff.

But it’s different now. I have my competitors. And I miss things that I was once able to buy. In other words…someone bought it before I saw it. But that’s OK. I get my fair share. During this past spring show friends that I’ve known for decades brought me five major pieces, including three hickory pieces, a killer mosaic root table and a great pair of early snow shoes that had been stashed away for me! All kidding aside, however, each item easily cost me five times what I would have paid for it years earlier. Here’s an example. I bought a great pair of early Native American beaver tail snow shoes for fifteen hundred dollars. When I brought them home my wife told me I was nuts. Ten years ago I would have paid no more than three hundred for them. Great art, however, always goes up in value.

Regardless, all things change. I certainly do. For years I slept in my trailer for five straight nights at this show and worked the fields methodically buying and selling all kinds of antiques. Today I only stay for three days and spend my nights in a comfortable motel with running water! My camping days are over!

I also recall my earlier years in the rustic antique business. I lived in Boston and advertised in many Midwestern antique journals for rustic furniture. Three or four times a year I would hop in my four cylinder pick- up truck and pull a ten foot, open bed trailer out to Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota to pick up stuff. I must have knocked on every door in Indiana looking for hickory furniture. I met tons of really great people and had all kinds of adventures. I looked like the “Grapes of Wrath” when I returned from the mid west. My truck and trailer were piled high with all kinds of hickory furniture! I had a great time.

At one time I had nearly six hundred pieces of antique hickory stashed in a barn just outside of Boston. I always thought rustic stuff was greatly underpriced, undervalued and underappreciated. To me it was folk art at its finest. And in time others came to appreciate rustic furniture as well. My wife at that time, however, thought I was nuts (she was probably right) and she promptly divorced me. My divorce from her was one of the best things that ever happened to me as it allowed me to pursue what I loved doing! Realistically, I loved every second of my life then and still do today. I would not change a thing. I hope everyone can say that about their life’s work.

Nonetheless, I did not plan all this. It’s not what I wanted to do. I have had my fair share of failures but I looked on such things (after a brief bout of depression) as learning experiences. Sometimes, however, you just have to go with the flow. And my direction, whether I liked it or not, was rustic.

I was also “virtually poor” back then. I slept in my trailer at truck stops and rest areas in both summer and winter. I couldn’t afford even a cheap room at that time. I took showers in truck stops and floated more checks than I should have. Regardless, my checks always cleared the bank! I ate bologna sandwiches and “two for one” hot dogs at gas stations. I owed a ton of money for my education and had four “maxed out” credit cards. Nonetheless, in time I paid off all my bills and began to actually prosper.

It seems now like a strange lifestyle for a guy with a Ph.D. from Boston University and graduate degree from Harvard. But I’ve always loved what I do. My mother, when she was alive, thought I was nuts to be selling stick furniture with my education. But she was proud of me (at least I hope so).

So here’s where I am today. I’ve got nineteen books to my credit and am working on two more. I am also thrilled to say that we are in the process of producing my TV show RUSTIC LIVING WITH RALPH KYLLOE. We’ve been filming homes and the initial segments have come out far better than I expected. In fact I’m so proud of it I want my readers to see the first few minutes of the first segment. Here's a link to watch it now: Rustic Living Please feel free to comment on the video. This is your chance to beat me up or say something nice (which I hope at least a few people do). So now it’s your turn to comment on what will become a national program. Let me hear what you have to say and I can assure you that I greatly look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions

On another subject I commented in my last newsletter about three beds that we made that developed problems. We installed the beds a year or so ago and all kinds of things, despite our best efforts, continued to grow on them. The logs were simply not dry when the beds were constructed. So we built a kiln and dried them to the proper moisture level. Well, the beds still had problems so, at great expense, we constructed completely new beds and installed them in the home. Unfortunately the rails didn’t fit right and we had to return a few days later to adjust the rails. While modifying the rails we succeeded in putting four holes in the walls of the bedrooms. So now we have to return in a few weeks to repair and repaint the walls. Sometimes nothing goes right. However, it’s necessary to take care of business and do the right thing. Frankly, however, I thought of burning the beds, shooting the builder and firing the guy who put the holes in the damn walls. But if I allowed my rage to guide me I would have gone to jail. Since I would prefer not to be incarcerated (even if I was to share a cell with Paris Hilton) I’ll just get the cursed job done and write the entire thing off as a business loss. I’ll probably also have to spend a few extra months in my therapist’s office and try antidepressants. Tragically, however, such expenses are not tax deductable.

On another note June 27 will be my 60th birthday! I’ll be here in Lake George and will spend the day with a few friends and family. I certainly don’t feel 60 but time catches up with all of us. But just to have some fun here’s a little surprise for my readers. The first five people who email me on June 27 and wish me a “happy birthday” will receive from me an autographed copy of my latest book, RUSTIC FIREPLACES. And I’ll even pay the shipping costs! These will not be damaged or “misprint” books. These books retail for $30 and shipping is between $8 and $11. So mark your calendars and email me with your Happy Birthday wishes and addresses! I hope someone remembers.

And so that’s about it for now. I plan on making a pasta dish for my family for dinner and then taking an evening boat ride on beautiful Lake George. The lake was clear this morning as I drove my boat in the cool air before the sun came into view. A gaggle of some thirty geese flew in formation for a few miles along side my boat. For just a few moments I felt as though I was a part of their lives. Every few seconds one would look over to me and acknowledge my presence. I dare not say that each goose that caught my eye was smiling at me. Their honking seemed to say that they were taking great pleasure in their morning flight. Regardless of my desire to interject my thoughts on them they gabbed amongst themselves in what I could only consider to be their morning gossip and their desire to be close to their other family members. In time they gracefully set down on the clear water and sent small waves of water and pollen in all directions. They honked for a while as they rested. After a long winter I suspect they are happy to return to the land of their past. Here they’ll raise more little chicks and continue the ongoing cycle of life. It was good to see, at least from my perspective, natural things doing natural things.

I continued on past the geese and fished for a while over a few rock beds in the shallow areas of the lake. My daughter caught several rock bass with her new fishing pole and I landed two huge small mouth bass. All the fish were released safely back to their homes. We finally docked the boat and after breakfast and my wife and daughter took off for violin lessons and a dance party for girls at the local YMCA. I’ve spent the day in my office, spoke with several visitors and sold a few things. As I look out my window now I see clouds rolling in. The wind is now softly whispering and bending the massive hardwood trees I see out my window. A boat ride tonight may not happen. Regardless, after dinner I’ll pick out a few of my daughter’s books and read to her as we keep warm under old blankets in our cabin. I’ll tell her a few made-up stories about princesses and mermaids and by dark she’ll be fast asleep. Life is good sometimes. Take care, Ralph

PS. Monday evening. Much to my chagrin the remaining homes I was to photograph this week in Montana fell through at the last second. This time it was the “new furniture was not completely installed” and “the driveway is being paved and no one can walk on it for a few days” and the “landscaping does not yet compliment the home”. Regardless, I rescheduled my trip to Montana for this coming Friday and will fish for a week with my buddies. Who wants to work anyway?

PSS. I have recently purchased a large number of my books from my printer and I am offering them to my readers at a greatly discounted price. These are first printing books. And personally autographed by the author/writer(me!). Here’s the deal:

ADIRONDACK HOME Retails for $60. On sale now for $25 plus shipping!

HICKORY FURNITURE Retails for $29.95. On sale now for $19.95 plus shipping!

RUSTIC FIREPLACES Retails for $29.95. On sale now for $19.95 plus shipping!

RUSTIC HOME Retails for $60. On sale now for $30 plus shipping!

Friday, May 4, 2007

A month or so ago I received a phone call. I didn’t quite understand the individuals name but they said they worked for some political committee somewhere. They asked if I would consider working for a local politician (I didn’t get his name either). The conversation went something like this.

“What is your position on President Bush?” I was asked.

“The man is a bumbling idiot”, I said. “He and his entire cabinet should be impeached.”

“And the war in Iraq?”

“An incredible waste of money and lives”, I said. “Bush and Cheney both lied about it and they both should be impeached”.

“What is your position on abortion?”

“I don’t think I’m a good candidate for one.”

“What do you mean?”

“I don’t think I could find a doctor who would perform one on me.”

“So you’re against abortions”

“Listen to what I saying. Abortions are not performed on men. Therefore I am not a candidate for one.”

Moments later the caller hung up the phone without saying “good bye”. I guess I didn’t pass the interview and I suppose now I’ll never make it on the national political scene. I’m incredibly disappointed and hurt. Life is cruel sometimes.

On March 17, my wife, daughter and I were in New York City where we watched, in the snow, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. It was a great day. That evening we saw the famous Irish band the Chieftains perform at Carnegie Hall. It was a sold out show. We were on the far right side of the lower balcony. Front row! During the third song a commotion happened directly below us. A woman was frantically performing CPR on an overweight man. Several people lifted him from the middle seats and began CPR on him once he was flat on the ground in the isle. The band wisely took a break and left the stage. Defibulator paddles were brought out by emergency people who rushed to the scene. The house lights were turned on and a packed house held their breaths as medics pounded on the guy’s chest in an attempt to get his heart going. Minutes passed. Then, as if right out of a movie, the guy came back to life, lifted himself off the floor and began walking. After a few steps he stopped, looked at the sea of staring faces and waved. The entire audience applauded him as he walked out of the auditorium followed by an entourage of medics, officials, family members and well wishers. Minutes later, the house lights went out, the band returned to the stage and played to an appreciating audience for two more hours. Just another strange incident to write about I thought to myself.

There is a strange fascination with the macabre. We are an aggressive species. We love to watch people pound each other nearly to death in fight rings. Action movies and violent video games make millions of dollars and occupy the minds of millions of humans around the world. People go to Nascar races not to see the race but in hopes of seeing the crashes. Guns are everywhere and people seem mesmerized by atrocities. Nearly a million hand guns are sold, legally and illegally, here in America every year. And every day in America thirty murders are committed with handguns. We are a strange species. I’m surprised we’ve lasted as long as we have. I’m just happy that the guy who had the heart attack at Carnegie Hall was able to get up on his own two feet and walk away. And I hope, at least, that he enjoyed the first three songs played by the Chieftans.

(I normally edit my ramblings and after reviewing the above paragraph I probably should have either eliminated it or changed it dramatically. It really doesn’t “flow” with the paragraph preceding it. But I’m going to leave it like it is. I wrote it and that’s how I felt as I recalled the entire experience.)

I’ve been thinking about my efforts during the past few months. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get started when it comes to writing my Newsletter. It’s not writers block or laziness. It’s probably closer to exhaustion. I need to take a day off once in a while just to recuperate. Last fall my MD told me my blood pressure was significantly up, my cholesterol level was too high and I was overweight. It’s just the sort of news no one likes to hear or admit to themselves. So in an attempt to hold on to some semblance of youth I started a rigorous fitness program last October. And frankly I’m proud of myself! Three times a week I go to the local YMCA, shoot baskets for a while, pound away on an exercise machine and finish off with a half hour of weight training. So far I’ve lost about ten pounds and feel better than I have for a long time. Nonetheless, it’s the mental nightmares that wear on me. We’re busier now than we ever have been and I really do need a talented person to manage my business. It’s stupid to think that I can do it all. But problems are, in reality, opportunities. And one by one I’ll take care of the stack of “opportunities” on my desk that require more of my time than I care to allot to them. None of the problems are serious…its just there are lots of them. Deliveries need to be made, bills need to be collected, orders need to be filled, etc. It’s just standard stuff. But frankly, I would rather be working on another book or something more important to me than going to the dump, recycling plastic bottles and mowing my lawn.

Nonetheless, just to clarify what kind of problems one might encounter here at the Ralph Kylloe Gallery let me briefly outline one little “opportunity”. This has been my biggest headache in a long time and it took valuable time and energy to resolve it.

A very good customer of mine ordered two pairs of bunk beds and a king size organic bed for their lake home here in the Adirondacks. I had my “bed guy” build the beds and we installed them a month or so later. The client was thrilled and their check cleared the bank! A year later the client called and said that funguses were growing from the beds and asked if we could take care of the problem. We visited the cabin a week later and knocked off a dozen or so funguses and re-varnished the beds. A few months ago the client again called and mentioned that the funguses had returned with a vengeance. We again visited the cabin, this time in the dead of winter, and were surprised to see all of the new growths on the beds. It was definitely a serious problem. I called the individual who actually made the beds for me and was politely told that he was out of business and no longer responsible for anything he had done in the past. So a month ago I and another individual returned to the cabin with a moisture meter to measure the amount of moisture in the wood. It turns out the original builder of the beds had used “green, un-dried” materials to build the beds. As a result all kinds of things started growing on the beds. Unfortunately, the beds were so heavy and there was so much snow on the ground we could not remove them at that time. So we came home, hired two really big guys, returned to the building (two hours north of us) and removed the beds. I then spent two days trying to find a kiln to dry the beds. No luck. So for just about seven thousand dollars and two weeks of time I purchased and constructed our own kiln. Unfortunately, we had problems with the electrical components in the new system and had to spend more time and money getting the beast to work correctly. The beds are now in the kiln but may have significantly more damage than I originally thought. I’ll know within the next week. And if they are not perfect we’ll build the couple new beds and take the loss as part of business. I will not compromise on our commitment to quality products. I am happy to say however, that I have a new, incredibly competent bed build, Brian Kelly, right here at my gallery and our new, albeit expensive kiln, is working well. And our new beds are gorgeous!

But in truth I would rather have been working on new books, making photos, being in my gallery and being productive than spending so much time on “opportunities”. Having to spend so much time on problems is counterproductive but a necessary reality when running a business. I am certain other business owners have “opportunities” as well. They are nothing new.

On another note, I really don’t like doing shows anymore. It generally takes a day to pack the trailer, another day to travel and set up the booth. Then I talk with all kinds of people for two or three days once at the show, then pack up and go home. It’s too exhausting at my age.

Nonetheless, I had agreed to do the RUSTIC SHOW in Danbury, Ct., which was held a few weeks ago. The show was promoted by long-time show promoter Richard Rothbard. I really didn’t want to do the show but I said I would and I always do what I say I’m going to do. So at 4AM on March 31, Lori Toledo and I drove down to Danbury and set up a booth full of great looking furniture. In truth, I’ve exhibited at hundreds of shows around the country during the past three decades. Some have been great…. some not. On several occasions I’ve set up next individuals selling pots and pans, self incinerating toilets, hot tubs, real estate, and all kinds of other stuff. Some people have blared loud music all day, some have cooked food all day and extolled the virtues of their wares and, others, dressed in full turbans, sold trinkets and mattresses from India. God help me.

But I really enjoyed the Rustic Show. It was an exhibit of great art. Half of the exhibitors offered quality rustic furniture and related rustic accessories and the other half offered contemporary artwork such as paintings, sculptures, and carvings. Several of the “better known” furniture builders were there including Barry Gregson, Jerry Farrell, Bill Coffee, Russ Cleves, Robert Stump and a few others. There was not a typical “rush” at the opening of the show where people lined up by the hundreds for the doors to open but rather it was a constant “flow” of traffic all day. Saturday the weather was warm and mild. Sunday was cool and brought about twice as many people into the show than the day before. I signed books continuously throughout both days and had a few great sales near the closing of the show on Sunday. As I write this a month has passed since the show was held and I have had several calls and several major orders from people I met at the show. The exhibit was professionally organized and the move in and out was virtually painless. The hotel where most of us stayed was easily four stars and Saturday night most of the exhibitors partied in the hotel lounge until late at night. On Sunday I was asked to “judge” the show and award prizes. When asked to do this sort of thing I always ask as few others for their opinion as well. I gave out two awards. One was given to a gentleman who created extraordinary sculptures from window screens and I awarded another prize to Barry Gregson for his extraordinary chairs. Truth be known, I have had my fair share of “squabbles” with Barry early on but am on complete speaking terms with him and his family at this time. I have always said that Barry is the finest rustic chair builder in the country and I gave him a cash award and first prize in the rustic furniture division of the show. Great art speaks for itself.

Most of the exhibitors did well at the show. Some did not. That is, however, typical. Would I do the show again and would I encourage others to do the show? Absolutely. This was the first year for the show and it can only draw more interested individuals as the show grows.

I had also promised to exhibit at the LAKE, HOME AND CABIN SHOW held this past week just outside of Chicago. And frankly, my heart was really not into repacking my truck and trailer, driving eighteen hours, setting up another booth, talking with people for three straight days and then driving another eighteen hours home. But I did it anyway. It was a long drive. Lori Toledo, who builds many of the mirror frames we offer in my gallery, again came with me. It was a long, exhausting drive. Nonetheless, we found the convention center after fighting Chicago rush hour traffic for what seemed like days. We arrived at ten in the morning and were told that our set-up time was to be a 3PM. So we moved into our separate hotel rooms and rested for much of the rest of the day. Late that afternoon we set up our 20’ x 30’ booth, had a great Mexican dinner with friends and then passed out in our hotel rooms. Friday morning we indulged in a great breakfast buffet at the hotel and spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon putting the final touches on our booth and talking with other exhibitors.

The show opened at two PM. Considering that it was a work day the early traffic was slow. But as evening approached more and more people filled the hall. By 9PM I was exhausted from speaking with more people than I can remember. I had a sandwich for dinner and went to bed. Saturday the crowd increased significantly. I spoke with many, many people who came to the show just to meet me. And as always a half dozen or so architects and designers showed up with photos of their projects they wanted me to see. A few of projects were outstanding! Saturday evening seven of us, including Tony and Robin Williams (arguably the greatest rustic furniture builders in the Midwest), Even Steven (an internationally known song writer from Nashville), Tina Keller (a nationally known exhibit organizer and all around grand lady) and a few others went out for dinner and we didn’t return to our room until well past midnight. Sunday was another great day as I spent time with several individuals who wanted and needed furniture for new homes they were constructing in Wisconsin. Throughout the show I sold several dozens of my books as well as several pieces of furniture and three sets of hickory chairs. During the show I also gave four, half-hour slide shows which were well received. Sunday evening we quickly packed the remains of our booth and took off for Lake George but not before having another great dinner with my sister-in-law Tina Keller.

The Chicago show was part of the Lake Home and Cabin Shows based in Minneapolis. The shows are professionally run and well attended by an adoring audience. We found that most of the visitors to our booth were shocked at the quality of our furniture and didn’t realize that rustic furniture “had come of age”! There is definitely a very strong, untapped market in the Midwest and rustic builders should consider exhibiting at any one of their shows. If time permits I know I will.

The ride home was long and laborious. We were caught in an ice storm in central New York near the end of the second day of driving and after seeing five vehicles rolled over and in the ditch I called it a day and found another motel. The following morning the local TV station announced that there had been more than 200 accidents as a result of the storm. We finally made it home the following day.

On another note long drives can become monotonous. I’ve known Lori Toledo and her partner, John Bennett for several years. And considering that we spent nearly forty hours driving to and from Chicago and sitting in a booth with her all day long for three or four days it was no wonder that we often told the same stories to each other over and over again. In time we both realized that we were coming to the bottom of the barrel regarding our life’s tales. Just to find some humor we decided to number each of the stories so we would not have to repeat them in their entirety. So every few minutes one of us would shout out a number like 25 or 34 which indicated a story.

The above comments are indicative of what happens to two mentally and physically exhausted individuals who face another eighteen hour drive and are looking for anything to keep them awake. There is no point to the above paragraph so if you want you can just ignore it and say something like “Ralph just gets weird sometimes”. I won’t be offended in the least because its true!

My latest book RUSTIC FIREPLACES is presently on the market and doing well. The book sells retail for $29.95. It you want a signed, first printing copy send me a check for $26! And that includes delivery!

I also have another book coming out this fall. CABIN IN THE WOODS will show about 160 photographs of some of the greatest rustic homes in the country. These are all new photos and new homes that I have not featured in any of my other books. This book will be on the market in early fall! It retails for $29.95. And a check from anyone for $26 (USA only) will insure that your will receive a signed, first printing copy. And that included delivery!

This summer I will be working on another new book titled THE GREAT AMERICAN BOATHOUSE. I’m very excited about this project as I get to cruise around some of America’s lakes and look for great boathouses. There are many here in the Adirondacks and we’ll also search the Thousand Islands area of upstate New York for classical boathouses as well. This July I’ll be spending a few days on the Brule River in Wisconsin to fish their famous waters and photograph some of the great boathouses in that part of the world. I’ll be staying with the promoters of the Lake Home and Cabin Show at a private home on the river!

This summer I’ll also begin work on what I consider will be my greatest contribution to the rustic movement in America. I have recently contracted with my publisher Gibbs Smith, Layton, Utah, to produce a mega book titled RUSTIC AMERICA. The final retail price has not yet been decided but the book will cost between $125 and $250 and will include 500-600 color photos. It will include both historical and contemporary homes that have not appeared in prior publications. The focus of the book will be on details. So many of the homes I visit and photograph are extraordinary objects of art in themselves. And I really could spend weeks photographing just one building. With that thought in mind RUSTIC AMERICA will offer far more details than have been presented in my other works. I need to have my work on this new book completed by January of 2009. The book will be on the market September of 2009. So I will spend the next two years photographing homes all over the country. It promises to be a great adventure. And it will be the most important and significant book on the market! After that book I don’t know what I’m going to do. I might just take some time off to enjoy myself!

I’ll be in Montana for most of June and then back to Wyoming in September. In August I’ll be in California for a few weeks with my family and I’ll be in Alaska at the end of September for my annual fishing trip with old friends. Then I’ll be in Montana part of October and then finally home before the snow falls.

The fly fishing season is finally upon us here in the Adirondacks. As expected the rivers in this part of the world are still “high and near flood stage.” At the same time I have no doubt that tiny insects who have lived under rocks at the bottom of the river for two years are now preparing to emerge from their dark, cold homes. The fish will happily feed on them and the cycle of life will continue. After rising to the surface some of the bugs live only for a few hours or days before depositing their eggs back in the river. After that they quickly die only to fall back into the river and again offering their bodies to other living things. It’s a strange cycle…..but it works. And who am I to question a process that has been successfully going on for fifty million years?

Fly fishing, for me, is a personal thing. One does not think of life’s worries or problems when fly fishing. Time fads away. Fly fishing is a profound art form in itself. It’s a necessary activity for me and I greatly miss it when the snow covers the ground and ice covers rivers.

In my early years I hunted with hawks and falcons. I was a falconer. It was an all- encompassing life style. But I tired of “killing things”. Fully aware that just about all living things feed on other living or dead things I harbor no resentment against anything that kills another if its intentions are to eat it. That’s just the nature of the world in which we live. Although in fly fishing we definitely “catch” things, we generally release back to the wild all that we catch. Truth be known, I don’t know how someone can shoot a deer, a bear or moose. I understand why they do but I cannot bring myself to blast another living thing to pieces with a bazooka. I’ll leave it at that.

And so I sit here planning my next great adventure. I have three free airplane tickets that were given to us because we were “bumped” off a flight a while ago. I have to use the tickets before October. W can’t decide between Northern California, the Oregon Coast or The Canadian Rockies. We have to make a decision by this Friday. Life is tough sometimes.

My one dilemma right now is that I have taken some heat for my photography. I met with a big time architectural photographer in New York City a few weeks ago. I showed him my books and I carefully detailed the process I use to make photographs. I prefer natural lighting and I use film in my 120 and 35mm camera systems. He felt the artistic qualities of my work was exceptional but felt that I was living in the dark ages. Most professional photographers today, I was reminded, use digital equipment. I am very well aware of this. But after considerable discussion it became very apparent that you need a Ph.D. in engineering and computer sciences just to figure out how to even make a simple image digitally. While in New York also I spent time in one of the huge camera stores reviewing technical manuals for state-of-the-art digital cameras. And frankly, I just don’t have the ability or patience to understand all that stuff. I also spoke at lengths with my production manager (Marty) who oversees the production of my books. He and another individual whom I also respect offered the sage advice that I should stay in my comfort zone and use the system I’m familiar with and have used successfully for the past forty years. True, you can do extraordinary things digitally but the time it takes to figure out the technical necessities (to say nothing of the expense for professional equipment) of new equipment can confound the best of us. And frankly I have other things I’d rather do than struggle with a complicated technical system at this point in my life.

The Ralph Kylloe Band is being asked to play more gigs as the summer approaches. And unfortunately, its becoming harder and harder to get the other band members together to rehearse. Travel time is prohibitive and as adults we all have jobs and families that require our attention. One gig requires that we begin playing at 10:30 PM and play until three in the morning. And once we’re packed up its five in the morning when we get home. Frankly, I don’t know how bands manage to play six nights a week and not drop dead after just a few years. Nonetheless, rock and roll music is a young man’s game. And if you have managers and roadies to handle all the “deals” and set up your equipment it makes life infinitely easier. Then you might last five years in the business. But I fully understand why there are so many alcoholics and drug abusers in the business. It’s a tough game but if you hit it big it can be rewarding and great fun…..but few of us ever make it in the business.

Sorry I don’t have a lot of interesting stuff to offer in this Newsletter. I’ll try to have some interesting adventures to report next time. Right now its 4PM and I’m headed off for a nap before I have to make dinner for my family. Think I’ll try the Hungry Mans TV dinner spiced up with some Hamburger Helper for our meals tonight. And for desert I’ll offer some Twinkies that I know my daughter will love. And for drinks I’ll offer up a fresh batch of Kool-Aid (red)! Regardless, when my wife comes in and sees the menu I’m convinced that she’ll suggest that we go out for Italian food at the local boutique Italiano bistro. And while we’re there I’m certain she’ll order a carafe of very excellent wine just to enhance the quality of the dining experience! I’ll have spaghetti with meat sauce, the same dinner I’ve had the last fifty times we’ve been there. And I’ll pick out the black olives from my salad because I hate them. Olives are the food of devil worshipers! And for desert I won’t have their damned gourmet “fru-fru” crème broulet Italian ice cream cheese cake with cinnamon flavored whip cream and Brazilian nuts on top. I just won’t have it. I’ll pick up a package of red licorice Twizzlers for the ride home. That’s what real men have for dessert. Nonetheless, the entire dinner will cost me dearly………..but I don’t care in the least because I won’t have to do the dishes!

Take care and keep in touch please, Ralph

PS Its now four hours later. The dinner was great, I had the spaghetti, and the red Twizzlers were a perfect way to end the evening. I was not in the least disappointed!

Wednesday, March 15, 2007

Two weeks ago I took my wife and daughter on a Disney Cruise. My daughter had “begged” to partake in such an experience for years and for her eighth birthday I gave her three tickets for passage on the Disney Wonder. We flew into West Palm Beach a few days before the cruise and enjoyed the warm weather and green landscape. Considering that we had about six feet of snow on the ground in Lake George the timing for the trip could not have been better. Eventually we made our way up to Port Canaveral and spent a few hours on the local beach before we boarded the Disney vessel. The local beach provided me with great entertainment as a few thousand college kids romped and played in the water and on the hot sand.

I have to be honest here. Most eighteen year old women are gorgeous. Their bodies are perfect, their skin is how it should be and everything about them is angelic. And frankly, sitting on a beach staring at almost totally nude, eighteen year old women is a sight for sore eyes. If this is a definition of a “dirty old man” than I’m it. I admit it freely and I’m proud of it! I really dislike the term “object” but I really do see women as objects of art. Kindly don’t misconstrue this statement. It is only a term of endearment. I have the greatest respect for all life on the planet but gorgeous women just knock me out. They are an absolute gift from the gods! And I suspect that fifty percent of the people in this country (of which 90% will be straight men and 10% will be gay women) will agree with me. But I’ll change the subject now before some idiot takes extreme offense at my comments.

But as long as I’m on the subject of beach bathing I feel the need to comment on today’s swim apparel. It seems that in the past few years men’s bathing suits have gotten longer and larger and women’s bathing suits have shrunk to almost non-existence. And that’s fine with me.

And so after a few hours of just sitting and admiring the view my family and I made our way to the port of huge ships. I have to admit that there are virtually no “bugs” in the organization of Disney cruises. Other than the fact that I was nearly run over by a Disney bus when I parked my car ($36) and even though twenty five hundred people wanted to get on the ship at the same time, the customs line, the luggage line , in fact, just about everything went smoothly.

So on we went and at first it was rather thrilling and exotic. Sailing on a huge cruise ship to the Caribbean is, in truth, a rather romantic thing to do. Once on board we wandered around the ship and I have to admit it was amazing. But as time went by I noticed things that I, as the perpetual critic found, well, strange.

Our cabin was tiny although well appointed. Further, it was an interior cabin and once the lights were turned off it was pitch black. Because there were no windows the air was almost suffocating. And I can completely understand why people often come down with respiratory illnesses on board ships. Further, if I was claustrophobic I would have “freaked out!” Nonetheless, our luggage arrived in the room within an hour of our boarding. The dining rooms were extraordinary as was the food and the service. Unfortunately, we were assigned to sit at a dining table for the duration of the trip with another family. And at each meal the grandfather felt the need to describe to me, in great detail, the problems he was having passing a kidney stone. The rest of the family remained quiet and withdrawn at each meal and they seemed almost upset as my wife and I chatted throughout our meals. We did our best to engage them but there was, frankly, no chemistry between us. Further, we found the gratuity arrangements interesting. A fifteen per cent addition was added onto each bill for meals and at the end of the cruise each passenger received an extra form telling us the appropriate amount we should leave waiters, hosts, servers, assistant servers, and room cleaners as extra tips. And we could, the form mentioned, leave such tips on our credit cards or in the special attached envelopes complete with the individuals name and position neatly printed on the front!

But what really gets me is the marketing at any Disney experience. You might as well just give them all of your money before you arrive. There are Disney photographers everywhere. They take your picture at meals, at parties, standing in line, on the beach, with Disney characters, around the pool, at sunset, at day break and on and on. And each photo, if you purchase it, is just $89 complete in a cardboard frame! And it’s not surprising that there were long lines to have photos made with Mickey Mouse and all the other Disney characters. And if it’s not the photographers, its cocktail servers. Each drink is eight bucks. And the servers are in your face every ten feet and every two minutes. “Just a quick swipe your card please sir”, I heard a million times. I didn’t have any cocktails on that trip or buy any of their photographs. I’m certain that the finance people at Disney were upset with me for not spending more money.

But what I really found most depressing were the vacationers on the cruise. Imagine twenty five hundred fat people, stuffing themselves twenty four hours a day with food and drink. Most of these people really did make pigs of themselves. And most of these same people should not wear bathing suits. What was most disgusting were women with tree trunk legs, big fat asses and their tits hanging out all over the place. And all they did all day and all night were to lounge on reclining chairs and drink their drinks and smoke their filthy cigarettes. I sat next to a few of these “sun worshipers” one afternoon and all they talked about was hair styles, the latest Wal-Mart fashions and how much they hated the new bathing suits K-Mart was offering at their discount stores. And the men were no different. How some people can live with themselves and their beer bellies is beyond me. I’m convinced there is some sort of personality change once people reach thirty years old. Most people under thirty (actually under twenty) are reasonable fit. After thirty people just seem to think about immediate pleasures and much they can dominate food and drink. It’s a bad approach to healthy living.

At any rate the ship departed, my daughter went away with other kids and Mickey Mouse, and I took a lengthy nap. In the morning we landed in Nassau, departed the boat and were immediately accosted by a hundred or so black guys with bright white teeth and all wearing suits and ties and wanting to sell us everything from Voo Doo dolls to private tours of the island on horse drawn carriages. We declined all offers but wandered through town for an hour before returning to the boat. I was tempted to buy myself a new watch but balked at the $2,500 price tags. Considering that I have worn the same watch (I found it in my driveway) for four years I just couldn’t justify the expense. My daughter spent the afternoon with other kids on the boat, my wife spent the afternoon at the spa and I wandered aimlessly around the ship wishing I was somewhere else. That night I listened to the grandfather at our dining table describing the different types of kidney stones he was trying to pass. The following day we landed at Castaway Cay, a private island operated by the gentle folks at Disney. It really was spectacular. In the morning we rented bicycles and took a tour of the island. My daughter spent the afternoon with a Disney group where she was bitten by a stingray and my wife and I lounged on the beach where I refused to have my photo made by more than a dozen photographers and declined cocktails from more wandering servers than I can remember. That evening I again listened politely to further stories of kidney stones and then retired for the evening. In the morning we left the boat and easily made our way through customs.

As I write this I can think of nothing more boring than a cruise. The mere thought of going on another cruise is tortuous for me. And if it were not for gorgeous young women in bathing suits, sitting on a beach is nearly as bad. But the thought of exposing myself to millions of rads of radiation from the sun is quite upsetting. And the thought of having to look at overweight people in bathing suits who shouldn’t be out there in the first place is not my idea of a vacation.

That afternoon we picked up my sister-in-law and father-in-law in Miami and made our way down to Key West for a week in paradise. Truly heaven on earth the old, historic section of Key West with its lush vegetation and old conch houses is sight for tired eyes. True, the Keys are very “built-up” and commercial but we have a tendency to stay away from the tourists traps. Our favorite B&B is the Ambrosia House on Fleming Street. It’s a small place occupying three or four old conch homes. The facility includes dramatic tropical gardens, two heated swimming pools, a great breakfast and sits in the heart of the old section of town. For my taste the Ambrosia House is everything I could ask for. My favorite activity (strange as it seems) is to wander the old section of Key West and feed the cats and wild chickens that run freely all across town. The local restaurants are a delight. My favorite is B.O.’s. In truth, in any other city, the building that houses the restaurant, if you can call it that, would be condemned. It is nothing more than a shack made from local architectural salvage. Chickens and wild cats wander below your feet and you can carve your initials on any wall or table in the house. But the food is great as is the atmosphere. It’s my kind of place.

While in the Keys I always have several plates of raw oysters during my stay. On my third day there I ordered a dozen of the slimy things and happily ate the first half while downing a few pina coladas. The final few oysters didn’t look right to me so I didn’t finish them. That afternoon I went fishing but failed to land anything. That evening I went to bed early. Around midnight I woke shivering so I took a hot shower. It was then that the waves of nausea washed over me. I can assure readers that there is nothing worse than throwing up all over yourself in a shower. It was horrible but at least I was able to clean myself after an hour of retching my guts out on the shower floor. I didn’t sleep the rest of the night. In the morning I was mumbling to myself and couldn’t keep anything in my stomach. I can assure anyone reading this that I was very near death (at least in my mind). So without further hesitation my wife drove me to the hospital where I spent the day having IV fluids of all sorts pumped into me and having more blood drawn from my body than I thought existed. Three days later I was OK. But I can assure everyone that I will never again eat raw oysters (or take more pills then are prescribed)!

Nonetheless, I was not to be denied the opportunity to fish the flats off key West for tarpon! So for the next three days I fished with a guide for the ultimate game fish. On the second day my wife and daughter came with me and in the early afternoon my fifty pound daughter did a brief battle with a sixty pound tarpon. To my horror she was nearly pulled from the boat (there were sharks around) when the fish slammed her bait. Unfortunately, the fish was too much for her and the battle lasted only half a minute or so. That evening I landed a great looking eighteen pound permit. The following day produced nothing other than a few quick looks at migrating tarpon and a near miss with a bull shark that cruised near our boat.

But I was not to be denied. I called the guide in the late afternoon of our last day in the Keys and he agreed to take me out for the evening bite. It’s magical on the ocean in the evening. To the west a dull haze turned the sun a glowing red. As I watched the sun surrender to the edge of the earth I marveled in the realization that everything I am, every element and every atom in my body was made inside of a sun that burned violently millions and millions of years ago. And to the East I stood mesmerized as a full moon poked its face from below the horizon of the ocean. And a smile came to my face with the thought that our very moon once rotated only a few thousand miles above the earth. And at that time the tidal waves from the pull of the moons gravity were more than ten thousand feet tall and drove waves hundreds of miles inland. That violent activity churned elements and atoms into a chemistry that ultimately led to the creation of enzymes and life on the planet. Quite an amazing thought if you think about it!

As the sun set my fishing pole jerked with an unexpected violence. Some thirty feet from me a tarpon roared from the shallow waters and tore line from my reel. He jumped three times before spitting the hook in my face. It was enough, however, to appease my tired and sore spirit. Thinking we would then return to dry land I was only too happy when the guide anchored up in a channel about three miles off shore. My first cast and retrieval was met with violent resistance. The fish immediately pulled fifty yards of line from my reel. He ran directly under a nearby boat and succeeded in tangling up their lines with mine. With the fish still on my guide tried to cut the tangled lines but only succeeded in driving a hook from the other boat deep in his hand. A few minutes later the fish jumped and dislodged the hook from the corner of his mouth. I was somewhat disappointed but thrilled that I had a second opportunity to battle a trophy fish.

It was dark now and with the exception of the full moon the only light was from the strange, iridescent glow of the eyes of shrimp as they ventured out for their evening activities. I took my last cast. A giant swell broke the calm of the water where my lure had landed. Twenty feet from me a hundred pound behemoth exploded from beneath the surface sending a spray of water across the boat, the guide and me. Line tore from my reel. The fish, a monster of a beast, jumped six times very near the boat before diving for safer waters. For a half hour I tugged and he pulled. There were no winners during this battle. If I gained line on him he would rip another twenty yards from my reel. Back and forth it went. During such battles, time stands still. Wandering thoughts do not interfere with the present. The strength of the fish seemed to increase as he struggled. I have no doubts that he knew he was fighting for his life. But my intent was to neither hurt nor kill him. I only wanted to be a part of him for a few minutes; I only wanted to know his secrets and his power. I wanted to experience the realities of his world. In time realities came to bear and the strength of the equipment and the experience of the fisherman won out over the brute force of the fish. We brought him near the boat and the guide gently removed the hook from his mouth. In time, I took hold of the fish and tried to pull him from the water so that the guide could make a few photos of me and the fish. But the fish was too heavy and I could only pull him a few feet out of the water.

After a few photos were made the guide started the engine and I held the fishes head in the current to glide water over his gills. Moments later, with a quick push from his mighty tail, the fish descended into the dark water never to be seen by me again. I will never forget him and I’m certain that he will make certain that the food he eats in the future is never connected to a hook, line and fisherman.

Back on dry land I had a late dinner with my family and quietly smiled to myself as I thought of the fish and the quiet evening on the ocean.

The following morning we left Key West and traveled up the keys. We could not help but stop at a few of the tourist traps to make photos and buy a few souvenirs. As evening approached we left my in-laws off in Palm Beach and drove another hour south toward Miami where a plane would take us home in the morning. Before we reached our hotel I took a wrong turn off the expressway and wound up in a neighborhood with trashed cars, liquor stores and homeless men on each corner. I stopped for a red light. From my review mirror I noticed a man approaching my vehicle on the driver’s side. He should not have been there. My blood pressure shot up like a Roman candle. I’ve seen too many movies and read too many news reports about car jackings. I slammed my foot on the gas and did a u-turn in the middle of the intersection. Two cars had to slam on their brakes to avoid hitting me. But I couldn’t care less. Within minutes I was back on the expressway and out of harm’s way. I really don’t need some drug addict attacking me or my family. I will do whatever is necessary to survive and keep my family safe..

So the following morning we landed back in Albany and drove back to Lake George with its four feet of snow, a few hundred emails and a few dozen phone calls that needed to be returned. We went to bed early that night and woke to twenty degrees below zero in the morning. It would have been incredibly easy for me to hop on a plane and return to the Keys. And I would have done so if my daughter was not in school. I’m tired of battling extreme elements.

While I’m thinking about my daughter I believe that I have failed as a parent in some way. Where I went wrong I don’t know but I know things are not right. Last fall I had my daughter in Yellowstone National Park. I woke her early from a sound sleep in the Old Faithful Inn. It was still dark when we drove from the parking lot. About fifteen minutes north I parked the van and walked with my daughter about a hundred yards on a trail to a small ridge. In the meadow below us was a vast heard of bison grunting and moaning as they do. Some fifty yards from away a huge bull elk appeared from a thicket and bellowed and bugled his majestic presence to the world. In the far distance we heard the solemn howls of a wolf as he sought the companionship of his fellow clan members. And as we watched the scene before us the sun poked its head from behind a few billowing storm clouds off in the distance. It was, no doubt in my mind, a magical moment. A few minutes later my daughter looked at me with all her innocence and said “Daddy, can we go shopping?”

On another subject my love affair with the sun as a youth has come back to haunt me. My bi annual trip to my dermatologist last week was a real wake up call. The cancerous and pre cancerous cells on my face had come back with a vengeance. My MD decided to blast me with his laser gun for a half hour. It was, perhaps, the most painful thing I have endured to date. The numbing crème he applied was worthless during the procedure and it was suggested that I take Aleve that evening. I walked out of the office looking as red as a boiled lobster and feeling just as bad. I really did look like a bright red tomato. Fortunately I had some left over painkillers from a root canal procedure that proved to be mildly effective during my week long recuperation. So I sit here today with the skin on my face is peeling like a fried onion. It’s been a miserable week for me and I can assure people that spending time in the sun can come back to haunt you.

But I suppose I should talk about business for awhile. Frankly, we’ve never been busier. I guess my thirty years of effort is finally paying off. Our beds are selling like hot cakes and everything else, as long as it’s very high end, are quickly finding new homes. But I have to be really honest here. My business is not for normal people. The average professional business individual would laugh at my efforts. Here’s why; we keep our margins very low on everything. There is nothing in my gallery that we “double out” on. Our margins are anywhere between five and forty percent. And in truth, there is not a “normal” business in the world that offers things for less than a one hundred percent mark-up. Up until the first of the year we even offered hickory furniture at 40% off the suggested retail price. But, unfortunately the manufacturers have dramatically raised our prices so we can only offer hickory furniture at 25% off the retail price.

Nonetheless, we make a living by volume. We sell lots of stuff. And I have lots of irons in the fire.

Tragically, I am now paying ten thousand dollars a year for health insurance for myself and my family. This is a big chunk of money and I can only hope that our elected officials do something (I don’t know what) to ease the burden on small businesses regarding the health insurance issue.

My latest book, RUSTIC FIREPLACES, will be on the market shortly. The book shows more than a 150 different fireplaces and will be an important resource for builders, contractors, masons, architects and anyone looking for an enjoyable evening curled up in front of their own fireplace (or wishing they were!). I have an advanced copy here and I’m thrilled with the book. The book retails for $30 but! , I’ll happily sell it to my subscribers for $20 plus $6 shipping.

My next book, CABIN IN THE WOODS, will be on the market early this fall. The book will feature some of the absolute greatest rustic homes in America. It started off to be a book on small rustic homes but quickly evolved to include a few large homes as well. This book will retail for $40 but as the time approaches I’m certain I’ll offer it for a significantly cheaper price to interested readers.

On March 31and April 1 I’ll be exhibiting at THE RUSTIC SHOW at the O’neill Center in Danbury, Ct. This promises to be a significant event as great artists such as Barry Gregson, Bill Coffee and Russ Gleaves, Jerry Farrell, Reid Crosby, Dan Mack, Bim Willow, Steve Chisholm and other extraordinary artists show their recent creations. I’ll be there with several pieces from Barney Bellinger, Randy Holden and others as well as signing books for interested individuals. Call Richard at 1-800-834-9437 for more information.

And between April 13-15, I’ll be exhibiting at the LAKE, HOME AND CABIN SHOW at The Schaumburg Convention Center just outside of Chicago. Right now there are about 152 different businesses that have signed up for the show and each business will occupy between 1 and 6 booths each. That means that there will be lots of stuff to see. From what I understand there are still a few booths available so if there are any artisans out there wanting a great place to show off their work consider exhibiting at this show. It will be a great place to meet people and sell some of your products. Personally, I have a very large 20’-30’ booth and plan on bringing several very high end items and signing books as well. While there I’ll also be doing at least two TV appearances to promote the show! For more information please call Porch Light Productions at 952-471-1192.

I’ll be in Montana for most of June and most of August I’ll be in Washington State and Canada working on different projects and books.

This summer I’ll be working on a book called THE GREAT AMERICAN BOATHOUSE and other projects as well. I’ll have the Boathouse book completed by early January and hope it will be on the market in the fall of 2008. I’m also working of several other books at the same time and will announce the titles as we get nearer the time of completion for each project.

And then this fall is the annual RUSTIC FURNITURE FAIR at the Adirondack Museum followed by the ADIRONDACK MOUNTAINS ANTIQUE SHOW in Indian Lake, NY. The first week of September also sees the Western Design Conference held this year in Jackson, Wyoming. And there are plans for another show and exhibit in Cody, Wyoming, this year as well. More on that event as plans and dates are announced.

And so spring is just around the corner. Its fifty degrees outside here today and the ice is melting. Pools of water have formed on Lake George but the diehard ice fishermen are still out there in their shanties trying to catch one last fish before the ice fads away. The deer in my back yard have lost their antlers and in a few months I expect to see a few tiny fawns on wobbly legs prancing on the lawn out behind my home. I doubt if I’ll have a chance to again use the new skis I bought this year but winter and nature have a way of fooling you. St. Patrick’s day is next weekend and my family and I will see the great Chieftans for an Irish music festival this coming weekend. Tomorrow morning I’ll have to dig out my trailer so that I can make a few deliveries over the next week and soon there’ll be a flood of people in my gallery looking for new items as summer residents open their cottages and camps for the spring. In truth, it was a short winter. The snow and cold came late this year and I won’t be sorry to see them go. Or maybe it’s just that time passes faster now that I’m older. I’ll be sixty in June, not long from now. I find myself thinking of people I knew when I was younger now. Several of my friends have passed on and I wish I could have just a few more minutes with them. And I think of the people who I would have liked to have known better but I was too immature in my younger years to tell them how I felt. And I wish that I had worked harder throughout my life. And I think of regrettable things I’ve done that bother me more and more now that I’m older. But I suppose we all think this way sometimes. And I think of my family now and my life and my hobbies and abilities and remind myself, with a little smile in my heart, that life can be great sometimes. I hope to experience more of it. Take care, Ralph

PS. We saw the Chieftans last night in Albany. If you want to see a really great show please see them. They are playing at Carnegie Hall Saturday night, St Patrick’s Day, in New York City.

I have to admit something. The world is such a crazy place. We’re constantly bombarded with both bad and shocking news. And this kind of stuff pulls at the sanity of everyone. I have to admit that seeing the Chieftans last night reminded me that there really are good things in the world and there really are lots of people working to make the world a better place. It’s a good thought to keep in mind once in a while. And we all need something to lift our spirits. Let’s hope that the people who run the world realize that it’s better to make great art than to waste lives and money on things that don’t improve the quality of life for all humanity.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The world is full of nutty people. I’m not kidding. I’m the only one who is normal. And I often wonder about that. My last newsletter opened with a photo of me in a Popes costume that I purchased from Wal-Mart for about $20. It was a fairly convincing outfit and I had fun wearing it to a Halloween costume party where my band played. A few days after I posted the photo I heard from several different people. One group of people thought that it was a Klu Klux Klan outfit and that I was advocating hatred and segregation. A few people told me how proud they were because I was finally preaching the true religion of hatred. Another group, who though I was a Klan member that had finally come out of the closet, told me that Jesus would come down from heaven and strike me straight down to hell. Another group declared “blaspheme” and said I was mocking religion and their savior Jesus Christ. To all of you people who sent me comments…go screw your selves. You’re all nuts. No one is going to save you or anyone else for that matter. If you want to be saved stop drinking and smoking, get some exercise, be responsible, develop your talents, finish your high school education, get educated and try to make the world a better place. Stop complaining about other people…just do something good for a change and take your crazy religion elsewhere. And leave me alone. And to the “ordained” individuals with your academic religious degrees……go out and get a real job. If you want to see miracles spend a Saturday evening in an emergency room in any inner city hospital. Medical doctors save more lives that any religious fanatic ever has.

And while I’m on the subject, to all of the people out there who lead their lives on exactly what the bible says please read the following;

“If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse who you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you , saying “Let us go and serve other Gods”, unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him; your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death….” (Deuteronomy 13:7-11).

And then on the other hand somewhere the bible says “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. Am I misreading something here? Is this a contradiction of earlier biblical teachings? I’ll let all the sage, biblical intellectuals figure this one out. And when you do please let me hear from you. I’d love to try to understand your reasoning.

But what really gets me is when certain religions declare that they are the "chosen ones". And that all the rest of us are "less perfect, inferior or less blessed" than the ones who are "chosen". Or others that state that "blond haired, blue people" (Aryans) are better than everyone else. Or that Catholics are following the wrong god or that Lutherans are only interested in deer hunting and fishing. This kind of talk is the epitome of absolute arrogance. It makes me sick to my stomach to hear people say this kind of stuff. It’s the absolute cradle of stupidity. This is how hatred begins and wars are started. This is the kind of stuff that leads to oppression, violence and death. And all in the name of religion, in the name of God. It’s a sad world we live in because kids learn this kind of stuff from their parents and their parents learned it from their parents. And frankly, our stupidity and arrogance will be the end of us. Tragic, it is, to see the product of millions of years of evolution destroying itself. It nearly kills me just to think about it."

So here we have our president who goes to church every Sunday, prays daily and follows the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. And so far more than three thousand American soldiers have been killed in Iraq. I could go on and on about all this but frankly the entire organized religious thing disgusts me!

And it’s shocking to think that more than a third of the people in America actually believe that Jesus Christ himself is actually going to return shortly to judge us and put an end to the world. People who believe this kind of crap are nothing more than fools and puppets. And every week they donate money to the priests, prophets and rabbis who laugh all the way to the bank.

So what do I personally believe? Consciousness is a unique electro/chemical interaction in the brain. Each living thing has it. Each living person has it. It is an astonishing thought. When you finally realize the uniqueness of each living thing you may come to the conclusion that we all share something extraordinary in common. The thought of taking life aware from anything is appalling to me. Further, the thought of an “after life” disgusts me. Why? Because it debases and devalues the life that we presently have. It makes people lazy. “Oh, I’ll just sit around and be lazy, pray a lot and wait for heaven to come along”, is a pervasive thought that I’ve heard before. Let me tell you something. Life will never get any better unless you make it better. Our lives are not to be wasted sitting around doing nothing or praying all day long. As an old saying goes “its better to study for two hours than to pray for two hours asking for help to pass a test.” Life is astonishing. Its only happens once. Clerics argue about near death experiences, heading toward the light and a bunch of other stuff that happens when you die. Each of those phenomena is easily explainable. Deprive the eyes and a few other parts of the brain for just a few seconds and you get the same sensations. The greatest thrill is getting good at something. When I watch my fingers slide over my guitar strings, when I make a great photograph, when I see a beautiful scene; these are heavenly experiences to me. And they don’t just happen. Its takes years to become a competent musician, or, for that matter, competent at anything. Art is worth the struggle, it’s worth the effort. Art is a profound blessing on ones live and it is available to everyone. Life will kick in the pants often but living a life of effort and competence is an absolute blessing.

But enough of this kind of stuff (at least for the time being)..

So how did you like the Presidents State of the Union Address? How many times have you heard that we must stop our dependence on foreign oil? Every president since Jimmy Carter has said exactly the same thing. But NOOOOO. No one has the courage to stand up and suggest that in two years we eliminate six and eight cylinder vehicles. That would solve our dependence on foreign oil immediately and make a serious dent in global warming as well. But our politicians are all cowards…everyone of them. None of them have the courage or foresight to think more then a few years ahead. And listen very carefully to this. If we just stopped importing oil the Mid Easterners would no longer have the money to buy weapons to do battle with us. They would be begging us for food in six months. We would no longer have to sacrifice the lives of our young men and women in a stupid war. Are not our young brothers, sons, husband’s, daughters and wives important enough to us to curtail our use of oil? Or am I the only one who thinks this makes sense?

And it’s now apparent that our government has suppressed hundreds of reports warning of the impending disaster of global warming. Isn’t the president supposed to “serve and protect” the citizens of the United States? And good old George W. is leading us right into an epic catastrophe. And he’s doing it so he and filthy friends can make more money by selling oil. I really hope that other people in America can both see and understand this. Frankly, George W. and his entire cabinet should be impeached.

OK, OK, I’ll stop rambling on about this kind of stuff. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On another, more relevant subject, I should mention the Adirondack Mountains Antique Show, held annually in Indian Lake, NY, in the middle of September each year. I’ve exhibited at every one of these shows for the past fifteen years. This past year there were fewer exhibitors than the year before. Nonetheless, I had the single best day I even had in thirty years of being in the rustic furniture business. The right retail people were there. I just about sold out my entire booth and several retail people came to my gallery after the antique show was closed. We stayed open until nearly midnight as car after car pulled into my parking lot. Anyone who does not exhibit at this show is missing a great opportunity to sell their stuff. For more information call Jerry at 518 861 5062.

As long as I’m talking about shows the Western Design Conference has been sold to new owners. The WDC will no longer be held in Cody, Wyoming. Its new home will be Jackson, Wyoming and will occur September 6-8. For more information contact: Nancy McCullough –McCoy, Publisher, Teton Home and Living, (208) 354-3466. I suspect that this will become one of the great shows in America and its new location will bring many of the wealthiest connoisseurs and lovers of Western art and Rustic furnishings in direct contact with the greatest rustic artists in the country.

At the same time plans are underway for a new show to be held in Cody, Wyoming. Cody has long been the bastion of Western Rustic furniture builders and the local artists will, no doubt, put together a great show. I have every intention of attending the new Cody show and I hope others will as well. Once plans for the show, dates, and a new name for the exhibit are established I’ll happily post the information on my site.

And keep in mind the Rustic Show For Contemporary Living to be held on March 31st - April 1st in Danbury, CT., I’ll be exhibiting, lecturing, and signing books at this new event. on my site.

Contact Richard at (800) 834-9437

And between April 13 and 15, I’ll be exhibiting and signing books at the LAKE, HOME AND CABIN SHOW in Schaumburg, Illinois. Call Dave at 888 471 1192. The Lake Home and Cabin Show is also held in Minneapolis and Milwaukee the two consecutive weeks before the Schaumberg show. This is the first time the show will also be held in the Chicago area and it promises to be a grand event. I have many customers in the Chicago area and many of them plan on attending the exhibit. I look forward to a great event in the ‘Windy City”!

This past weekend I took my daughter skiing here in the Adirondacks. She’s been taking ski lessons for the past month and I’ve been told she’s been progressing nicely. We’ll, we rented all of the gear, put on our best ski outfits and stood in line for a ride to the top of the runs. I hadn’t skied in years but quickly remembered the moves. It’s like riding a bicycle. You just don’t forget that kind of stuff. On several occasions I amazed myself with my ability to drive in the edges of my skis, make quick turns, and stop on a dime whenever I wanted. I enjoyed the quick rush of the snow on my face and the wind in my hair. My wife and daughter were both impressed and I was quite proud of myself as well! And I didn’t fall once! We’re returning to the slopes this weekend and I promise I’ll try something other than the Bunny Hill!

All in all business continues to be excellent here at the Ralph Kylloe Gallery. It’s only the high end things that are selling. Beds, dining room tables, paintings, sets of chairs, entertainment centers, desks, end tables and sofa tables are all selling well. We’ve also taken many orders for vanities and complete kitchen cabinet sets. We have a new supply of bear heads hanging on our gallery wall and we are expecting a half dozen moose heads within two weeks. Our original Persian carpets sell as fast as we can bring them in and our antique rustic accessories almost walk out the door with eager buyers. And although I don’t advertise my antique items last year we sold nearly a hundred pieces of antique hickory furniture and five major historical birch bark, Adirondack pieces from my gallery as well.

Speaking of hickory furniture. I’ve always been an “underdog” kind of guy. There are several “big” companies out there building hickory furniture but some of the “little guys” deserve a chance as well. And I love to see talented, entry level people make a career for themselves. If you’re thinking about hickory furniture call;

Kevin Sluder
Flat Creek Rustic Furniture
173 Old Mars Hill Highway
Weaverville, NC 28787
828 645 5899
www.flatcreekrustics.com

Kevin builds exceptional hickory furniture and has progressed into some great looking regional rustic pieces as well. I’ve sold several of his pieces here in my gallery and plan on having more in the future. Check this guy out! You won’t be disappointed.

Another individual to call is:
John Ketchum
Woods Rustic Furnishings
1013 Washington Ave.
Shelbyville, Indiana 46176
317 392 4347

John was a cabinet builder for Old Hickory for several years and went out on his own a few years ago. He’s a very talented guy and can build anything out of hickory wood you could ever imagine. I also carry his furniture here in my gallery.

And so winter is here. We lost power for a few days last week in a major ice storm. We spent the night in a local hotel and my daughter enjoyed going up and down the indoor water slide at the hotel. I could only do it once as the ride nearly scared me to death.

In the early afternoon the turkeys eat the food we leave out for them in my backyard. In the evening the deer show up and seem to honestly appreciate the cracked corn and grain we place near the rustic gazebo in our yard. Soon the ice fishermen will place dozens of shanties on Lake George and will no doubt enjoy catching perch and lake trout through the ice. And it’s always interesting to see a pizza delivery truck stop at several of the shanties as the day progresses.

We will be spending the last two weeks of February in Florida. The first week we’re taking a Disney Cruise which I pray will not be too boring for me. The second week we’ll be in Key West to feed the cats, wild chickens and an occasional pan handler. I plan on bringing my old Dobro guitar down there and playing it late at nights on a corner of Duval Street. I’ve always wondered what it was like to be a street musician in a big time tourist town. If you see me down there I hope you’ll take pity on me and toss a quarter in my “tips can”. I can use the money. This is also the start of the Tarpon run in the Keys and I’ll spend some time fly fishing for these monster fish. It’s strictly catch and release as I have no interest in harming these beautiful creatures.

I couldn’t help but notice but in the past few years there have been more than eight hundred and fifty five thousand (855,000) visits to my website. Holy cow! Or maybe it’s just some misdirected soul who looked at the site 855,000 times. I’ll never know but I will say that I really do appreciate hearing from people. Strange as some people are I love to hear different view points. I just hope that too many people don’t condemn me to hell. It just might be terrible if I was wrong about things.

Please take care of yourselves, Ralph

Monday, December 18, 2006

In October (I don't remember the exact date) my band played a gig in Albany at a trendy wine bar. We started playing at around eight in the evening. More than a hundred people watched us closely and applauded wildly during the middle and at the end of many of our songs. As we took a break at the end of our first set I couldn't help but notice the large screen TV directly over the band stand. The audience had been cheering for their favorite team in the World Series and not for our musical talents and showmanship. Life is cruel sometimes.

We also played on Saturday night (November 18) at a private party in Albany. After the gig I finally arrived home at around two in the morning. I ate a light breakfast, packed my bags and left for the airport an hour later. I had to fight with my self just to keep awake during the hour drive to the airport. I parked my car, got a ride to the terminal in the shuttle bus and waited in line for nearly an hour while computer illiterate people struggled with the self service check-in computer terminals. There is a new "identified" malady in the annals of professional psycho-babble today. It's called "computer rage". People have been known to actually shoot their computers and every once in a while someone tosses a computer out an office building window without shouting "look out below"! And every few minutes I could hear someone complaining about the "god damned computers" in line at the airport.

Technology is great but for me nothing is more irritating than having to touch twenty different buttons on my phone in order to solve a problem. Just try talking to a real person at Amazon.com or Ebay or just about any airline. It's nearly impossible. Personally, I really like talking with real people. Big business is no doubt saving money by having computers answer their phones but, Holy Cow, the impersonal service is really disgusting.

So I finally get my ticket and proceed through the security check point. There just about every woman (and several men) had to discard their bottles of perfume, water, toothpaste and all kinds of other stuff before they could get to the flight gates. I completely understand the realities of this but I just wish that people who want carry that kind of stuff on board planes would realize that they can no longer take things like that with them. An enormous amount of time is lost as people want to argue and complain with the security agents who are just trying to make the flights safe for everyone.

On another note it's incredibly sad that security agents are often both completely unresponsive and unconcerned with the comfort of people going through security checkpoints. The worst of the experience for me and others is shoes. Sure, its necessary to run shoes through the x-ray scanners but at least provide some chairs so old folks like me can sit down to retie our shoes. In Chicago I saw one elderly woman sitting on the floor struggling with her shoes. I had to help her stand because there were no chairs for her to sit to redress her feet. And none of the "guards" appeared anxious to help her. I expressed my concern about the lack of chairs and the poor lady on the ground to one of the agents who obviously was preoccupied and unconcerned. He turned, and towering over me said in his finest junk yard dog attitude, "do we have a problem here?" I just walked away.

Just another strange incident in an airport I thought to myself as I finished my second hot dog while I waited three hours for my next flight.

I finally arrived in San Francisco. It was a non-eventful flight. I watched Pirates of the Caribbean in English for the first two hours and then watched the same movie only in Spanish during the last two hours of the flight. I didn't understand a word that was spoken during the second viewing but the graphics and special effects were, as my seven year old daughter says, "way cool!" Upon arrival I found my luggage and picked up my rental car. Things were going well.

I made my way into downtown San Francisco and enjoyed the sights of that great city. In time I found a parking space and wandered into a trendy restaurant near the bay and Fisherman's Wharf. It was still early and only one table was occupied. I sat at the bar and ordered a beer and dinner. The occupied table was surrounded by a dozen or so men who all seemed to be having a good time. As I drank my beer one of the men came over and sat down on the bar stool next to me.

"Hi", he said.

"Hello", I responded. In truth, although I am a friendly guy and usually enjoy the companionship of others, I was tired and just wanted to be alone, have a nice dinner, find a hotel room and pass out.

"You're in town on business?'

"Yes, I am".

"Where are you staying?'

"I don't know yet". After several more questions he asked me if I would like to join him and his friends at his table. "No, thank you" was all I said. He left and rejoined his group.

A few minutes later another man from the table sat down next to me.

"We're going out dancing tonight. Why don't you come with us?"

I looked him right in the eye and said "no, thank you". I returned to my fresh fish sandwich. He left.

As I was finishing the last of my fries another gentleman from the same group sat down right next to me.

"What kind of business are you in?" he asked.

I'm going to be really honest here. I have no problem with gay people. At the same time I have absolutely no interest in hearing about their lives or their life styles. I do business with lots of gay decorators and as long as they don't get weird with me I'm OK. In the early 1980s I did business with many gay men in New York City. But they all died of Aids. Some people like apples and some people like oranges. I'll leave it at that.

But it's the raging "fags" and hard core "queens" that get me. They are the strangest people to ever walk the planet. How evolution created overly effeminate gay men is beyond me. They serve no obvious purpose in the giant scheme of things. They are an aberration in the species. My blood pressure rises when I'm around them because I don't know what kind of weird stuff they're thinking. And frankly, I don't want to know.

So here I sat, exhausted, having to explain myself to a bunch of raging fags who wanted me to go dancing with them. What they saw in me was beyond my imagination. About the only person who ever thought I was good looking was my mother. And I'm sorry to say that she was mistaken. I'm just an average guy. I'm sorry, I try to be nice to everyone in the world but sometimes things are beyond my control. I am not a paragon or monument to social graces.

"I haven't had a job in twenty years", I said.

"Where are you coming from?', he asked.

"Prison", I said.

"What were you in for?" he asked.

"Murder", I said.

The smile on his face disappeared like a politician at tax time. I could tell he was searching for something to say. But there was just silence. Moments later and without saying a word he returned to his friends. A few minutes later he and his crowd paid their bill and left the building. None of them looked my way or acknowledged me in any way. For dessert I had a great piece of apple pie and ice cream. After finishing my second beer I paid my bill and left. I than wandered around the Wharf for a few hours, fed the seagulls and listened to the barking of seals that inhabit the bay by the Wharf. It was a grand afternoon.

The following morning I met architect Larry Pearson at the airport. He and I were going to visit a few homes, look at some potential properties and make a few photos of homes he had completed. We drove south through the rolling hills of coastal California. As we passed through groves of mature redwoods I completely understood why people want to live in California. It was seventy degrees, the sun was shining and the ocean smell was intoxicating.

That afternoon we photographed a spectacular Arts and Crafts home in Santa Cruz that had been created from recycled fir and spruce lumber. Late in the afternoon we had a personal tour of a company called IDEO, an impressive think tank that employed seven hundred creative individuals. That evening we had dinner with the owner of the company and several of his friends. It was one of the most enjoyable evenings of my life.

The following day Larry and I wander further south. Years earlier he had completed an addition on an historical home in the redwood forest. The home was spectacular. Bold and majestic, towering redwoods stood like giants as they dwarfed the cabin. We built a raging fire in the fireplace and made photos of the interior of the home. The photos came out well. I hope to use them in an upcoming book.

That evening three of us strolled casually along the beach and talked of architecture, design and the beauty of the area. As the sun set we wandered amongst shops and homes that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. I could not help but notice a "for sale" sign on an older, regional "ground floor condo" that had direct access to the beach. Two small bedrooms, one bath and about 800 sq feet of living space the flyer read. The price tag? Three point nine million. I knew I would not be buying that home in the near future.

I spent the night in a small motel right on the beach and listened to seals barking throughout the night. Great white sharks were known to inhabit these waters and I could not help but wonder about the "mindset" of the many surfers who casually rode the waves.

In the morning I woke significantly before the sunrise and walked along the docks and wharf marveling at the setting. The stars were bright and the sound of the breaking waves was mesmerizing. Near the end of the dock a stair way led to some small rental boats moored to the pylons beneath the pier. I walked slowly down and marveled at the crustaceans and other sea life that had "fixed" themselves to the tall poles. Resting on a horizontal support beam a dark object just a few feet from me raised its head and screamed. Moments later a few hundred elephant seals woke from their sleep, screamed and hollered at me and dove for the safety of the ocean. Weighing up to a ton each they are an intimidating lot.

I was certain that my pounding heart could be heard a mile away as the experience was no less than intimidating. In time, however, one by one, the seals returned to their resting places, complained briefly of my presence and finally relaxed and fell asleep. It was, for me, a very wonderful experience.

As the sun finally rose I found myself back at my room packing. The drive back to the airport was a bit tormenting because California rush hour traffic is nothing less than a trial by fire. At any moment I thought some irate driver might pull a gun on me as cars whipped in and out of traffic like bees returning to a hive.

The long flight home was tolerable. Both planes were full but I have long since accepted my fate of having to sit between fat people with excess gas. It could be worse I keep reminding myself.

I did however, read a very enlightening article in the United Airlines magazine "Hemispheres". The article (November, 2006) , by Nancy Wurst, was titled "Who's Afraid of Ethics?" It was a very enlightening few paragraphs about a man, Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., called "The Ethics Guy". The article talks about ethical situations and then offered five premises by Weinstein that I found quite profound. Actually, I've written about principals to live your life by for years but this guy offers very concise ideas. Frankly, I wish I wrote them but I have to give credit where credit is due. Here they are, including;

1. Do no harm. This is the bedrock of everything else. Without it there would be chaos.
2. Make things better. This is different from the Law. It demands more if us.
3. Respect others. Maintain confidentiality, tell the truth and keep your promises.
4. Be fair. Especially when allocating resources and punishments.
5. Be Loving. At least strive to be kind and compassionate.

From my perspective this is a very insightful set of principles.

The world would be a much better place if we at least tried to follow the above ideas.

I returned to New York around midnight the day before Thanksgiving. I was very happy to be home. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday as we all have lots to be thankful for. Keep in mind that nothing is so bad that it could not get worse. At any rate I slept late in the morning. Around three in the afternoon five of us went to the Sagamore Resort for a feast. The Sagamore is a grand hotel on the shores of beautiful Lake George. We had cocktails in the lounge and then helped ourselves to a gourmet buffet in the dining room. It was a grand feast until the bill came. Considering that my seven year old daughter only ate a hot dog and coleslaw I felt that $350 was a bit much. I felt better when I realized that they only charged me $18.50 for the hot dog. But I didn't dwell on this. I paid the bill and spent the evening watching football games, playing with my daughter and doing family things. It was a good day. I hope to celebrate more Thanksgivings before my time is up.

Last week I ventured into Manhattan to attend a dinner at the Anglers Club of New York. The event was called "All Thumbs Night". Several of the accomplished "fly tiers" in the club gave demonstrations of their latest creations and taught us neophytes a thing or two about the basics of tying flies. It was a grand evening.

Earlier in the day I had entered the Lincoln Tunnel from the New Jersey side. I had been troubled by my career over the past few days and thoughts of changes in my life echoed in the walls of my head. Once out of the tunnel and on a bill board in New York City, a handsome, elegant black man dressed in the finest religious garb, peered down at me in my vehicle. "Career Change?", read the billboard. "Learn Natural Healing. Bishop Womack, E.I., School of Prophetic Physicians". I really didn't know what the E.I. at the end of the Bishops name meant but I'm certain it's something very important. On the sign was his website and phone #. I may just call him for the inside scoop on his school. The number is 800 4 WOMACK. We all need a change in our lives once in a while. Nonetheless, I'm not exactly sure what a Prophetic Physician does but I don't think it can hurt.

Tragically, I was so enthralled with the possibility of a new career I missed a few turns and wound up going back through the Lincoln Tunnel. Once I figured out where I was the return trip through the tunnel was cost me another six bucks at the toll booth.

Because I had to have some film processed I parked on a side street and wandered through the cement valleys of Manhattan as I looked for my photo lab. On Twenty Third Street a man was walking with six dogs. In time he stopped and a few of his dogs urinated on an iron grate that obviously covered a subway or below-street work area. After a few seconds I heard a man shouting from underneath the sidewalk directly under the grate. I believe he was not happy to have dogs "peeing" on him. I did not wait around long enough to see if he ever emerged from his workspace. From his language and tone in his voice he was not pleased with the situation.

As evening fell I found myself wandering near "ground zero". It was quiet and dark. There were ghosts there. I could feel them. The images of the falling buildings and the terror filled my mind. I left the area after spending only a few minutes there and eventually found my way over to the Anglers Club where I had a very pleasant evening.

And so winter is here. The golden leaves are long gone and I said good night to my cabin on Lake George once I drained the pipes, covered the windows and turned off the electricity for the season. I'm certain in the spring I'll find evidence of the mice who'll winter in my cabin and I'm also certain that the huge moose antlers that rest above my front door will have been further chewed upon by the many squirrels, raccoons and porcupines that eat such things.

My father-in-law, John, is presently living with us until his new home in Chicago is complete. It's a pleasure to have him around as he offers a different perspective on the many different subjects that come up around our dinner table. He's a retired Chicago policeman. He will be here until the first of the year.

In January I'll be back in Montana to finish the text and captions for my book A CABIN IN THE WOODS. My other new book, THE RUSTIC FIREPLACE, is presently at the printer and will be available this coming spring.

In February we're taking out daughter on a Disney cruise in Florida during her winter school vacation. We also plan on spending a few days in Key West as well.

I will be exhibiting at the RUSTIC SHOW FOR CONTEMPORY LIVING in Danbury, Ct., March 31. Call Richard at 800 834 9437. I'll also be exhibiting at the LAKE, HOME AND CABIN SHOW in Chicago, Illinois on April 13. Call Dave Greer at 888 471 1192. Both shows promise to be great events and I look forward to being involved in both exhibitions.

Recently, there has been a misunderstanding between Jeff Fraser, the promoter of the Adirondack Living Show, and my self. I am happy to say that we have resolved our differences and I greatly appreciate his efforts to both clarify and resolve the situation.

Regarding my website: business has been extraordinary the past few months. It appears, however, that nothing has changed on my site. That's because when I bring a few new pieces in my gallery and they sell within a few hours. And most things never get posted on my website! At the same time we're in the process of "remodeling" the site so check back with us soon.

And so it's the holiday season again. Trees in my neighborhood are being trimmed with lights and decorations. We're receiving lots of cards in the mail and my wife has been busy sending packages around the country. It's a good time of the year. I hope that each of us takes just a second out of our busy lives and offer a bit of kindness to others in the world. We'll all feel better about ourselves if we do. Take care and may all of you have a safe and prosperous holiday season. Ralph

PS. If you want to see the famous Ralph Kylloe Band featuring Jill Gautie as lead singer stop on by the Cabernet Café in Albany in January 4, 2007. The music starts at 8PM.

Tuesday October 23, 2006

It was a long, strange trip. A few days before I was to leave for Cody, Wyoming and the Western Design Conference I was told that I needed root canal work. I could not find a dentist that had the time available here in New York, so I took off, untreated, for Montana and the West on Monday, September 22.

The first leg of the flight was non-eventful. However, the flight from Chicago to Salt Lake City was strange. It was a huge plane, seven seats across including two isles. One entire family of Spanish speaking individuals occupied three complete rows. I sat in the middle of them. Frankly, on top of the music they were playing each of them talked (actually shouted) at break-neck speed in a language I could not understand. They also were eating beans and other non-identifiable smelly stuff. (I wanted to ask if they all had green cards but felt it was politically incorrect to do so.) At any rate the lady sitting right next to me was holding a little, two year old boy. Once we were off the ground I smiled to the kid. The boy immediately broke from his mothers arms, jumped into my lap and clung to me as if he were attached with gorilla glue. First his mother tried to reclaim him. Then all twenty members of his family tried to retrieve him. The boy was screaming as he clung tighter and tighter to me. You just cannot imagine how strange the situation was. I was just finishing a book on Robert Oppenheimer and the creation of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos. And here I had this kid screaming in my ear and frankly, I had a "buzz" going from the pain killers my local dentist had given me. Within a few feet of me were several highly charged Mexicans yelling in Spanish and trying to pull the kid away from me. Finally, I stood up and said loudly that the kid was OK sitting on my lap. "Leave him alone", I said. I don't know if they understood my statement but they all back off. So there I sat for two hours with a little Mexican kid drooling all over my new $275 Ralph Lauren sport jacket. In time the plane landed, the kid woke up and reached for his mother who seemed to thank god for the return of her son and that he was not harmed by a white haired "gringo" who was reading a book about atomic bombs. She offered me a bowl of black beans in exchange holding her kid for two hours. I declined her offer.

Once I finally landed in Montana I was told that my luggage had missed the flight and would not arrive in Bozeman until the following day. Fully aware that my slides for my presentation at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming, were in my luggage I nearly panicked. If the slides were lost my presentation would be greatly impaired as people love to see photos of the homes I photograph.

Leaving the airport I found a local hotel and tried to sleep. In great agony however, I called several local dentists but each was too busy to see me. Finally, my wife, God bless her, found a young dentist who was able to fit me into his schedule the following day. He gave me some good drugs in the morning and stuck an IV in my arm once I was sitting in his chair. His wonder drugs allowed me to sleep throughout the procedure. When I awoke he politely drove me to a hotel and told me not to drive a vehicle for at least sixteen hours. Two hours into my nap a loud knock on my door shook me from my bed. My luggage had arrived. How they found me I'll never know. It was now midnight and I had to be in Cody, Wyoming at eight in the morning for my presentation. I packed my car and started to drive. An hour into the trip I realized that I was driving north toward Glacier National Park. In disgust I turned the rental vehicle around and headed south toward Cody. It was dark throughout the drive. Several deer jumped in front of my vehicle but I avoided hitting each.

I arrived in Cody at eight in the morning. I had driven all night. I brushed my teeth in a gas station washroom and tried to make myself look presentable. Shortly, I was in the Buffalo Bill Historical Center speaking to about seventy five people. Frankly, I didn't know where I was or what I said during my speech. I told the audience of my present condition and I believe they understood. I do remember rambling on about something and I do remember the audience applauding when my time was up. To this day, however, I do not know if they were thankful my presentation was over or if they were applauding my talk and slide show. Other than that I don't know what happened. I just hope it went well and that I'll be invited back to the conference sometime.

The Western Design Conference is an extraordinary event. The best builders in the country exhibit their work and I have many friends there. I was also one of the judges for the annual competition. Sam Maloof was also a judge. Sam is America's greatest living furniture builder. His rocking chairs start at $50,000 and he has a five year waiting list. He's also 91 years old and a great man. Charming and charismatic an entourage follows him where ever he goes.

Judging a design contest is not as easy as it sounds. There were five judges and it took about four hours to reach a consensus on the eight awards. However, great art is still great art. Construction techniques, use of materials, design, balance, color, form, and a bunch of other intangible concepts all count. Each judge gravitated toward four or five great pieces and we all agreed on the final few pieces. But the discussions went on and on. In time we awarded the Best of Show prize to Ron Shanor for a gorgeous couch and ottoman set. We also handed out prizes for best leatherwork, jewelry, metal work and a few other awards. Randy Holden from Maine was awarded an honorable mention for one of his exceptional cabinets.

After the show I wandered through the auditorium and chatted with the many artists exhibiting there. I often comment on their pieces and let them know how the judges felt about their furniture. Many find my comments very helpful. For instance, the legs on a table may be too heavy or out of proportion for the top, there may be too many elements or a builder is trying to add too much to a piece when often simpler is better, joinery may be incorrect or the color or staining may be too muddy. It's mostly common sense stuff. Mature people greatly appreciate my comments. Some people do not.

A few years ago a gentleman was greatly insulted when I mentioned that the judges (five of us) felt that the legs on his table were too heavy for the top. He took my comment as a personal attack on him. Nothing could be further from the truth. I didn't know the guy at all. Later in the day I was asked to sign one of my books by another exhibitor at the show. I was right next to the gentleman who I had offered suggestions to earlier in the day. I set the book down on his table and the builder verbally attacked me in front of several others. I could ruin the finish or scratch his table he shouted. I quickly moved away from him. Later several people expressed shock at the exhibitor's outburst. Criticism and suggestions from others, especially when offered in a supportive and encouraging way is not a personal attack on someone's character. I actually felt bad for the guy. He has not spoken to me in years. And unfortunately the legs on his tables are still too heavy for his tops.

But offering suggestions is like walking on thin egg shells. I usually "sandwich" my comments when asked for my opinions on items. For instance, I may say "I really like the selection of materials but you might have made the overhangs a bit more dramatic. And I also like the position of the back splash on the top". Putting the suggestion between positive comments is, at least in my opinion better that blurting out "I really hate the piece".

During the show Lester Santos and his wife, along with Interior Designer Chip Kalleen, Reid Crosby and I visited a great ranch about two hours from Cody. Down an incredible, muddy dirt road and in the middle of a great valley we photographed a stunning ranch complete with taxidermy and western rustic furniture created by Letter Santos. The photos will appear in a new book by me titled A CABIN IN THE WOODS due out a year from now.

All in all I had a great time in Cody. If you get the chance anyone interested in great western designs should attend the Western Design Conference held annually in Cody, Wyoming. It is my favorite event of the year.

I left Cody on Saturday morning. I drove through Yellowstone National Park on my way back to Bozeman. It was peak foliage. Elk and bison were ever present and I stopped occasionally to toss a fly or two in the Shoshone, Fire Hole and Gallatin rivers. It was a magical drive.

That evening I boarded a plane that first stopped in Salt Lake City and then Anchorage, Alaska. It was a red-eye flight to Alaska and I had three seats all to myself. I slept the entire trip. Once we landed I was told that my rental car was not available. Fortunately, however another car was found and I left the airport at around 1: 30 in the morning. Two hours later I arrived in Cooper Landing, Alaska. From previous conversations with the resort manager I was told that my cabin would be open and to just walk in. Upon doing so, at 3:30 AM, I succeeded in startling three others who assured me that the cabin was theirs. I found the managers cabin and was told that they thought I was arriving the following night. Unfortunately, the remaining cabins were completely booked. Nothing was available. However, they kindly erected a tiny tent in their front yard, gave me a blanket and pillow and said "good night". They failed to mention that monstrous brown bears often wander through their front yard each night. So there I rested, frozen in the 20 degree temperature and in great fear that at any moment I would be eaten alive by a two thousand pound Alaskan Brown Bear. Fortunately, the owners did not charge me for the use of their tent that evening.

I did not sleep that night. I crawled from my tent two hours later, cleaned myself up in the nearby ice cold stream and had two pancakes for breakfast. I met my guide a few minutes after breakfast and fished for the day on the stunning Kenai River.

Fishing in Alaska ruins you. With the exception of one day I landed about thirty trout in the 18" to 24" range each outing. Each day I also landed 3 to 4 trout in the 24" to 26" range. My largest for the six days was 28" inches. And I know that I had several fish on my line that were above 30". The vast majority of fly fishermen in the world never catch a trout above 20". Usually, for people living in the lower 48 states, fish that size are a once in a lifetime event. In Alaska, a 20" fish is common and nothing to even mention in the course of conversation. So when I fish back here in the Adirondacks and spend an entire day to catch a twelve inch trout it's a little discouraging.

A few days later a friend of mine and his son showed up. It was their first trip to Alaska and although frequent visitors to Alaska, like myself, felt the fishing was just average, they marveled at both the quantity and quality of the fish. Several of my friends from The Anglers Club of New York, of which I am a very proud member, were also in town and we had cocktails and conversation with them just about each night.

Unfortunately my usual guides were booked for the week and I had to use a different guide just about every day that I had never fished with before. Unfortunately, it was the end of their season and none of the new guides showed any enthusiasm toward their jobs. Instead of working hard they sat in their boats, smoked cigarettes and didn't work hard to find us fish. Nonetheless we had a great time in spite of the lackluster efforts of the guides. And, we will be returning to the same river next year and fishing with our regular guides!

My flight back to Bozeman, through Salt Lake City, left at one in the morning. I got to Anchorage at about ten AM and rented a motel room for the day and evening. I boarded the plane late that night and was horrified when I realized that I had a middle seat and that the flight was full. So there I sat, wide awake, for six hours as the plane bounced and shook its way back to civilization. Once in Salt Lake City I had a two hour layover and nearly missed my next flight because I was snoozing in the terminal. Fortunately, I woke at the last second.

I finally arrived back in Bozeman and was met at the airport by architect Jeff Thompson. Several people had mentioned to me that I must see a compound partially designed by Jeff and architect Larry Pearson. Unfortunately the site was five hours away from Bozeman. So with some reluctance (I had not slept in over thirty hours) I jumped into the vehicle and drove five hours due north of Bozeman. And I'm happy I did!

The ride up with Jeff was great fun, the scenery extraordinary and our conversation went on for hours. The setting was even more spectacular than I anticipated. I made photos in the afternoon, had an excellent dinner and than passed out in a great bed in a great room. In the morning I fished the stocked trout pond just a few feet from the guest home and made photographs the rest of the day. We cooked buffalo burgers on the grill that evening and returned to Bozeman early in the morning. The photos came out exceptionally well and you'll be able to see the compound in a new book of mine called A CABIN IN THE WOODS due out a year from now.

Back in Bozeman I photographed a few more homes, met with all kinds of people and fished for a few evenings in a cold spring off the Yellowstone River. It was a grand time.

On Friday afternoon I met my family (wife, daughter, sister-in-law and father-in-law) at the Bozeman airport. We spent a week together traveling to Jackson Hole, Cody, the Old Faithful Inn, Chico Hot Springs and then back to Bozeman. We had a great time traveling through Yellowstone National Park as well. Traveling with in-laws has been know to be quite stressful but my father-in-law, John, a gracious man, who had never been West seemed to greatly enjoy himself . My sister-in-law, Tina was very helpful and a great addition to the group. We had several great dinners throughout the trip and enjoyed each others company. And my seven year old daughter was thrilled to miss a week of school!

On Saturday evening (October 14) a book release party was held for me in Bozeman. A full dinner barbeque, cocktails, DJ and a band were offered! Sponsored by Architect Larry Pearson and organized by Queen Jacque Spitler I truthfully expected only a handful of people to show up. But much to my pleasure more than three hundred and fifty people attended the event! I signed and sold about 160 of my latest book THE RUSTIC HOME. The party was for the owners of the homes that appeared in that book as well as all those involved in their design and construction. There were several speeches during the evening and I was asked to say a few words to the audience. I kept my speech short and thanked everyone for their efforts to help get my books to the market.

It was a very moving event as many people expressed their gratitude to me for publicizing their efforts. Frankly, and I often try to express this, it is the architects, designers, contractors, landscape artists, masons, etc., that are the real artists. I just record what they do. And frankly, I'm thrilled just to be around these talented men and women. They are the great artists of their day and I'm just thrilled that I have the opportunity see their work and occasionally, hang out with them!

And on a further note I am very appreciative when someone thanks me for having their work in my books. A little "thank you" goes a long way. One gentleman, whose work appears in this latest book, repeatedly thanked me throughout the evening and placed a small thank-you card in my jacket pocket near the end of the evening. Later that night I opened the card and I was thrilled to find a gift certificate to the local fly fishing shop in Bozeman! In the morning, before our return flight to New York, I visited the shop and was awarded a new, hi-tech Winston Fly Rod!

But I feel the need to comment on a number of things for the moment. People don't know how to say "thank you" today. I've given hundreds of people very serious free PR in my books. They become part of history. Careers have been established and some people have made literally millions of dollars from having their work appear in my books. What is shocking to me is that many of these same people don't even bother to pick up the phone and say "thank-you". I do not "do" my books expecting significant financial rewards. I produce my books because I really do love and believe in the rustic movement in America. But a sincere "thank you" once in a while is greatly appreciated.

Some people think they deserve to be in my books or in my newsletters. They get upset with me when I can't include their efforts in my publications. Some people have said disrespectful things behind my back and have spoken unkindly of my thirty years of effort to popularize the rustic movement in America. I've done my very best to present and keep the rustic movement before the public's eye, to promote shows and generally strive to advance the rustic arts in America. Although there is great temptation to berate and criticize the actions of some I chose to take the high road at this time. I can assure some people that your time is better spent trying to improve your own abilities as both businessmen and as artists. The time and effort you spend criticizing others would be much better spent if you practiced building better furniture, improving your business skills and becoming better individuals. The burning of bridges does nothing to advance careers and only serves to build further walls in the industry. And I honestly mean this.

On the other hand, there are really wonderful people like Larry Pearson, Harry Howard, Barney Bellinger, Randy Holden, Lester Santos, Doug Tedrow, Brian Kelly, and many, many others who have gone out of their way to thank me. Their efforts are greatly appreciated and they will continue to receive my support in the years to come.

On a final note I need to find a way to say thank you to all of those who have bothered to support my efforts, read my Newsletter (which is often of questionable literary value) and purchase my furniture and books. How's this for a "thank you"?

Many stores around the country sell my books at full retail value. Amazon.com sells my larger books at about 37% off retail price. So here's the deal: The first two books below have just been released and are brand new.

THE RUSTIC HOME 2006 (retail $60) $30 plus shipping (Amazon sells it for $37)

HICKORY FURNITURE 2006 (retail $29.95) $20 plus shipping

FLY FISHING THE GREAT WESTERN RIVERS 2004 (retail $60) $20 plus shipping

ADIRONDACK HOME 2005 (RETAIL $60) $35 plus shipping

A HISTORY OF THE OLD HICKORY CHAIR COMPANY 1995/2002. Retail $20 $10 plus shipping

This sale will go on until Christmas. Please call Michele at 518 696 4100 to order books. Many thanks for supporting us here in the Adirondacks and our efforts to keep the rustic arts alive and well. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. Regarding shows in the near future: I will be both speaking and exhibiting at THE RUSTIC SHOW for Contemporary Living to be held in Danbury, Ct. at the O'neill Center.The dates for the show will be March 31 and April 1, 2007. Please call show promoter Richard Rothbard at 800 834 9437 for info regarding either exhibiting or attending the show. At the show I will be offering exquisite pieces of furniture made by Randy Holden, Barney Bellinger and several other artists as well. I'll also be signing copies of my latest books! Many other great rustic artists will also be exhibiting there including author/builder Dan Mack as well as Tom and Bill Welsh, Barry Gregson (regarded as the greatest rustic chair builder ever! And I agree!) and many others. Accomplished artists working in the rustic medium should consider exhibiting at this show. The focus of the event is the Art world and the rustic arts. And I strongly encourage interested individual to attend! This will be a great event!

I will also be speaking and exhibiting at the Lake, Home and Cabin Show to be held at The Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center, Friday through Sunday, April 13-15, 2007. This is a first time appearance for this excellent show in the Chicago area. Nonetheless, Chicago is an area complete with affluent second home owners and a profound appreciation for the Rustic Arts. More and more of my own customers reside in Chicago and this show promises to be a great event. Keep in mind that there are hundred of thousands of vacation homes, cabins and lodges in both Wisconsin and Michigan and many of the owners live in Chicago! Contact Dave Greer dave@lakehomeandcabinshow.com or call (888) 471-1192. This show is also held on the following consecutive weekends in both Milwaukee and Minneapolis. Advanced rustic artists should consider exhibiting at any of these shows. I exhibited at the Minneapolis show two years ago and am still making sales from that event today!

Tuesday August 29, 2006

Her name was Irene. She was called "Ikey" for short. Her initials were IK and eventually everyone called her Ikey. She was eighty four years old. A grand lady she fell silent a few years ago and to the disappointment and concern of her family slipped into dementia and the ravages of her age. She referred to me as "what's his name" and on occasion aggressively reminded me that she was Ukrainian and not Russian. Tragically, I never did acquire a taste for her boiled cabbage but she made a great ham! She passed away in the early morning of August tenth, a few weeks ago. She was my mother -in-law, my wife's mom. It was not unexpected and was, in truth, a blessing for all. She is in a much better place now.

We arrived at the airport at four thirty in the morning for a six AM flight. Michele was able to get on the early flight but my daughter and I had to take the next flight out which was only a half hour later. But we first had to fly to Washington DC and than on to Chicago. It was on that day that a terrorist plot had been uncovered in England and security was very tight in Albany. We had to leave a few bottles of stuff in the garbage can but Michele's flight took off on time. Unfortunately, my flight was an hour late taking off. The airline waitress insisted that I place my daughter's bag in an overhead compartment several rows in back of us. There was no room in the compartment directly over our heads. I was not happy but did as I was told. When we landed we had only four minutes to make our connecting flight. I had to wait until just about all of the passengers were off the plane before I could walk to the rear of the isle to retrieve our bag.

After sprinting through the airport we found the gate and boarded the plane to Chicago. It too was an hour late taking off as many passengers were delayed getting through security in many parts of the world. Once in the air I asked our waitress for a corned beef sandwich with my peanuts and complimentary beverage.

"Sir, please don't start any trouble with me today", was all the waitress said.

"Sorry" was all I could say.

In time the plane landed. Unfortunately my luggage was still in Washington and would not be delivered to Chicago until late in the evening. We made arrangements to have the bags delivered to my sister-in-laws home about an hour from the airport.

That evening we enjoyed a dinner with other family members. It was about that time that a tooth started bothering me. I had lost a filling a few months earlier. The next morning, Friday, I found a local dentistry office that had time to see me. An hour later I was sitting horizontally while two very attractive, young, female dentists examined me. They agreed that the filling could be replaced and shot me up with all kinds of numbing stuff. A few minutes later I had all kinds of instruments hanging in my mouth. Then they started with the questions. What did I do for work? Where are you from? Etc., etc. I just wanted to tell them that I could not talk with a numb jaw and five pounds of instruments hanging in my mouth. I just wanted them to do their jobs as quickly and as professionally as possible. Just leave me along please.

Then they put on the music…extra loud! In truth, I'm a serious music lover and a musician myself. But they felt the need to blast me with CHER'S Greatest Hits for two hours. Frankly, I can't stand Cher. Her song HALF BREED was written by the devil himself and my dentists played it over and over again. At this very moment I can hear the grinding of the dentists drill and the horror of Cher screaming at the top of her lungs HALF BREED reverberating in my head. And her other songs are even worse. For fear of going into cardiac arrest or a nervous breakdown at this very moment I'm going to stop writing about this for a few seconds and take a break.

Ok, I'm back. Finally the dentists finished and I paid the bill of $428. at the receptionists desk. It was at my vehicle that dizziness came over me. After resting for a few minutes I called my wife on my cell phone and asked her to pick me up. Her sister drove her over and I was transported back to her home.

That evening we attended the wake. Many people visited, paid their respects and offered condolences. Strange to say, it was a very pleasant, subdued evening. Members of the local VFW showed up and offered their support to Ikey's husband, John. A priest, in full religious garb, led the group in a traditional Ukrainian service. I did not understand a word he said or sang. After the brief service I took my daughter home early. My wife stayed at the funeral home till late in the evening.

But I need to digress for a few moments. The funeral home actually had five "halls" where different services were being held for different individuals. In the hall next to the one we occupied laid a thirty eight year old man who had committed suicide. It was a traditional Italian wake. Big tough men in black suits were ever present. Some men showed up with strap tee shirts and tattoos all over their bodies. Others showed up that looked like they had just crawled out of a garbage can. And some of the women were just as bad. Many of them smoked their filthy cigarettes in the entrance to the building and their obnoxious laughter irritated me and others I'm certain. But that's how it goes. We are not all alike and we all have different approaches to living our lives. But sometimes I just wish that people could just show a little respect for both the living and the dead.

At about ten in the evening my jaw began to hurt. I suspect that most people can appreciate tooth aches. It is not pleasant. In the bottom of my travel bag I found some pain killers left over from some injury. They were still in date! So I took one. An hour later, still in pain, I took another. And than at four in the morning I took a third! And all of this on an empty stomach. Tragically, I did not sleep that night. I had the horrible sounds of the dentists drill and the terror of Cher hollering HALF BREED roaring in my heard. I was miserable.

At eight AM I showered and dressed for the funeral which was to be held two hours later. At nine AM six of us stuffed ourselves into my rental vehicle and departed for the funeral home. Two blocks later it hit me. In my nice suit I pulled off the road, got out of the car and threw up for ten minutes on the street. A crowd of construction workers watched as I wretched out my guts on the street. Frankly, I don't think there is any worse feeling than vomiting. It is the mother of all horrors.

In time I re-entered the vehicle. Graciously, my wife drove. But I'll tell you, I just wanted to brush my teeth. I wanted the horrible taste in my mouth gone. I nearly threw up again as we followed winding roads and bounced over pot holes. It was not a good start to the day.

Once at the funeral home I immediately did my best to clean myself up. Tragically, chunks of vomit were on my tie and suit jacket and the smell of such was with me throughout the day. It was not good. Every few minutes I would catch a "whiff" of the former contents of my stomach and nearly lapse into spasms of retching.

I was asked to be a pall bearer and politely accepted. As we moved the casket to the hearse I nearly collapsed and had to steady myself on the individual next to me. We than drove a few blocks to a magnificent Ukrainian church for the actual service. Everything went well except that I was appalled that the individual mowing the outside lawn came close to the windows every few minutes and drowned out the preacher's words of wisdom with his roaring lawn mower. Then a cell phone went off in the pew directly behind me. I was disgusted to think that some jerk forgot to turn off his cell phone. But then I felt my own jacket pocket and realized that my own phone was still "on". I prayed that no one would call me at that moment. I quietly forgave the guy behind me for his failure to silence his phone.

Finally, we moved the casket to the vehicle for its trip to the cemetery. Once there, the mega jets landing at O'Hare airport drowned out the inspirational words of the preacher. And every few moments I cringed when the crowd watching a high school soccer match, just twenty yards from us, roared with delight as their teams scored or nearly scored a goal. At the appropriate time the pall bearers placed our gloves on the coffin and said our final good-byes. I cringed to think that each pair of gloves cost thirty five dollars and would be used only once. I also realized that the white gloves could be purchased at any Wal-mart for a few bucks each. Finally, we returned to our vehicles and drove to a nearby restaurant for an afternoon reception and lunch. Throughout the day I did my best to appear "normal" (which, for me, is not easy!) I didn't complain once! My wife knew how sick I was and was very proud of me!

But on that day I realized again, that when a bottle of prescription medicine says to take only one pill and with plenty of food and water, I swear on my life that in the future I will do so with absolute vigilance.

My band, the Ralph Kylloe Band, is back in business. After a disappointing slow start to the summer season we have regrouped. And after many needed hours of practice and rehearsals we played our first gig in a long time on August 5.

The Wild West Ranch is a fun place owned by the Karate Kid Ralph Machio. Located about ten minutes from my home in Lake George, NY, we've played there several times during the past few years. We always draw a great crowd and late in the evening the mother of the owner gets up and sings a great version of Crazy by Patsy Kline. It's a fun time for everyone.

And so we invited about thirty of our friends and were thrilled when people started showing up early for dinner and drinks. We even had a guest singer, Steve Staples, come with us to belt out a few tunes and sing harmony with our lead singer Jill Gautie. We opened the first set with an old standard titled Moon Dance. We were in fine form and never sounded better.

By the middle of the first set the entire audience was gone. We all looked at each other and just decided to play. We had contracted to do a three hour show and that's what we were going to do. During the second set a few other people showed up. After a few songs they left as well. At the break the last remaining couple came to us told us how disappointed they were. They were told we were a hard core country band. After complaining to the manager they also left.

And so we played on and on. We really did sound great. I took a few solos on my bass guitar, the two guitar players sent out extraordinary "licks", our singer was into it and our drummer kept perfect time. Unfortunately, no one was there to hear us. But that's how it goes sometime. No matter what, you do the best you can. The show must go on. At the end of the evening the bar tender, the only one left in the building besides the band, told us that the rodeo was in town and they had a famous band playing there. There were also two other great bands in town. But that's how it goes sometimes. We have a few more gigs lined up for the fall and we'll practice whenever we can. We love our music and it's what we do. Its great to have recognition and it's a thrill to have a huge audience up and dancing…but we play music because we love it and the personal satisfactions of competently playing an instrument and having a band far outweighs any external rewards offered. (Nonetheless, as ideological as I am it would be great to at least have an audience once in a while!)

It's now two weeks later. A new client of mine saw my guitars behind my desk about three weeks ago and mentioned that he was getting married within the month. He asked about my band. I gave him our demo CD. He left my gallery a few minutes later. An hour went by. My phone rang. It was my client. He insisted that my band play at his wedding. He said that he just fired his band and insisted that we play. I said no. We had not had much luck in the music business lately and I was reluctant to accommodate him. In truth, we are not a wedding band. We don't play the Hokey-Pokey or Ha'vanaglia (sp?) He called me back three times and over the next few days and insisted that we play. Our drummer was not available and I looked for other excuses to not play. But he had heard our music and loved it. So we agreed. Friday night we rehearsed with a different drummer and Saturday night we drove to the gig! I am usually not nervous when it comes to music. I know what I'm doing. But on this night I was scared to death.

The Point in Saranac Lake, NY, is the most expensive "Camp" in America. There are only six bedrooms and a boathouse. The smallest room is $1,500 per night. Our client rented the entire facility for three nights. There were only thirty three guests.

And so we set up in the great hall at the Point (not really that big but really extraordinary!) and played quiet tunes for the first hour and a half during cocktails. After each song several people came up to us and complimented the band! There was than a two hour break for a seven course dinner (the band ate in the kitchen!). We started the second set with a series of fast dance tunes. From the first lick of the guitar the entire place went wild. Everyone danced for nearly two straight hours. It was great fun to see senior citizens and kids dancing all over the place. We knew every one of the requested songs and the audience sang along on just about every tune. Frankly, I loved every second of it! It really was a great evening!

Music is a funny business. You have to find the right venue for a band. We were the right fit for this wedding and we hope to play more such venues in the future. So if anyone needs an aging Rock & Roll band let me know! There may be hope for us yet! Rock on!

FISHING TRIP

There are about nine of us going back to Alaska for some extraordinary fly fishing this September. We have room for a few more. Here's the deal. You fly into Anchorage. You rent a car and drive two and a half hours south to the town of Cooper Landing, Alaska. You rent a cabin at Gwins Lodge. There are four people in a boat. Each person pays $250 per day. All gear is provided. Bring your own waders. Meals are served at the restaurant in Gwins Lodge. You can order what ever you want but you pay for your own meals. Fishing is at least eight hours a day. You'll catch about fifty trout a day. Most will be in the 16 to 24 inch range. You'll also land a few 24-28 inch rainbows. And each day you'll hook up with a few 30 plus inch Rainbow trout that will battle like you can't believe. You can also land as many silver salmon as you want but we mostly fish for trout. It's strictly catch and release. It will be 50 Degrees in the daytime and it may snow. It may also be sunny and hot. It will be peak foliage and there will be bears around. The tourists will be gone as will the bugs. The scenery is out of this world! Fishing licenses and a few other things are extra. I personally guarantee that you will never have a finer fishing trip. It's affordable and you will not be forced to be with others if you choose. For more info call me at 518 696 4100. The dates are September 24 to October 2. You can fish as much as you like or go sight-seeing.

My latest books are on the market! The RUSTIC HOME book is extraordinary! It's my best effort yet! I just spent the past hour looking at an advanced copy. It contains about 300 color photos and shows the greatest rustic homes in the country! I also have spent the past few hours reviewing another new book of mine titled HICKORY FURNITURE. The text for this book was culled from my book A HISTORY OF THE OLD HICKORY CHAIR COMPANY. The new book includes many historical images from early hickory furniture catalogues as well as 125 color photos of historical and contemporary hickory furniture. It is an absolute must for anyone interested in the historical aspects of hickory furniture.

As a treat to my readers and customers I am offering both books (autographed by me!) at discounted prices. The big book, RUSTIC HOME, sells retail for $60. I'll sell the first fifty books to those who read my Newsletter for $42 plus $12 shipping. The HICKORY FURNITURE book sells for $30 retail. I'll offer the first fifty copies for $22 plus $9 for shipping. Please call either my wife Michele (518 696 4100) or email me with a charge card # and address.

There are a few new shows that interested readers may like to attend. The finest and most professional rustic show I have ever exhibited at is the Lake, Home and Cabin Show. There are three sites for this show this year: Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago. I will be exhibiting at the Chicago show which will occur on April 13-15, 2007. Along with exhibiting my furniture I will also be appearing on Chicago land TV to promote the show and presenting a talk and slide show four times at the show. Frankly, I love these shows for many reasons. First, and most important, its new territory. I must admit that the East Coast is a bit overrun with rustic auctions, exhibits, and shows. Frankly, there is a limited market here in the east. And people who are interested in rustic furniture here in the east know how to find me. I exhibited at the Minneapolis show two years ago and had more sales than at any other show I had done in the past five years. Keep in mind that Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan have ten times the lakes and rustic cabins then we do here in the Adirondacks. And they have not been exposed to high-end merchandise. There are buyers out there just waiting for the right stuff to come along! For those of you interested in selling your high-end products please consider exhibiting at these shows. Contact Dave Greer at the following email address: dave@lakehomeandcabinshow.com . For those of you living in the Midwest a trip to the show will be well worth the effort. You'll see some really great things there. More on the Chicago, Minneapolis and Milwaukee shows as the season's progress.

At the same time another show is presently being organized here in the east. Richard Rothbard, gallery owner and experienced show promoter, is presently organizing a rustic arts fair that should be a winner. Well known author and furniture builder Dan Mack will be involved with the show and I have been invited to be associated with the event as well. As of this morning I have agreed to exhibit furniture at the show, autograph books for interested customers and present a slideshow of great homes from around the country during the exhibition! It looks like the shows will be in the spring and summer of 2007. After a several conversations with Richard I'm convinced that he has the vision and experience to create a really great rustic arts festival. More on this later.

Keep in mind that the Adirondack Mountains Antique Show will be held in the town of Indian Lake, NY. The show will be on Saturday, September 16. An early buyer's preview will be Friday, September 15, from 2-6PM. This is an important show in the world of rustic antiques. There will probably be a hundred or so dealers there offering everything from antique boats, snowshoes, taxidermy, all kinds of Adirondack memorabilia as well as rustic furniture of all sorts. There will also be many other individuals set up in the town offering further examples of furniture and accessories. I will be exhibiting furniture at this show and will be selling my books as well. Call 518 861 5478 for more information.

The following week the Western Design Conference occurs in Cody, Wyoming. The dates are September 20-23. This is a very high end show that offers museum quality items from the best in the West (and a few east coast artists as well!) There is also an exceptional educational component along with the exhibits. Along with other knowledgeable speakers presenting information of numerous subjects I will be speaking at the show on the subject of Hickory Furniture, Wednesday morning. I will also be one of the judges for the exhibition. The show is a great event and, in you're so inclined, should not be missed by those interested in rustic design.

Recently an article appeared in a publication titled ADIRONDACK LIVING MAGAZINE. The date was August 2006. The magazine was handed out free at the Adirondack Living Show here in Lake George, New York. Mr. Jeff Fraser is the show promoter and the publisher of the magazine. The article was written by David Quickenton. The article contains the sentence "So here is your chance to visit and speak to each one of us, not some third party retail store or sleazy gallery trying to get their 200% mark up."

I do not exhibit at that show. I did at one time but no longer. It is not in my interest. It is, however quite tragic that Quickenton, who is listed as "editor" of the magazine, fails to accurately depict either my own or the other fine galleries here in the Adirondacks. In truth, after quickly speaking with other gallery owners, I can find no one who marks up their merchandise 200%. The writer of this article should have done his homework before making such an unprofessional statement. In my own gallery I sell hickory furniture at 40% off the suggested retail price. I offer rustic furniture made by the best people in the business at between 20% and 40% over what I paid for it. I have also failed to hear of any "sleazy gallery" here in the Adirondacks. It is sad that Frazer allowed such salacious, unprofessional and dishonest words to appear in his publication. Such statements only serve to cheapen his efforts, create unforgiving resentment and draw serious lines of animosity within the rustic design community. I sincerely hope that in the future Fraser chooses to take the "high road" in his attempts to draw clients to his venues or influence the decision making of the many people in the area who purchase items for their homes. We in the industry can compete against one another, which keeps industry standards high, but also must respect the duty to do so in a manner not to cheapen the approach to the customer.

At the same time I am a second party retail store and gallery owner. I did have a few people call me and mention that Fraser was directly attacking me for failing to exhibit at his show or otherwise be associated with him in other business ventures. I assured my friends that Fraser is not that foolish as to slander someone or make libelous statements in print. He could easily be held liable for making false factual statements and my attorneys would have had a field day with him. However, I am certain that all this is a complete misunderstanding and/or a momentary error on his part. I mention this because the last time I did his show Fraser gave an impassioned speech in front of about fifty or so other exhibitors at the Saturday evening exhibitor's party. In his speech he personally praised me for my thirty year contribution to the field, bringing the field of the rustic arts to the forefront, my best-selling seventeen books, my patronage and support to many rustic artists and the quality of merchandise I offer. At the conclusion of his ten minute speech the audience gave him (and me) a sincere and well earned round of applause!

Nonetheless, Fraser should completely disassociate himself from Quickenton and print an apology to the many fine gallery owners who have spent their lives supporting and popularizing the rustic arts. It would be the right thing to do.

During the past few days I have been visited by Mr. David Harrison and his son. David is a rustic furniture builder in Israel and I have corresponded with him on many occasions over the past few years. It was quite thrilling to hear of his life in Israel and the problems they are presently having. David was quite taken with the furniture in my gallery and was thrilled when we visited the workshops of Barney Bellinger, Brian Kelly, Peter Winter, Chris Wager and Tom and Bill Welsh. In truth, we here in America are blessed with an over abundance of great raw materials, something sincerely lacking in the Mid East. David was very pleased to learn a few new techniques from some of our builders and we wish him well in his continuing rustic furniture efforts in his country.

We spent this past Saturday afternoon and night as guests of the owners at one of the historical Great Camps here in the Adirondacks. The building, nestled on the shores of a great lake and hidden in a grove of massive hemlocks, was completed around 1901. In the evening we cruised the lake in a gorgeous 1930s mahogany boat and marveled at the other historical camps. We drank fine wine throughout the evening and had smoked duck for dinner. Two of the other guests were a couple from Russia. It was fascinating to hear of their country and their appreciation of all things American. The family is now living in America. I took a special liking to his four year old son who spoke no English. He was like a sponge and learned many new words (as did I) throughout the evening. My family and I woke in the morning to the calling of loons and the "lapping" of soft waves on the shoe. The drive home was quite charming as we stopped at all the fruit stands and "pull-offs" along the scenic highway.

And so now it's fall here in the Adirondacks. The maple tree across the road from my gallery is already a brilliant orange and for the past few days flocks of Canadian Geese have circled overhead preparing for their long journey to warmer lands. This morning clouds of steam hung low over the lake as I swam in clear but chilly waters. The honking of geese echoed across the lake and at that very moment I wished I could understand their language. A raccoon tried to gain access to my cabin late last night and succeeded in ripping a screen off a window and scaring my cats. I think the last remnants of my wife's pasta dinner with extra garlic enticed him to scale the logs of my rustic cabin. There are less tourists here now than there were a few weeks ago and I can find a parking place in front of the town post office now when I collect my mail. The highway near my home is now filled with campers and cars towing boats. They are heading south. I hope they enjoyed their summer in the Adirondacks. I know I did. My best to you, Ralph.

Monday July 31, 2006

The alarm went off at 2:45 AM. A half hour later I was driving down the road to the airport. In time I parked my vehicle at the Park and Fly lot and was then driven the last few miles to the terminal in a bus. I checked in and stood in line to go through the security check. It was just about 5AM. In front of me was a young man pushing a baby stroller. I could tell that he was not a frequent traveler as he struggled with his tickets, directions from the security personal and his proper photo ID's. At the security check point he was politely told to place his "carry-on's" on the scanning belt that would bring the items into the x-ray machine.

"You need to run the baby stroller through the scanner as well, sir", said the guard. The man dismantled the stroller and placed the large section on the belt. After a few moments he placed the actual baby cradle on the conveyor belt and than turned to enter the "walk-through" scanner. A few seconds later an alarm sounded and screams were heard. The man in front of me did not realize that he had to take the baby out of the carriage before it went through the scanning machine. The infant was nearly inside the x-ray machine before a guard shut down the equipment and retrieved the child.

Just another strange incident in an airport, I thought to myself.

I received my seat assignment at the gate. I always request isle seats as occasionally I like to get up and stretch my legs. Unfortunately the only seats available were middle seats. I accepted my fate saying that the flight was only a few hours long and would be over before I knew it. The overhead bins were full so I placed my large camera case under the seat in front of me. I then folded up the small wheeled cart and stuffed it in the overhead bin. I then took my seat. A few moments later two fat (and I do mean fat) people took the seats on either side of me.

As we neared take-off time an attendant attempted, unsuccessfully, to close the overhead bin.

"Whose cart is this?" she asked.
"Mine", I said politely as I gasped for breath while being suffocated by the two fat people.
"Sir, you'll have to immediately place the item directly under your front seat".
"Ma'am, there's no more room".
"Sir, it could fall from the bin and seriously injure someone. Please store the item under your seat now".
From the look on the woman I could things were going down hill fast.
"Lady, maybe you could ask one of the other people to place their bags under their seats. The other bags take up all of the room and should have been checked at the counter."
"Sir, either place the item under your seat or you'll have to leave the plane."
I just sat there for a moment. The attendant walked away and returned with a big guy whom I could only assume was an official of some sort.
"What seems to be the problem here sir?", he asked.
"Well, in truth, the waitress here wants me to remove my cart from the bin. And there is just no more room under my seat."
With that the attendant screamed "I am not a waitress. I am a trained, professional flight attendant". The other passengers went dead silent. Sometimes I really hate people. The big guy realized I had no more room and that the waitress was less than accommodating. Everyone knew that she had lost control and made a fool of herself. The male attendant took the cart and said "I'll store this in the front cabin for you, sir. You can pick it up when we land."
"Thank you" was all I said.

And so for the next two hours I sat crushed between two obese people who spilled over onto my seat from both sides. My knees were up to my chin. My back ached. I dared not fight for a position on the arm rests as both were covered with the flesh of my neighbors. I declined the offer of a bag of pretzels and drink half way through the flight. It was nearly a disaster when the fat person sitting by the window wanted to get up to use the rest room. The guy by the isle had to get up, I had to detach myself from my seat, remove my camera bag and stand helplessly while the fat lady crawled over the seats. To make matters easier I stood in the isle until the lady returned to her seat. The waitress who hated me had to cross in front of me twice while I was standing. We did not exchange eye contact but were fully aware of the presence of each other. At that moment I wished I was rich enough to own my own plane.

The flight landed, I was politely handed my cart at the front door and finally found my way to my connecting flight. The rest of the trip was easy.

Bozeman, Montana was hot. I mean really hot. It was about 95 degrees and the sun was bright. I was in town to make photos of several small cabins for a new book that will be on the market next fall. The homes I photographed were extraordinary. In truth, the architects, builders and designers who work in the central Montana region are significantly ahead of their counterparts here in the Adirondacks. I know some people will find this upsetting but their use of recycled materials, masonry and their designs are quite extraordinary. We here in the Adirondacks have failed, in my opinion, to evolve with the times. Sadly, we here in the Adirondacks have not "pushed the envelope" when it comes to creating stunning homes.

I visited and photographed several smaller homes on this trip. One home actually brought tears to my eyes. Created by the extraordinarily talented people at Yellowstone Traditions the home was a combination of "re-stacks". Old Montana hand-hewned log cabins had been found in the area and one by one four small, historical cabins were "married" together to create the perfect cabin. A dramatic fire tower was also added to the building that allowed the owners highly dramatic views of the Yellowstone River. It was, for my taste, the perfect home. You'll see it in my book THE SMALL CABIN, due out in the fall of 2007.

On another note, there was something that occurred out there that no doubt created some significant anxiety and, probably "burned some of my bridges" in the design community of Montana. I met an architect who had mentioned that he had designed an extraordinary town in the middle of nowhere. I was told by several people I know and respect that the place was extraordinary. After many phone calls we were given permission to photograph the place. I met the architect in the morning and we enjoyed a comfortable conversation during the two hour drive to the town.

The complex, located on twenty thousand acres of private property, had been designed and built to replicate an old western, Montana town. The twenty buildings were made of old recycled materials and were, in truth, just stunning. But than the truth came out. It was a town owned by the Philip Morris Tobacco Company. To thank users of their products the company awarded free trips to the town to winners of contests held around the country. All expenses paid. As the tobacco companies are not allowed to publicly advertise their products they bring people out to the "town" to promote their products.

Ash trays were on every table. Other products and souvenirs were visible throughout the complex.

Frankly, I viewed the town as a Nazi cigarette death camp. The entire place sickened me. I see those who both manufacture and sell tobacco products as on the same level with those who sell heroin or crack cocaine. They thrive on addicting people to their deadly products. They, like those who sell heroin, actually kill people with the products they offer. The entire atmosphere and setting of the town was disgusting.

I took a tour of the town, made a few photos and then sat down with the architect to share my thoughts. Frankly, I could have made some decent money by photographing the setting. The photos would have been a great addition to any of my books. And the money would have helped cover my costs for the trip. But I looked the architect right in the eye and told him how disgusted I was. I packed my gear and left. The architect understood my position as we spoke on the ride home.

In truth, someone has to say something. What kind of person would I be if I kept my mouth shut? What kind of person would I be if blindly supported this stuff. Someone has to have some principles to stand on. I see the tobacco people as murders of human beings. It disgusts me beyond belief. How our society tolerates tobacco is beyond me. And, to add insult to injury, the owners of the tobacco companies laugh all the way to the bank. It's a sick world we live in.

A few hours later, once back in Bozeman, I stopped at a deli for a sandwich and beverage. Frankly, I couldn't at all understand the items on the menu. I just wanted a simple sandwich.

"What kind of bread would you like , sir?", asked the waitress. "You can have campaillou, brioche, focaacia, chullah, ciabatta, or blomer."

"I just want a bologna sandwich on wonder bread", was all I could think to say. In truth, I'm really just a simple guy and had no knowledge whatsoever regarding the types of bread they offered.

"I'm sorry sir, we don't have bologna here."

"How about a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, then?" I asked.

"I'm sorry sir, but we don't offer that".

I left the store and found a Chinese buffet down the road that offered "all you can eat" for $6.95. I made a pig out of myself and had a chocolate chip cook and ice cream for desert. A simple dinner for a simple guy I thought. Besides, chicken with broccoli was healthier than a bologna sandwich with extra mayonnaise. My fellow graduates from Harvard University would have been proud of me!

That evening I wandered down to the Gallatin River just outside of Big Sky, Montana. It was about 7PM. I quickly dressed in my waders and assembled my fly fishing gear. In time I made my way to the rivers edge and delighted in successfully hooking, landing and releasing a gorgeous 2o" rainbow trout on my first cast!

It had been a wet week in the area and the water was roaring by. I found a place to cross the river and carefully wandered out into the class 2-3 rapids as I made my way downstream. The water quickly came up to my waist and pushed hard on me as the strong currents forced me to reconsider my situation. Moments later I was completely underwater. I had stepped into a hole and was being sucked rapidly downstream. I released my grip on my fly rod and struggled to the surface. I called for help. No one heard me. Rapids are easy to maneuver when you are wearing a life vest. I had none. The rapids bounced me off a few large stones and continued to pull me both downstream and under the water. I hadn't been that frightened since I was charged by a grizzly bear in Alaska. Moments later I was again under the water.

Finally and fortunately, the currents slowed and I found myself on firm ground. I fought my way to the opposite shore of the river and stood shaking for several minutes. My body ached from being bounced off boulders in the strong currents. During the event, I also lost my prescription sunglasses and had ruined my new cell phone as well. The entire experience lasted probably only thirty seconds. But it was enough to scare me. I wandered downstream for maybe a half mile before I again crossed the river. Once I calmed down I looked for my fly rod. It was a new Sage XP with a Ross reel. It was nowhere to be found. The rod and reel cost about a thousand dollars. And I spent the rest of the evening looking for it. I returned to the site the following morning and asked at two local shops if anyone had turned in a fly rod. No luck. I did, however, leave my name and phone numbers at the shops in hopes that if someone did find my gear they would turn it in. In desperation I purchased a life preserver, mask and fins from the local Wal-Mart. My intentions were to swim the river underwater and find my fly rod. But the water was still high and I wisely gave up the idea.

The following day I called my wife in New York and she mentioned that my fly rod and reel were found and gave me a number to call. I immediately dialed the number and was thrilled to know that a fisherman in West Yellowstone did have my gear! He had found it more than a mile from the site where I had lost it. I drove to his home and was elated when my rod and reel was handed to me. I offered the finder a cash reward and then offered tobuy the couple dinner. They declined both.

And so I wonder….how many people in the world would have returned the rod and reel if they had found it? If I had found it…. would I have returned it? It's a great rod and reel……the best in the business. As I thought about the question I hear conflicting comments in my head. "Finders keepers, losers weepers", is an old kids saying. Confucius said, twenty five hundred years ago, "treat others like you would like to be treated". I asked a few other fly fishermen what they would have done and both commented that the fish gods would not look kindly upon anyone who kept the rod and did not make an effort to find the original owner. I also thought about my parents and what advice they would have given me.

In truth, I did not need an answer or advice from others. I did not need someone or some god or some commandments or some guy in robes telling me what to do. I would have made every effort to return it to the owner. Somewhere in my mind I know the difference between right and wrong. It's not that hard to figure out. It's good to know that others feel the same way. My compliments to the guy who found my gear and many thanks for returning it.

I fished just about everyday I was in Montana. I fished each evening and on two complete days as well. One day I hired a guide to fish with me on the upper section of the Madison River. I landed at least thirty trout in the 16" - 22" range. The next day I fished the same section of the river by myself and succeeded in landing only two fish. Another day I fished a spring creek off the Yellowstone River and successfully landed more than 50 trout. All in the 16"-22" range. It was probably my best day of fishing in Montana. Spring creeks are funny places. The water surges up from the ground and is clear as the Montana air. The steams are only ten to twenty yards across. Wildlife is everywhere and deer and elk often wander just a few yards from you. It is a magical place. On several occasions muskrats swam between my legs and I nearly had a heart attack when a full grown beaver swam underwater, completely unaware of my presence, just a few feet from me.

Storms are ever-present in the Rockies. One evening, while standing waist deep in a creek off the Yellowstone, the skies darkened quickly. Bolts of lightening suddenly slammed the landscape very near me. So here I was in open water with a lightening rod of a nine foot fishing pole with a metal tip pointing toward the heavens in my hands. I made my way to the shore and took refuge under some thick bushes. The wind picked up violently within moments. Seconds later I was being pelted with golf ball size hail stones. With my hands over my head and squatting on a muddy bank under shrubs, every other word from my mouth was "ow", "ouch" or grunts and groans. Then the loudest crack I ever heard was accompanied by the brightest light I had ever seen. Almost pale blue the lightening bolt struck a huge cottonwood tree just a few feet from me. I heard the tree begin to crumble and watched in horror as it was falling directly toward me. Without thought I ran from my hiding place in time to avoid the fall of an old growth cottonwood.

A half hour later the skies were clear and I returned to the river. That night I land and released at least a dozen Brown Trout in the twenty inch range. The entire day was magical.

I spent the night soaking in the outdoor hot pools at Chico Hot Spring Lodge just north of Yellowstone National Park. The stars twinkled and an occasional fiery meteor, that had seen places I never would, streaked through the dark sky. I chuckled to myself as I realized that everything in my body, all the elements that are me, were made in the fiery caldrons of stars. In the vastness of space gravity calls together interstellar particles and gasses and swirls them together like a gigantic whirlpool. The weight of hydrogen is eventually transformed into helium and electromagnetic radiation. The stars turn on! In the nuclear furnace of the stars elements of all sorts are created. After a few billion years the fuel that drives the star is spent. The life of stars, like all live everywhere, nears its end. The star first expands and than shrinks to a tiny dot called a singularity. Some of the stars explode and spew their magical elements across the vastness of the universe. With enormous luck the elements of space and stars came together and, bingo, here I am! Quite remarkable, if you think about it!

I'm now back in Lake George, NY. I've had visitors from North Carolina here for a few days. They brought up a large set of antique Old Hickory chairs which I will recondition and offer to the public. Tonight, I'll be speaking and showing slides before a group of academics from Princeton University. This evening an architect from Michigan will visit us and attend my presentation with me. Tomorrow afternoon he and I will meet with a client about a new home on Lake George. Early next week I have a friend and his son visiting for a few days. The pair builds rustic furniture in their home country of Israel and are excited about visiting my gallery to see examples of the great rustic furniture we offer here. Saturday night I have band practice (yahoo!). We have regrouped plan on working diligently until our sound is right!

A few weeks from now I have to drive to Indiana to pick up a load of Amish rockers. The rockers built by this mid western family are larger, stronger and more comfortable than the rockers constructed by the Amish in my area. Unfortunately, I have to drive for some thirty hours (round trip) to pick up the furniture. But…the quality of their products is worth every mile on the road.

I just spent the past half hour eating my lunch in front to the TV. I watched an episode of the Contender. It's a saga about boxers competing for big prizes. I took special interest in the prayers of the spouses and the fighters before they entered the ring to do battle with their opponents. They prayed for the power to smash the skulls of their opponents. The wife's prayed on their rosaries to the Virgin Mary that their husbands would inflict great pain and injury those their husbands were fighting. They asked God for the strength to help their husband's pound the shit out of the other fighter.

Somehow I think that they missed the entire meaning of religion. Somehow I just don't think Jesus or Mary would encourage this sort of thing. I am not sure they would want to give power to someone so that that individual could brutally pound someone else senseless. But what do I know? I'm just a misguided, pathetic figure (or so I've been called) who thinks religion is a bizarre human ritual that has caused more neuroses, harm and destruction than any other human endeavor.

On another, lighter note, we are very near an agreement with a major TV station to offer my series RUSTIC LIVING WITH RALPH KYLLOE. Its shocking to me at how complicated this has become. Everyone wants an influence in the series and everyone wants a piece of the action. But, I'll tell you…I've lined up the greatest rustic homes in the world and I can't wait to put them in front of interested viewers! I hope everyone who sees the program will be impressed.

And so it goes. It's nearing 3PM here at my gallery and my wife and daughter are at our camp weathering out a violent thunderstorm that came up within the past hour. Our camp has come to be very important to us. I'm incredibly lucky to own the place. It's gone up in value four times from what we originally paid for it and I could never afford to replace it if I had to purchase it again in today's market. We are one of thirty two families who own twelve acres of Lake George lake front. Our beach is over a thousand feet long and one can wander into the clear waters of the lake more then fifty yards of sandy bottom before it gets over my head. It's a great place for my daughter as she now has several friends who also live in the complex. Each of us have a deep water dock for our boats and in the evening we often visit neighbors for a chat and a cocktail. It's a wonderful place and I personally thank John Lefner for calling me early one Sunday morning years ago and insisting that we see the place. Once there I purchased the home on the spot! It was the best deal I ever made!

I've spoken with several visitors to my gallery and made a few sales today. I responded to about ten phone calls this morning and took orders for a few books on the internet. One of my sources just drove in my parking lot with a fresh load of birch bark that we'll use on our furniture over the next year or so. I also just placed an order with him for a high-end bureau and mirror. Hopefully, he'll have it completed in time for the fall. So far, it's been a hot, yet wet summer here in the Adirondacks. The grass is still a rich green and the leaves on the hardwood trees by my home glows after each rain. I lead a blessed life. I have more adventures that I ever thought possible. I see beautiful things and spend time with extraordinary people. Creativity and effort brings fullness to ones life. Peace in ones life does not come from passivity. It is no easy task to achieve. It is no easy task to better oneself.

My one wish is that I could tell my parents about my life. I hope they would be proud.

Sorry about rambling on about all this stuff. It's just how I feel today. Life is good.

Ralph

Sunday, June 25, 2006

It's now Sunday, June 11. For the past ten days the bucolic town of Lake George, NY, my town, has been the scene of Americade. Fifty thousand motorcycles and about a hundred thousand people invade the area and roar up and down the streets all day and night in an attempt to both demonstrate and prove their masculinity to themselves and anybody who will take notice. And in my book they all fail. I have no doubt that they all feel "very cool" on their motorcycles and in their leather outfits and tattoos and earrings. But to me it's no big deal. To me it's just a lot of noise and weak attempts at masculinity. But I don't say that kind of stuff to their faces. I'm not that stupid. Frankly, most of the bikers scare me. But maybe I've just seen too many movies and TV programs. In truth, however, most of the bikers here in town are old guys. Many that I've spoken with are lawyers, accountants, dentists or traditional sociopaths. But they have their own lives and far be it from me to berate them for their life styles.

Frankly, however, I will never understand why motorcycles can get away with the noise they make. Autos are required by law to have mufflers. So should motorcycles, motorboats, chain saws, lawn mowers and a dozen other machines. How they can be allowed to roar all over the place at all hours of the day and night is beyond me. They must have some serious "clout" somewhere.

Lots have happened here at the Kylloe Homestead. Our summer season is now in full swing and it is nice to have a constant and ongoing visitation of customers walking through my gallery doors. It actually gets lonely here in the winter and new faces are always a pleasure. It always surprises me when people walk up to me and act like were best friends. I am fully aware that I'm getting older and my memory is not what it was (or at least should have been). Nonetheless, I'm polite to everyone and converse with all kinds of people on all kinds of subjects here in my gallery.

I must confess something however. And keep in mind that I'm only human and have put my foot in my mouth on many occasions. This is one that I greatly regret however. Consider this and give it some thought.

It was a bad day. It was also the dead of winter and cold outside. Several people owed me money and came up with every excuse in the world for their late payments. My builders were late delivering furniture to me and I had to call customers with the bad news that their furniture would not be on time. It was just a bad day.

Late in the afternoon an older woman came in. With her was her twelve year old grandson. They wandered around the gallery for quite a while and I could hear the grandmother comment on construction techniques, the types of wood we used and different styles and designs. I could also hear the occasional click of a camera. I asked the lady if I could help her and she commented that she wanted her grandson to start making rustic furniture. She had brought him to my gallery see how we built things and wanted him to make copies of our work. The boy, she said, had shown interest in rustic furniture and she wanted him to have a career as a furniture builder.

Under normal circumstances, depending if I like the person or not, I'm usually helpful. If someone comes in my gallery and introduces themselves to me and clearly states their intentions I'm often very helpful. Some people I get along with immediately and others I just can't stand. There has to be some chemistry there for relationships to work. And, with saying this, I am no different than anyone else in the world. I tell people, however, that they should not copy the works of others and that if they want to be a success in anything than they must strive for originality and uniqueness in all of their efforts. It's OK to be influenced by others, I say, but they should find their own "voice". On many occasions, however, I've asked people to leave my gallery once it became obvious that they were there to just copy the works of the people who build furniture for me. It is never pleasant to have to deal with such people. It rattles my nerves.

But on this particular day, with everything going wrong, I lost my patience. I stated very clearly that I did not appreciate the making of photographs in my gallery without my permission. I also said that I was shocked that she wanted the kid to make copies of the works of others. And after my thirty second speech I asked them to leave. The grandmother gave me a horrible look as she walked out the door. The boy just walked out with his eyes pointed to the floor. Good riddance I thought.

But as the evening wore on my thoughts were on the twelve year old boy. He really did need a mentor. I wondered if he had a father. I wondered if he was doing Ok in school. I wondered if he had friends. I thought about my own childhood. Growing up with divorced parents who hated each other was significantly less than ideal. I would not wish that on any one. The kid who was in my shop that morning probably needed some encouragement and who in the living hell was I to throw the kid out of my gallery. What kind of a jerk was I to not spend a few minutes with him? To this day I am ashamed of myself.

But that's life. I (we) don't always do the right thing. I can't change what I did or did not do. I vowed, however, to not allow outside things to affect me as much as they do. I should not have allowed my problems on that day to interfere with my dealings the grandmother and the kid. To this day I wish the kid would come visit me again. I'd be more helpful and spend time with him. I'd offer him suggestions on how to get going in the furniture building business. I'd be nice to him. A little encouragement goes a long way. Kids (and adults) don't need some neurotic jerk that has no control over himself berating them.

It's been a few years since the incident. I hope the kid was not devastated or discouraged by my selfishness and unkindness. I have not seen the kid or his grandmother again. I'm certain they think I'm an asshole. And on that day I probably was. But I can only learn from my mistakes. That's how it should be.

BOOKS

After a flurry of last second activities I finally have two new books on their way to the printers. The HICKORY FURNITURE BOOK will be out in August and THE RUSTIC HOME will be out at the end of October. I am extremely proud of both these books as both took an enormous amount of effort to complete. I am now diligently working on two new books. THE RUSTIC FIREPLACE should be on the market a year from now. And THE SMALL CABIN will be out in the fall of 2007.

I'll be in Montana for two weeks beginning July 5 photographing several stunning smaller cabins. On July 8 I'll be attending a "big-time" reception at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. About ten of us (all contributors to the museum) from the office of architect Larry Pearson including Larry, Jacque, Katie, Keith, Dennis, Boone as well as other associates of the office will attend the afternoon reception. There will be a few hundred people at the party and I look forward to the event!

While out there I'll photograph a few great homes at the Yellowstone Club as well as a great ranch near Casper that is the site of more than twenty great buildings. And I'll try, if time permits, to make photos of a few homes up near Glacier National Park. I just hope that I don't get chased around by any of the many grizzly bears that inhabit that area. I'm certain that I'll bring my fly fishing gear along and I look forward to casting a few flies in the direction of some hungry trout that inhabit the gorgeous rivers out there as well.

I'll be back in the West in mid September. The National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming, holds an extraordinary show September 14 -17. A few of the select furniture builders in the country including Jimmy Covert and Barney Bellinger, as well as many nationally known wildlife artists exhibit their work at the museum. I look forward to the event. The following week (September 20-22) is the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming. I will be speaking there with Old Hickory VP Bob Morrison about the influence of hickory furniture on the West. I've spoken at that conference fourteen times and it's my favorite thing to do in the fall. If you get a chance be certain to come out. It's a beautiful time of the year out there and the conference is a great place to see some of the fine art from both the East and West!

The Adirondack Mountains Antiques Show is also in the fall. The show is held annually in Indian Lake, NY. The date of the show is September 16. A few hundred antiques dealers offer everything related to the Adirondacks and Rustic Living. It's a great place to find all sorts of furniture and rustic accessories for your camp! I'll be exhibiting there and will have copies of my books for sale!

But I'll tell you…the entire book thing scares me right now. Regarding my trip to Bozeman, Montana: just the plane ticket from Albany, NY to Bozeman, Mt., costs more than $900. Car rental is about $700 and on and on. Most writers of coffee table books just get architects and decorators to send them photos of their projects. Frankly, I love making my own photos and I'm just stubborn (maybe stupid) enough to travel and make my own pictures. This is not a good thing in terms of business. That's probably why I'm not rich. But In my heart I love my photos. They are perfectly conceived still-life's. They are well balanced with great depth and movement. They are complete objects of art in themselves. And the thought of someone else's photos in my books is sickening to me. And so I'll grin and bear the expenses. I just hope that I sell enough books to at least cover my expenses. Keep in mind that books are not real money makers for writers….unless you sell a million copies of something. Frankly, because I always overspend on production I'm thrilled if I break even on mine.

Other subjects

Speaking of fly fishing. A few weeks ago Barney Bellinger called and invited me on a fishing trip to Plymouth, Massachusetts. Of course I went along. The stripped bass were in and we fished our brains out well past dark. The next day we were rained out and returned home. The following week Barney again called and insisted that I go with him to Cape Cod for more fishing. This time my wife and daughter were not happy with my upcoming absence. Of course they insisted on coming along. "OK", I said, ….and off we went! Well… the fishing was great and the lobsters we had for dinner were excellent. We spent the night in a great hotel and than another night and than another night and another night after that. It was only supposed to be a day trip but we got carried away and as long as my charge cards are not rejected we'll have a good time! Once we returned home, however, I received a call from an administrator at my daughter's elementary school. He complained about my daughter being out of school for to many days. My only comment to him was that our trips to Yellowstone National Park and many other significant places in the country were, in my opinion, far more educational than playing dodge ball in school. He wasn't happy with my comment.

And so, tonight (Wednesday June 21), a bunch of us are having dinner at the home of Susan and Barney Bellinger. While there we'll eat all of the fish we caught on our trip to the Cape. If we average out the costs of the fish we'll have for dinner it comes to about $250 for each of the eight plates of fish that will be served to guests. I can assure readers that's its far cheaper to go to the local restaurant for a fish fry than it is to catch your own and pay all the expenses of fishing guides, gas, motel rooms and meals.

Friday, June 23, 2006. The dinner at Barneys place was exceptional. While there I wandered through Bellingers workshop and marveled at the numerous projects presently under construction. Barney constantly amazes me with his ability to grow as an artist. Some of the paintings were truly remarkable and he and I spent a good twenty minutes appreciating and commenting on a new floor lamp he had recently finished. Sometimes, in our absolutely insane world, it's good to reflect on the abilities and uniqueness of others. Artists are a good thing. They allow us to see things in a new perspective. They broaden our horizons and they inspire us to do better in our own lives. We should all spend more time trying to make things better. It would be good for us as individuals and as a world.

But art, and the art business, is a funny thing. In today's world much of the extraordinary art created is never seen by the public. It's created in isolated studios and than placed in private homes and collections. It would do the world good to see more art. It would do the people of the world good to feel better about ourselves.

But with that thought in mind I wonder about the men who lead the many nations of the world. We need leaders who strive for peace. We need people capable of great vision who can solve problems. We need people who can understand different points of views. It's often said that there are only two sides to a coin. That is an unwise and foolish statement. Coins have three sides and just about anyone can get a coin to stand on edge. The point is is that there are other points of view. And other sides to the coin. And until leaders fully comprehend all facets of any problem we are doomed to one sided solutions that always leaves someone unhappy and angry.

But back to art for a moment. Many of the great rustic artists are extraordinary individuals who have led extraordinary lives. And beginning with my next "Newsletter" I'm going to write a few pages each month about the lives of many of these characters. Rustic artists are generally unknown individuals. For the most part they live isolated, yet fascinating lives. And for the sake of history I believe it's necessary to document the lives of many of these creative individuals. For example, Peter Winter, one of the strangest individuals I have ever met, is actually a brilliant person. His innovations in the rustic world clearly demonstrate moments of pure genius. Conversations about the art world between he and I have gone on for hours. Randy Holden is an accomplished musician and began his career framing homes in Northern Maine. Barney Bellinger started his career building motorcycles. Lester Santos began by building guitars. Jimmy Covert is a long lost cowboy. And Chris Wager is a fanatic motorcycle maniac.

Some of the artists I've known have led bizarre and disrupted lives. Others appear to have had productive, stimulating childhoods. Some of the artists I've known should be in either mental institutions or jail. Most of them have no business sense whatsoever. Some live completely outside of the mainstream of society. Some of them hide behind the guise of being "artists". Some of them are incredibly responsible. Some are not. But they all have unique stories.

These individuals, and many others like them, are the Picassos and Da Vincis of our day. Their lives need to be recorded and documented. It would be a tragic loss to the future if nothing was known of the lives of the rustic artists of today. And so I'll begin writing about their lives soon. For the past thirty years I've made photos of their work and my library of photos now contains hundreds of thousands of images of their creations. But it's their lives that are fascinating. Maybe we can all learn something from their idiosyncrasies and genius. It might do all of us some good. At the very least it will be entertaining.

Other Subjects

My musical career is being overshadowed by other concerns. As adults it's really hard to find time to practice. Music is not a part time endeavor. It requires a long time and on-going commitment. The Ralph Kylloe Band is actually a great band that thrives on innovation. Tragically (at least from a musical sense), we all have careers and kids and other responsibilities. Our singer and her husband guitar player, both real estate agents, live more than an hour south of me. My other guitar player also leads a complicated life and is the head of the math department at the local high school. Our young drummer is an engineer who works strange hours.

It's hard to get us all together. We have not found time to practice during the last few months and we are not as tight as we should be. This is disappointing to all of us. And so for the time being we're taking a brief brake from the musical scene. Tragically, I had to cancel a few gigs because we're not as good as we can be. And I'll be damned if we're going to play at an important wedding and sound mediocre or boring. It's not fair to our listeners or the people who pay us to be a great band. But, as a band, we've been together for seven years and when the spirit moves us we'll jump back on the wagon and make some great tunes. I look forward to it!

On another subject…..I often wonder why I write this stuff. No one pays me to do this and it does take up significant time. It seems that a gazillion people read my ramblings and every time I post a new Newsletter I receive all sorts of comments from all kinds of readers. Many people have written me lengthy letters that are actually quite moving. I enjoy hearing from everyone. My wife thinks I'm nuts for being as "open" as I am. She's surprised that I disclose as much of myself as I do. But that's just how I am and I'm not going to change at this point in my life. People need to occasionally "let down their guard". It's good for what "ails" us and when we hear the stories of others we are reminded of the similarities between us. For me, it's nice to hear that others have the occasional same thought as I. I'm reminded that I'm more "normal" than I think.

I also write a weekly column in the local paper that seems to bring all sorts of reactions. I'm very blunt in the column and have called the town mayor and the town council a bunch of bumbling idiots on several occasions. My wife is scared to death that someone is going to firebomb our house sometime because of my writings. But I seem to hit the correct local note because the paper receives all kinds of letters complimenting me and my articles (which vindicates me and is a great relief to my wife!) Keep in mind that my comments are directed toward things that need to be done and as well as things that are simply wrong (like paying 1.3 million dollars for a hut that should have cost $250k). Nonetheless, it's a fun article and I enjoy writing it.

We are making progress on my TV program, RUSTIC LIVING WITH RALPH KYLLOE. Although I will say that good things take time. We filmed a pilot program in three days a few weeks ago and are now in the process of negotiating with national stations for the rights to the series. It always amazes me at how a simple idea can become incredibly complicated. And every time I turn around there are more people involved. I just want the best possible show with minimum complications. Sometimes too many ideas hinders progress. But we are moving forward. And that's a good thing. Talk is cheap in this world. Ideas a dime a dozen. It's action that counts. Actually, this Tuesday, June 27 (my birthday!) we're meeting with the producers of PBS about a series for them. It should be interesting!

We are also building spec homes here in the Adirondacks. These will be mid level homes with unique rustic architectural elements added. We'll also decorate the homes in grand rustic style and than offer them to the public. More on this later.

Its now Saturday afternoon, June 24. In a few hours I'll be fly fishing on the Hudson River with my long time friends Tom and Bill Welsh. Hopefully, we'll catch a few rainbow trout. I release everything I catch back to the water because the fish are happier there than they would be in my frying pan. It's been busy here in the store today and I've spoken with different people and answered phone calls all day long. And I've loved every second of it. Life is good. It's necessary to remember that sometimes. Take care, Ralph

Sunday, May 21, 2006

I am not beginning this newsletter with a recent photo of myself. I'll explain why a few paragraphs down.

A month or so ago, at the beginning of my daughter's school vacation, we excitedly boarded a plane for a week of relaxation in Key West. I had had a cold for a week and just wanted to relax in the sun, fish for a few days, eat shrimp and clams, feed the wild Key West cats and chickens and swim in a heated pool with my family. We were to meet Barney Bellinger and his family down there and we had arranged for a few guided fishing trips on the Gulf of Mexico. The first flight was late taking off and we missed our connecting flight in Chicago. As we sat and waited a few hours it became apparent that the evening flight was also over booked. Coughing like a madman I accepted the airlines offer to put us up in a hotel and to take the 6AM flight out in the morning. We stayed in a nice hotel at the airport and arrived at five AM for the early morning flight. Tragically, that flight was also full. We returned to the hotel and slept for a few more hours and finally got on a mid day flight. We were late arriving in Atlanta and missed our connecting flight. At around midnight we finally arrived in Fort Lauderdale where we found a cheap hotel. The following morning I could hardly talk due to a very harsh cough and major sore throat. We went to a walk-in medical center and I was quite happy when I was given some great pain killers, antibiotics, cough syrup and decongestant. The bill for the fifteen minute medical appointment was $80. The bill for the four prescriptions was $398.22. I about fell over. I was also told by the MD that if my illness did not clear up that I should check with my primary care physician regarding more tests.

Later that day we arrived in Key West and settled into a great room at the Ambrosia B&B in the old section of town. And so for the next eight days I laid in bed miserable and sick as a dog. Nothing taste right, the sun was too bright, I could hardly talk and I was coughing like someone who had smoked four packs of Camels for forty years. At the same time, the combination of pain killers, cough medicines and decongestant left me in a mental fog. One morning, just to get out of my room, I wandered into town and found a barber shop. I entered the shop and was escorted politely to an empty chair.

"What can I do for you, Sweetie?" the stylist asked.

"Just a hair cut please" I answered.

"Are you here for the celebration?"

Not knowing what she was talking about and aware that this was spring break for thousands of kids I answered simply, "Yes!"

"Honey, I'm going to make you gorgeous" said the stylist. A strange comment I thought…coming from a barber.

It was a quick haircut. Half way through the experience another barber came over, "fussed" with my hair for a few moments and than gave me a shoulder message which was, in reality, quite relaxing. In time the barber announced that I was now gorgeous and ready for the world. The sheet was taken off me and I was spun around in the chair for a quick look at myself in the mirror. Without thinking I shouted "I look like a god damned fag!" My hair was cut down to my scalp and my "bangs" were pointing straight up.

The barbers were now all "giggling" and one of them said "You sure do, Honey, and you do look great!" I wanted to die. I than took a close look at the four barbers. They were, in reality, all men dressed in full drag! One of them asked if I wanted some eye liner and I politely said "no!" The haircut cost me fifteen bucks and my "barber" kept the change from my twenty dollar bill as a tip. I didn't argue. I just wanted out. Out on the street it was apparent that it was "Gay Pride/Drag Race" day in Key West. Before me a parade was forming that soon marched down Duval Street to both the amazement and amusement of thousands of tourists.

When I returned to my room my wife and daughter found my appearance hysterical and others who have seen me here at my gallery could not help but comment on my "new look!". For the time being I am not allowing photos of any sort to be made of me.

In truth, I've been loosely associated, in a business sense only, with the gay designer/decorator NYC crowd for many years. Most of the decorators I did business with in my early years of the business were professional individuals. Most were vary talented. But, I did have problems with a few of them. A few people refused to pay for items I had delivered, one guy returned something to me a year later and wanted his money back. But it was the arrogance and back stabbing that bothered me the most. In truth, the unscrupulous ones were no different from a few "sleaze-balls" that I've done business with in the "straight world". But, frankly, I think gay people are weird. I'm not kidding. I believe that they are an aberration in the species. As a long time student of evolutionary biology it is obvious that that the most important thing any individual can do is to insure the continuity of the species as a whole through propagation and child rearing. That, which is well understood, is the sole responsibility of each individual on the planet. Unconsciously, there is considerable mistrust of those who choose to abandon that lifestyle. There is recent evidence that the brains of gay people are wired significantly differently from those in the norm. Apart from all of that I occasionally look upon the gay community in wonderment. I have to laugh at some of the antics pulled off by members of that community. The drag queens, the flamboyancy and antics are, from my perspective, often comical.

But I'm walking on thin ice here. The wise thing to do is hit my delete button and eliminate this last paragraph. But there are all kinds of people in the world. My personal philosophy is that you can do whatever you want as long as you don't hurt anyone else or yourself. Frankly, if two guys or two women want to get married….who really cares? It doesn't bother me in the least. If that makes two people happy than the world is a better place. For religious fanatics who find this thought appalling….go jump in the lake. Get a real job and stop spreading your neurotic ideological garbage.

On another note, here's a reoccurring thought that's been with me for a while. When I was a graduate student in Boston I often wandered down to the fish pier for lunch at the "No Name" restaurant. For fewer than four dollars you could get a large bowl of fantastic, award winning seafood chowder and rolls! And it was delicious! After lunch I always wandered around the pier and marveled at the fishing trawlers while they unloaded their catch. As a photographer, I found the area incredibly visual and the individual fishermen I met were full of stories and charm.

Every once in a long while someone would mention that one of the trawlers needed an extra hand. The boats travel out to Georges Bank in the Atlantic Ocean and fished for a few weeks at a time. It was hard work I was told and the pay was not great. But the crews of the various boats became family members and each moment was a new adventure.

Being a responsible, mature individual I declined the invitations to "crew" one of the fishing trawlers. I returned to my classes, got good grades and graduated with a Ph.D. But as I've grown older I realize that the statistics that I studied so hard to learn are, in reality boring and useless to me at this point in my life. To this day I wish I would have followed the spirit of adventure that has often spoken so deeply to me. I wished that I would have realized that as an individual I need an ongoing sense of wonderment to keep me alert and passionate. Human beings are wanderers. We are adventurers who find passion in discovery. The thrill of adventure speaks loudly in our hearts. Maybe I've just never grown up. Maybe I never will. But the thought of sun rises and sun sets over the ocean and whales and gales thrills me. The mystery of the deep oceans fills me with a sense of wonderment and awe. Frankly, responsibility, maturity and all that stuff is good and all that….but to this day I wish I have gone fishing.

Business has been slow here for the past six weeks. We've been busy but it's nice to have a constant flow of customers in and out of the door and purchasing things off the floor. Traffic should pick up as the warm weather settles in.

I am happy to say that we will again be featured on NBCs The Today Show! The airing of the program will be the morning of Sunday, May 28. We will be filming the program next week and I look forward to again being on the Today Show!

As I have two new books coming out this year I've had a flurry of activity related to the competition of these bodies of work. I generally get the completed manuscripts to my publisher in January and than stop thinking about them. Then at the end of April I get bombarded with dozens of questions regarding the books. Unfortunately, I've misplaced my notes and digging up info to check spellings, dates, etc., is often a laborious task. But I got the job done and the books are 99% ready to go to the printer. The Hickory Furniture Book ($40) will be on the market at the end of August and The Rustic Home ($60) will be on the market at the end of October. I will be offering both of these books at a discounted price for first printing editions so please watch my website and newsletter for exact publication dates and prices!

Monday, May 8, 2006. It's now Brimfield week. The town of Brimfield, Massachusetts, host the worlds largest antique show three times a year. In an hour I'll pack my truck and take off for three days of absolute madness. More than four thousand antique dealers set up their wares and more then fifty thousand buyers flood the fields in search of treasures. And the funny thing is that they often find them! I actually set up at two of the different fields there and sell things that I brought to the show and found there as well.

Wendesday, May 10, 2006. It's now evening and I'm exhausted. I walked for fourteen hours each day at the antique show. I bought and sold a ton of stuff. I missed a few pieces I should have bought and saw lots of friends that I've met and known throughout my thirty years in the antiques/rustic furniture business. Usually I walk the fields beginning Monday afternoon until nine or ten PM. Tuesday morning I'm up at 3 and walk the fields with a flashlight with thousands of other fanatics. This goes on until around five PM. I than pass out in a hotel room. In my earlier years I slept in my trailer for the entire week but today I sleep at a local hotel! (It's tough to get old but I like a shower each day!) Wednesday morning I'm also up at 3 and am on the ground at about 5AM. By early afternoon I'm absolutely exhausted. As a younger man I would spend an entire week at Brimfield. I just can't do it any more and returned home with a number of treasures by 5 PM.

Regarding antiques: Although I sell mostly new rustic furniture in my gallery I also sell hundreds (sic) of pieces of antiques accessories including snow shoes, pack baskets, skis, canoe paddles, old camp signs and all kinds of other antiques each year. Last year I also sold more than a hundred pieces of antique rustic furniture including Old Hickory and high-end Adirondack furniture as well. We usually don't put the antique pieces out on the floor so if you're looking for old pieces let me know. As I've been in the business for many years people know that I am still very active in the antiques business and I really do get dozens of house calls each year. So if you're looking for antique pieces let me know.

Thursday, May 18, 2006. It's now a few weeks later. The people from the NBC's Today Show will be here in a few hours. Yesterday I sold more than thirty pieces of furniture to a decorator who is doing a huge rustic ski resort in the area. We loaded their truck in the late afternoon and my gallery is almost vacant. So for the next hour I have to rearrange things so the gallery looks great. The Today Show program will be interesting. An individual from Ohio sent a letter to them stating that he was tired of his career and his dream job would be to build rustic furniture and have his pieces sold here at the Ralph Kylloe Gallery! (Sounds good to me!) So we are going to host that gentleman and the TV crew for the day! We'll have him work in our on-site workshop with rustic artist Lori Toledo. They will work on a few pieces of furniture for half the day and provide tips to our guest on how to correctly build rustic furniture. Then he'll spend the other half of the day with me as I ramble on about how to market oneself, find customers, and, in general, make a living as a rustic furniture builder (which, I should add, is no easy thing)! Should be an interesting show. The program will appear on NBC, May 28, in the morning! Hope you get a chance to watch it.

The clean up of the oil spill behind my summer home on Lake George costs $68,500. That's right folks…$68k. My insurance agent argued a year ago that I should have a special "rider" on my home owner's policy to cover such accidents. It was only $8 per year. I nearly didn't take it. Fortunately I did and my insurance covered the costs of the clean up. My once beautiful back yard is still not perfect but once the grass grows in it will be as good as new!

I am beginning work on two new books as I speak. I have to have a book titled THE ROMANCE OF THE FIREPLACE completed by July and another large book titled THE SMALL CABIN completed by October. Both books will be released in 2007. So for part of July I'll be back in Montana photographing several smaller homes and will spend the rest of the summer photographing rustic homes in New England and here in the Adirondacks.

Last weekend was the Centennial Dinner and Celebration for the Anglers Club of New York of which, I am happy to say, I am a very proud member. Two hundred and seventy members from across the world showed up at the university Club in NYC for dinner and celebration. The Scottish contingency was in full Scottish regalia including kilts and hats. Others from different countries dressed in their finest. Full black tie was the order of the evening. It was be far the grandest dinner I ever attended. The following three days sixty of us die-hard fishermen journeyed to central Pennsylvania to fish for three days on private waters! It was a grand time! And, I'm thrilled to be a member!

We begin filming for my TV program RUSTIC STYLE WITH RALPH KYLLOE this coming week. We have hired Peter Pape and his video crew to produce the films. John Sterner, my business partner in this effort, will act as director and producer for the programs. John is an incredibly creative guy who loves rustic stuff as much as I and I am certain it will be an absolute pleasure working with him. I will host the shows and present some of the greatest rustic homes ever! It promises to be a great adventure. Several companies have indicated interest in sponsoring the programs. Shortly we will be seeking further sponsorship from more individuals and firms. If interested let me know please.

This fall I will again be speaking at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming. This is always an exciting event and the finest artists in the West (and East) show off examples of their work! I'll be speaking about the relationship of Old Hickory furniture to the West and showing slides from some of the great old Western homes and ranches. I'll also have copies of my just-released book titled HICKORY FURNITURE. This book contains a great history of the hickory furniture movement and offers about a hundred color photos of some of the greatest historical hickory pieces ever found ( and a few contemporary pieces as well!)! My friend Bob Morrison, the VP at Old Hickory, will be presenting with me and this will be a perfect time for people to get to know him and ask all kinds of questions regarding his company. Bob has done an exceptional job of both streamlining his company and increasing the quality of their products as well. I'll also be signing several of my other books and enjoying the conference.

Cody is just outside Yellowstone National Park. At that time of the year peak foliage is ever-present, the tourists are gone and cool air greets early morning risers. The bison are in full rut and the bugleing of the elk as they seek mates is one of the great natural sounds on the planet. If you're coming to the conference don't forget to bring your fly rod as well.

Friday, May 19, 2006. The filming of the Today Show segment went well yesterday. The producer and film crew were here for about eight hours. Segments were filmed in my workshop, my gallery and at my summer home on Lake George. It went well. It always astonishes me on how long it takes to do a five minute segment. They filmed for at least four hours! And all that for a five minute spot! But it was fun and the segment should bring us significant more visibility. And how can I argue with being seen in front of ten million people?

Saturday. My family and I spent the morning at my cabin. We changed the sheets on the beds, fumbled with the plumbing, got the electricity going and relaxed for a few minutes. Last night two of my friends and I got together here at my gallery and played music for about three hours. It was the most fun I had had in a while. It was a "free-for-all" jam and we had no idea where the music was going or when it was going to end. It was art at its finest.

Spring is finally here. The birds begin calling to each other at around 4AM. The mist over the mountains in both my front and back yards rises like foreboding spirits. Humans love to fantasize about such things and I often gaze upon the rising fog and imagine that the spirits of the earth are saying good morning to me and are personally welcoming me to another beautiful day. I chuckle to myself as I think such thoughts, but, it is far better to think good things than things of a distrustful nature. Good thoughts bring needed peace to weary and troubled souls.

The morning also hears the local owls make a few final calls to each other before they retire for a days sleep. The moon dips below the western skies. The trees are in full bloom now and soon the black flies and mosquitoes will search me out with the intent of not making my life miserable (which they can do) but with the intent of continuing their own lives in the only way they know how. We've been visited by a huge pileated woodpecker most of the winter and he has succeeded in de-barking several dead standing trees in the forests directly behind my home. I only wish that more of humanity had the ambition he does. The world would be a better place and the self images of much of the world would be improved. The ice is finally off the lake and it was a joy to watch the waters of Lake George expose itself once again to the warming rays of the sun. Soon the fishes of all kinds will be making their nests and repopulating the waters with more of their own kind. Spring is a good thing.

Except for the momentary lapses in reason and sanity life is good for me. Occasionally the demons shake my spirit but I hold on to the foundations of my life and do the best I can. Besides….. my daughter needs me. Both peace and personal chaos are never far away in my life. Like the seasons of our world my moods come and go. I cannot change them. I do the best the can with what I've got. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS OK , Here's a photo of me….its six weeks now after my episode with the gay barber in Key West and my hair is returning to normal. Take care, R

Monday, March 13, 2006

Maybe it’s the winter “blahs”. Maybe it’s just that time of the year. But, in truth, I’m bored. I’ve been doing the same things for the past thirty years. True, I get to travel and do all kinds of stuff but, in all honesty, there has to be other things in life that can get my “juices” going.

Right now I have four new contracts on my desk for other books. All I have to do is sign them and I’m back in business. And they would be great books. I submitted proposals for each of them and I know I could get them done. I have all of the subject matter lined up and I’m ready to go.

But the last few books took a bit of the old wind out of my sails. The RUSTIC HOME, another big $60 book that I just finished and will be on the market this October, took far more effort than I thought. This, however, promises to be my best book to date. The homes I photographed were extraordinary and I had a great time with all of the individuals who generously helped with this effort. But in truth, I’m exhausted from the effort. And further, the out-of-my- pocket costs are extraordinary. Books are, in truth, just not that profitable (unless you’re John Grisham). And the time spent away from both my business and family are costly on me personally. My seven year old daughter needs help with her homework and I need to be in my gallery to keep things running smoothly. A month from now I will probably change my mind regarding the books but right now I am uncertain about my future involvement with in the book business.

So I need some changes and a new challenge in my life. And here’s my new direction. I purchased a chunk of land a few days ago here in the Adirondacks and plan on building high-end rustic spec homes. My contractor and I came up with a great design for the first home and we will, of course, add some unique architectural elements to embellish the setting. We will also provide some great furnishings for the home to give it high-end appeal. And frankly, I’m really looking forward to this project. I’ve been asked by several contractors over the years to do a “Ralph Kylloe” home design and the timing is now right to pursue this project.

Further and even more exciting for me is a project that I’ve been developing for several years. RUSTIC STYLE WITH RALPH KYLLOE (me) is a series of TV specials that will introduce viewers to the intimacies and glories of rustic living. After interviewing different individuals I have entered into a business relationship with my old friend John Sterner. I have known John for many years and he was very helpful to me by providing both equipment and technical knowledge to improve my photographs for many of my early books. John is the former owner of Firehouse Production and has more than forty years of experience both directing and producing films. He and I have been discussing a series of TV specials based on rustic style for the past eight years and the time is right for both of us to work together on this project. I will be writing the text and hosting the show! John will be in charge of directing and production. Filming begins in April! As the series progresses I’ll included comments regarding the process of the experience in my “Newsletters”! It should be interesting. I’ve appeared on TV more times then I can remember and “rambling” on, especially about rustic stuff, in front of a camera or in public is always exciting for me. At the same time, don’t ever think for one second that I don’t get “butterflies” in my stomach before I speak. But, usually, as soon as the lights and camera are on I relax and get down to business!

On another note, I was in a very nice restaurant a few days ago with my wife and daughter. The hostess showed us to a good table and we perused the menu for a few minutes before we ordered our meals.

“Would you like a glass with your beer sir?”, asked the waitress.
“No, thank you,” I said. “It’s already in a glass”.
Although I’m not a serious red meat eater I ordered the prime rib.
“How would you like that cooked sir?”, asked the waitress.
“Over a fire” I said.
“No, I mean how would you like us to cook the order?” the waitress asked.
“I would like it cooked over a fire”, I said. It seemed like a logical answer to a straight forward question to me.
“Sir”, the waitress was now speaking both aggressively and loudly to me, “do you want it rare, medium or well done?”
“Sorry”, I said, “but I thought I was giving you the correct answer.” “I’ll have it medium”.
Our food was eventually served and I didn’t complain. Actually it was a very good meal that I’m certain sat in my stomach for at least three days.
Once we were through with our dinner I politely asked our waitress for an invoice.
“A what?”, asked our server.
“An invoice”, I said.
“Sir, I don’t know what that is”.
“An invoice is an itemized bill”
“Oh, you want the check”, she said.
“No, I don’t want a check. A check is something you give to me and I cash at a bank. I want an invoice.” With that my wife kicked me under the table. The waitress left and the manager suddenly appeared.
“Sir, here’s your god damned invoice. You really upset your server. Please pay the bill and leave”.

My wife’s only comment was… “I can’t take you anywhere”. I paid the invoice with a charge card and left. Sometimes I just don’t know what’s wrong with people.

On another note, I have purchased a very large quantity of my book FLY FISHING THE GREAT WESTERN RIVERS directly from my publisher. And just to entice readers I am offering the book at the very low price of $25 per copy plus shipping. I have sold a few hundred copies of this book at the full retail price of $60 here in my gallery. So if you’re interested please let me know.

As long as I’m on the subject of books here’s an interesting thing that happened to me a few days ago. I was at an “open-mike” this past weekend here in the Adirondacks. A number of musicians were playing and I managed to play for a few hours on stage myself. During a break I sat down next to a distinguished looking gentleman who inquired about the bass guitar I was playing. I explained that it was a vintage instrument and talked for a few minutes about its history. In time we realized that we were both writers. To my interest he commented that many of his books had sold more than a hundred thousand copies each. I was very impressed and mentioned that my books generally sold between ten and twenty thousand copies. I asked his secret to his successful sales. Turns out that he wrote adult books of a lascivious nature! “Hey man look”, he said, “there’s big bucks in sex novels”. “I don’t doubt that at all”, was my only comment. Shortly, I returned to the stage and watched out the window as the porno king drove off in a new BMW. I have to say that I gave his line of business some serious thought as I “bummed” another two dollars from a fellow musician to buy another beer later that evening.

And so it’s March here in the Adirondacks. It’s been a woeful winter up here in the north. The lakes did not freeze enough to accommodate the Winter Carnival Festival here in Lake George this year. And tragically some fool who had too much to drink decided he could make it across the lake on his four-wheeler ATV. He made it about a half mile before the ice gave way. His body was retrieved the following day. His machine will now leak gasoline into our clean water for the next few years as it rots on the bottom of the lake.

In my last Newsletter I mentioned that kerosene had spilled from my heating system at my summer house on Lake George. During the cleanup the crew succeeded in damaging my home by slamming a bulldozer in to the side of my house. They also succeeded in ruining several large trees by being careless with their back hoe.

And then a few weeks ago we lost power here in the Adirondacks for four days. The first night was tolerable but it dipped well below zero the next day. Most of the hotels were closed which forced guests to find accommodations elsewhere. As my home dipped into the 30s I desperately sought accommodations for my wife and daughter. With the loss of power we had no heat, phones, water and no lights. And it was dangerously cold. The shelters were both open and full of struggling, cold people. We finally found a room, at great expense, at the Sagamore Resort for two nights. My wife and daughter loved it as they ate great food and swam in the hotel pool. I tried my best to keep our home from freezing by keeping the fireplace roaring. But fireplaces are not for heating homes. All of the heat goes up the chimney. At two AM the second night I threw my last log on the fire and drove to the hotel. Two days later the power finally came back on and I was incredibly lucky that the pipes in our home did not freeze. Then, to add insult to injury, the power again went off.

That was it. We drove to New York City and spent a great two nights and three days entertaining ourselves at museums and restaurants. Actually, I attended a meeting of the Anglers Club of New York at our Brown Stone building just off Wall Street. It was a great dinner and thirty of us talked of nothing but fly fishing for nearly five hours! It was a grand time. Then the following evening we had dinner with some new clients of ours at a great Mexican restaurant. It was a well deserved weekend.

There are a few new shows that people should pay attention to. The Lake, Home and Cabin Shows held yearly, first in Minnesota and then the following weekend in Milwaukee are the shows to either attend or exhibit! The Minneapolis show is April 21-23 and the Milwaukee show is April 28-30. Call 888-471-1192 for show times and locations. More than 200 exhibitors will be at both shows and more than ten thousand individuals attended each show last year! I exhibited at last years Minneapolis show and just about sold out my booths. And business remained strong throughout this past year from customers I met at the show. Keep in mind that there are far more “cabins and vacation” homes in Wisconsin and Minnesota then there are here in the east and residents of that area have not been exposed to really high-end artwork. So, exhibitors save up your great stuff and be prepared to have some great sales at the Lake, Home and Cabins shows!

Under normal circumstances I would exhibit at these events but, unfortunately, my schedule requires that I be elsewhere.

Now for some of the “darker” things in the world. Read this through before you come to any conclusions please. I dedicated my last book, the ADIRONDACK HOME, to myself. I really did. And a half dozen or so people who I chose to not include in that book decided that dedicating the book to myself was an incredibly arrogant, ego maniacal thing to do. But that only goes to show how petty and shallow some people in the world are. If they had bothered to read the entire dedication they would have realized its meaning. But because those individuals cannot read and didn’t pass the fourth grade they are forever stuck in the abyss is stupidity. Here’s the dedication as it is printed. It says;

“This book is dedicated to me. Dr. Ralph R. Kylloe Jr. What the heck? I’ve worked hard all my life, been nice to people most of the time and done some pretty good things in my time. I hope someone remembers me when I’m dead and gone. And besides us average folks need someone on our side. If we don’t speak up for ourselves no one else will! And when will I ever have another chance to do this? So always try to add just a bit of humor in your day would you please! It’ll help you get through all the goofy stuff in the world.”

I had several people email me saying that it was the greatest dedication they ever read. And I do appreciate their comments!

Some other right wing fanatic jerk emailed me a few times lately saying that he loved my furniture and hated my politics. He too can go eat worms. Somehow he was also under the impression that I was rich….that’s a joke and a half. If I could afford to retire right now believe me I would. I would rather go fishing all day and play music all night then lug furniture all over the world. And consider this as well. When I’m 70 years old I have to come up with college tuition for my daughter who is presently seven years old.

Saturday March 11. I spent the day in a recording studio with my band (appropriately named the Ralph Kylloe Band). Playing music is another world. I get lost in that world. Time has no meaning. It is, at the same time, a passionate conversation between individuals. It is not a spoken language but we know what each other is both saying and doing. There are very strict rules within the world of music…especially when you’re playing with others. It’s critical to listen to what the others are doing. And within that structure and discipline there is unbelievable freedom. At the same time music is not for ego maniacs, although huge egos definitely exist in the performing arts (as they do in all facets of humanity!) Nonetheless, we finished a demo CD and will soon begin circulating it around the area in the ongoing quest to find paying gigs. In truth, there is little money in the real world music scene. We do it because we love it. All five of us have full time jobs, families and other responsibilities and just getting together to practice is sometimes a chore. But, its fun and another way to live up to ones potential. Laziness and apathy destroys individuality and character. Effort of any sort elevates individuals and humanity as a whole. Keep that thought in mind when you turn on the TV. I know I do.

Sunday, March 12. It’s now around 11AM. Every other morning I go to the local YMCA to exercise. I shoot basketballs for a half hour by myself than spend twenty five minutes on a treadmill and finish off the routine with about twenty minutes of machine work. I do this because I’ve gained a few pounds and my blood pressure is a bit elevated. So this morning a basketball team was working out in the gym and because they needed another player I was asked to play. What the heck, I thought and so I joined in. All of the players were just a bit taller then I (and younger!) And I must admit that there were several great players in the game. I did my best to keep up and succeeded in scoring several baskets. I was somewhat effective on defense and only succeeded once in a rebound. Two of their best players, however, ran circles around me and scored several easy shots because I failed to sprint down court. After twenty minutes of play I was exhausted and asked to be relieved. Actually I did better then I had hoped and didn’t have a heart attack. The two superstars on the team congratulated me on scoring three, three pointers! I just wished that for the past half hour I had been playing on a men’s team and not the all women’s team!

In truth, it’s kind of lonely around here in the winter months. We are still very busy but far fewer people stop in my gallery when it’s cold. As the weather warms up the store is usually busy with all sorts of people stopping in to order furniture, pick-up pieces, buy books, just the see what’s new in the gallery or just to chit chat for a few minutes. The days fly by when we’re busy. I enjoy meeting everyone and spend lots of time with people even though I am fully aware that they will probably not purchase anything. It’s a good life and I’m happy its mine. My best to everyone, Ralph

PS. No political comments this week. I’m too disgusted with the world to make comments about it at this time.

PSS. However, it disgusts me that Exxon still has not paid the fines for spilling a tanker full of oil in Valdez, Alaska sixteen years ago. They’ve paid hundred of millions of dollars to sleaze-ball attorneys to legally delay the payments. I hate people and companies like that. The government should seize their assets and force the company to pay their fines. That’s what they would do to me and any other citizen if we didn’t pay-up. So in protest I’m writing letters and no longer am purchasing fuel from Exxon/Mobil.

Friday, February 10, 2006

We received a call from a friend of ours a few weeks ago. Along with a few others we had been invited to a private lunch/ reception for Senator Hillary Clinton. Of course we accepted. It was a relatively formal affair and we mingled with others while we waited for the Senator to arrive. Once Hillary walked into the room all eyes were on her. Frankly, she was far more charming and charismatic than I expected. She worked the crowd like a pro. In time a receiving line was formed and we graciously waited our turn for a few “face moments” with her. We waited anxiously next to a large, fully armed secret service agent. I wisely decided not to joke with him. Finally it was our turn to meet the Senator.

“Hi Senator, I’m Ralph Kylloe. I’m good friends with…”

“Ralph, it’s so nice to finally meet you. Bill and I have all your books and we love your work!” Perhaps the coolest thing ever said to me I was almost at a loss for words. But I regrouped, introduced my wife Michele and chatted with the Senator for a very delightful few minutes.

For the life of me I can’t understand why the Clintons are so disliked by some people. Bill served the country for eight years and saw the country through the greatest economic prosperity of all time. He balanced the budget, paid off the national debt and left the country in excellent financial condition. We had no major wars during his tenure. Sure, he did a couple of dumb things but he paid the price for his indulgence. The republicans spent nearly eighty million dollars trying to discredit him but to no avail. If you want some great reading read both of their books. You won’t be disappointed.

But enough of that kind of stuff for the time being.

Several minutes after our “meeting” with Hillary another couple, friends and clients of ours, came up to us and said “We heard what Hillary said to you and we are impressed!” These folks didn’t realize that I have friends in high places!

In truth, Hillary was incredibly personal, looked me right in the eye, had a firm, extended handshake and put her arm around me when photos were made. After the reception our small group went into an adjoining room where a crowd of some three hundred well-wishers listened intently while the senator spoke on such topics as the economy, the war, the new prescription drug plan and a few other subjects. She was very well received by everyone.

Regarding politicians, the most charismatic politician I ever met was, without a doubt, Bobby Kennedy. Back in 1968 I was a student in Illinois and volunteered in Indiana for Kennedy during his presidential run. I listened to him speak several times and personally met him twice. The first time he was with his wife Ethel. The three of us spoke for a few minutes about the issues of the day. The second time we met I hobbled up to him on a cane. I had broken my toe and was struggling with my injury. “Ralph, what happened to your foot?” he asked. I was shocked he remembered my name. I explained my predicament. Upon hearing my plight he ordered one of his aids to rent me a car for the weekend. For the next three days I shuttled other volunteers around the city of Evansville, Indiana. In truth, he was an electric speaker. I’ve never seen crowds of people push so hard just to see an individual. To this day I think about him.

I also spent a half hour with presidential candidate Michael Dukakis. I was an employee at Thompson Island Education Center in Boston Harbor. Dukakis arrived at a large reception by boat and I met him at the dock. He and I walked to the hall together. After a very interesting conservation he asked what I did at the Island. “We’ll, I do everything from make beds to…” Before I could finish with my sentence he abruptly said “that’s OK, I made my bed myself this morning as well”. Then he was gone. I just wish that I could have also said that I had thirty-five employees and controlled numerous grants worth a few million dollars. But that’s how it goes.

John Kerry was a different story. I met him at a small fund raiser in Lexington, Mass., years ago when he was a Jr. Senator. Tall and calm he spoke to about twenty of us for about a half hour before mingling with the small crowd. I stood patiently next to him for quite sometime as he politely answered many questions from individuals who were far more distinguished looking and older than I. In time he realized what was happening and put his arm around me just to let me know that he was conscious of my predicament. After a while I left without speaking directly to him. I had to teach a graduate class at Tufts University where I was a professor and didn’t want to be late.

Hubert Humphrey and Gene McCarthy were both caught up in the presidential scene. I met both of them on different occasions. Both seemed significantly preoccupied to bother with individuals and both went on to loose their presidential elections.

AIRPLANES AND AIRPORTS

I know I say this every month or so but I hate airplanes and airports. Here’s last weeks nightmare. My flight was more than an hour late departing from Albany, NY. We sat on the ground while the pilot burned off fuel to meet the proper weight for take-off. I finally landed in Detroit, then went on to Seattle where I had a six hour wait for the next flight. Then to Eugene , Oregon and then another small flight to Medford, Oregon. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to spend fourteen hours on cramped planes and in airports. Of course when I got off the plane my luggage was not there. It was still in Seattle or somewhere else. It would arrive on the midnight flight. I rented a car and found a nearby hotel. At six in the morning I returned to the airport to retrieve my luggage. This is a very small airport and no one was around other than the ticket agents. I parked right outside the door and entered the building. There, not more than twenty feet in front of me, was my luggage.

“Sir, you cannot leave your vehicle unattended” shouted a guard.

“Mame, I’m just getting my luggage.”

“Sir, you must not leave your vehicle.” With that the ticket agent, standing not fifteen feet away, offered to bring my luggage to me.

“Sir, if you do not move your vehicle immediately, I’ll be forced to call the sheriff”.

“Lady, I just want to get my luggage which is sitting right there.”

I refused to move my vehicle and walked directly toward my bags.

“Sir, move your vehicle now please”. A foot from me was an officer of the law. Two hundred pounds of quivering hatred the lesbian officer stood with her hand on her gun.

“Mame”, I said very politely, “My bags are twenty feet from me. Please just let me get them and I’ll leave immediately”. Inches from me and with horrible breath the bull dyke said loud enough to be heard in New York “you must park your car in the lot”.

Sometimes power hungry people just make me sick. This was one of those moments. I couldn’t stand this woman.

“Lady, I’m getting my luggage”. A small crowd had gathered anxiously awaiting my next move. I walked toward my bags.

“Sir, if you take one more step you’ll be placed under arrest”.

What ever happened to just a little courtesy? How about accommodating an individual who just needs a little help? I wasn’t hurting anyone. I was the only one around. I had on a jacket and tie. Why couldn’t these two ladies just say “No Problem” and hold the door for me? Are we that insecure that we can’t help someone else? I’ll forever think of the two red neck pig Lesbians who are probably moonlighting as strippers and laughing about the time they “pushed around the little jerk in the airport.” I hope their stinking leather underwear shrinks and strangles both of them to death.

I turned and walked away. I retrieved my luggage a few minutes after I parked in their god dammed parking lot. My vehicle was the only one there. It was still dark.

Back at the hotel I commented on my experience with the two guards to the manager behind the desk. Everyone behind the counter chuckled. Apparently the guards at the airport are known for their rudeness and bad attitudes.

Once I was ready to leave for the photo shoot I realized that I did not have directions to the home. I called the architects office and they tried on three occasions for more then an hour to fax directions. To no avail. Finally they emailed directions to a site away from the hotel. The recipient than came to the hotel and printed out directions.

I was finally on my way. Within an hour I was completely fogged in. I was driving five miles an hour. Nothing was visible. I called the owner of the home on my cell phone and asked directions. She asked where I was. I didn’t know. “What do you see out of your windows?” “Nothing”, I said, “it’s just completely white”. The owner laughed. “I’ll find you”, she said. An hour later I saw the headlights of a vehicle which finally stopped next to me. “Lady, I’m trying to deliver some pizzas and I can’t find the house”, I said. We both laughed. I followed the vehicle about a half hour and finally came to a driveway in the middle nowhere.

And so for the next six hours I photographed one of the most extraordinary log homes in America. The place was just great. The building will appear in my upcoming book THE RUSTIC HOME due out mid October of this year.

The drive back to Medford was noneventful. The fog had lifted reveling spectacular scenery. It was dark when I arrived back at the hotel. I had a dinner of week-old meatloaf and macaroni at a truck stop just outside of town. I tried to take a late flight back to Seattle but a heavy fog prevented planes from landing or leaving. I resigned myself to taking the 6AM flight in the morning. At 4AM I returned my rental vehicle. At5:30 in the morning it was apparent that the 6AM flight was not going to depart because of heavy fog. So I sat in the god damned stinking airport watching the two bull dyke lesbian officers as they harassed parkers. There I sat for five hours. Finally the plane took off. I hopped on another small plane in Eugene Oregon and than another tiny plane in Portland Oregon. Then I waited a few hours in Seattle. Then I took another plane to Missoula, Montana and then finally I arrived at 1AM in Kalispell, Montana. It only took 22 hours in airports to get to Kalispell. I could have driven it in fourteen. I got to the house on Flat Head Lake at around 2 in the morning and passed out. The next day I photographed a wonderful home and then drove five hours back down to Bozeman. Then I sat in an office for four days, 7 in the morning until 6 at night, trying to write the text for a book. During that time I had planned on photographing another home in the Bozeman area. I arrived at the site and was told that the home was not ready to be photographed. It was the fourth time she canceled the photo shoot. Frankly, I can’t stand the woman and she’ll never be in one of my books, ever. The only good thing that happened during that trip was that the ICE DOGS, the Bozeman semi pro hockey team, won again! Go Ice Dogs!

So I say this…if anyone out there wants my job….you can have it. I’m tired of making everybody else rich. I can’t stand the headaches. I just want to sit and watch reruns of Star Trek for a month. Or drink a dozen pina coladas as I watch the sun set in Key West. Or sit in the pool at Chico Lodge, or fly fish in Alaska. Or just about anything else. Just don’t anybody call me cause I can’t take it anymore! And I’m not going on any more airplanes for at least a month. And I mean it!

And to make matters worse….This past Monday night I discovered a fuel leak behind my cabin on Lake George. Tuesday morning I had my caretaker check out the leak. It was a bad one. Within a half hour I had the EPA emergency spill response team at my cabin. A tiny pin hole in the fuel line leaked many gallons of kerosene in my back yard. The official from the agency commented that its at least $20,000.00 and two weeks of labor to clean up the spill. It now appears that the costs will be much higher than that. I thank all the gods ever created that my home owners insurance policy is covering the clean up. But it is still a nightmare. Back hoes, bull dozers, emergency vehicles and all kinds of officials and workers are presently on the site.

Let’s see what else can I complain about? Oh yes, I can’t take hearing about Brad Pitt or Paris Hilton or Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie or Britney Spears any more. What do those people do that makes others hang all over them? I don’t give a cow’s gizzard about them and I’m sick of seeing their names all over the place. Isn’t there something else in the world more interesting then those people? Why don’t people “get a life” and stop being a spectator of all the insignificant garbage and events in the world?

Just think, Each American, each and every one of us, owes the United States Government $156,000. And we will have to pay and pay and pay and pay. We owe this much money because that’s the National Debt. And each day the government spends more and more and more. It’s funny that no one is talking about CUTTING BACK ON THE SPENDING. So to all politicians I say very clearly STOP SPENDING MY GOD DAMNED MONEY. ITS NOT YOUR MONEY. ITS MY MONEY. I WORK HARD FOR IT AND IT SICKENS ME WHEN YOU SPEND SO MUCH OF MY MONEY. SO STOP IT.

Just think for a second. On average it takes nearly seven hours just to off-load someone from an ambulance and into an emergency room in New Orleans. The war in Iraq costs US citizens 168 million dollars per day. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on helping US citizens here at home then in some god forsaken desert country seven thousand miles from home. We often hear of the phrase “a strong America”. To me a strong America is a well educated, healthy population that lives in good, crime free neighborhoods. A strong country breaths clean air and drinks clean water. Citizens should have health insurance and seniors should receive the benefits that they have paid for throughout their lives. Each and every person should have a decent job and the opportunity to better themselves throughout their lives. That’s a strong America. We would be the envy of the world! And why can’t we have that? I just wish that someone in politics would explain why this vision of America is so far fetched.

On another note, we here in America speak a really strange language. How anyone from another country can figure out what we’re actually saying is beyond me. For instance, there are numerous idioms pertaining to our eyeballs. How about “keep an eye out”? Do we ever take our eyeballs out? Or “keep your eyes peeled”. Do we actually peel our eyes like we would do to an orange or banana? Or “he’s got eyes in the back of his head”. Are some of us physically deformed with real eyeballs growing on the anterior side of our skulls? Is that the direction we are evolving? Or how about “I’ve got my eye on you”. Do we actually put our eyeballs directly on someone? I don’t know if I like that thought. Or, “that’s an eye full”. Do we ever really fill our eyes with something? I’ll stop with this thought now as this is really strange stuff to think about and if I keep writing about our language I don’t know where I end up!

Maybe I should write about rustic furniture for awhile. There is the good possibility that just maybe someone wants to hear about what’s new in the rustic world. Seems reasonable enough to me.

I have a few new pieces from Barney Bellinger of Sampson Bog Studios coming in very soon. Shortly, I’ll have one of Barneys Trout paintings and a writing desk as well. Both of these items are very quick sellers and if someone is looking for a few of his pieces give me a call. I also have an extraordinary twelve foot dining room table here surrounded by twelve hickory chairs. The top on the table is highly figured Birdseye and Tiger maple. An ornate root and antler pedestal supports the center of the table. The table and chairs will be pictured under Adirondack Furniture on my web site. I am still offering an extraordinary piece of furniture by Randy Holden. Randy won the Best of Show award for this piece at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming last fall. It is truly a spectacular piece.

Business continues to be brisk here at my gallery. In fact this is by far the busiest winter we’ve ever had in thirty years of being in the rustic furniture business. Bookcases, mosaic top tables, bunk beds, dining room sets, bureaus, side boards and other pieces seem to disappear almost as soon as I bring them into the gallery. We’ve also been creating a number of bathroom vanities for local homes. And there seems to be a trend of having an Adirondack Room in homes of all types. But, as I’ve mentioned before it’s the really high end things that are selling.

Here’s something that a few days ago. Actually, I’m so disgusted about it I’m not going to mention it. Forget I even brought this up.

The books continue to sell well. The Rustic Home promises to be quite extraordinary. Many of the homes I’ve photographed are really out of this world. That book will be out mid October of this year and as I sit at my desk writing…. my dear editor is sitting at her’s praying that I get the introduction to her by the end of the day. (Madge, I‘ll get right on it as soon as I’m done with this Newsletter!) Before that book comes out my Hickory Furniture Book will be on the market at the end of August. The hickory book uses the same text as my 1995 History of the Old Hickory Chair Company book. In truth, my 1995 book was an un-circulated manuscript (meaning that it was not sold in stores). I sold nearly five thousand copies of that book. My new hickory book will include about 120 color photos of hickory furniture settings. The photos show mostly antique pieces and a few photos of new items by the various contemporary hickory furniture builders of today. As there is nothing like this book on the open market it promises to become the “guide” for those interested hickory furniture and interior design relating to rustic stuff. I’m also just about finished with another book called The Romance of the Fireplace. I’ve made hundreds of photos of some of the greatest fireplaces around the country and this book promises to be a real treat for those interested in hearth side entertainment.

Well, that’s about it for the time being. I can assure everyone that I’ve calmed down quite a bit since I first started writing this last night. I look forward to my family’s annual trip to Key West this April. Frankly, I need a vacation. I earned it and I deserve it and I will not be denied the opportunity to drink a few pins coladas, eat a half pound of shrimp and watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. I just hate the thought of having to get on another airplane. Take care, Ralph

Sunday, January 22, 2005

We had to park a block away and walk through the cold. I, being a manly man, didn't bring a coat. I didn't need one. I could take the pain. Real men don't need jackets. What an idiot I am! I was nearly frozen when I walked through the door.

I don't like hospitals. I avoid them like the plague. We first walked in to the emergency room where a host of sick people lying on carts, in wheel chairs and leaning on others moaned and groaned while they waited for care from god-like physicians who would cure their ills and woes. The only words I could understand were "what is your health insurance #?".

In time as we wandered through the Halls of Woe we came upon the out-patient clinic. There we found the correct office and filled out the proper forms. "No", I had not eaten anything this morning. "No", I am not allergic to anything. And "Yes, here is my health insurance card".

In time I was escorted to a small waiting/exam room and told by Beulah, the three hundred pound nurse from Poland, to undress and put on a surgical gown. I did what she said. She was not a person to argue, insult or fight with. Then the hammering began. The hospital was undergoing major renovations. A powerful jackhammer was banging away in the very next room. I could not hear a word my wife said even thought she sat right next to me.

No one likes surgery except the surgeons. On this day, however, I had to wait to see my favorite surgeon. I was told it would be another hour before my MD was ready to see me. Minute by minute my blood pressure rose. I finally asked the nurse if I was going to be given something to "calm me down". "There is nothing on your chart about medication, Sir". Half hour later I was beyond nervous and climbing the walls. The nurse showed up again, took my blood pressure, left the room and returned a few minutes later with enough valium to kill a horse. Ten minutes later I was relaxed and comfortable. The jack hammering continued. With every burst from the hammer bits of dust fell from the walls and ceiling. It seemed louder now.

In time I walked into the OR, settled down on the table and was covered with a green surgical gown. Each shot in my right hand caused me to jump a foot off the table. A few minutes later I could feel the surgeon cutting into my hand. It was just pressure, very little pain. But every once in a while he would hit the edge of the numbed area and I would "twitch" with both fear and agony. And all the while the jack hammering continued. The surgeon had to repeat orders to his assistants several times because they could not hear him.

An hour later I was done. I walked out of the room and more or less floated into the waiting arms of my wife. Then it was off to the pharmacy for some more drugs. Once home I slept the rest of the day.

The following morning on an empty stomach I took the correct amount of pain medications. Three hours later my wife took me back to the doctor's office because I looked nearly dead. The drugs were too powerful. The incision in my hand was very painful but I was in "la-la" land. The M.D. wrote me a script for more effective, but less powerful drugs.

And so for eight days I lived without the use of my right hand. I was miserable. Every time I turned around I seemed to bang my hand into something. On the eighth day my surgeon took out the few dozen stitches. Stiff, swollen and sore I was sick of being an invalid. So I got three, last second internet airplane tickets to Orlando, Florida for the following morning. I arose at four AM, put my right hand on the bureau next to my bed and stood up bending my fingers backwards in the process. I let out a shriek of pain as I fell to the floor. Once the light was on I took off the bandages and realized to my horror that I had completely ripped open the wound in my hand. As I bent back my fingers I could see my bones and ligaments. It was not a pleasant sight. It took an hour to stop the bleeding.

Because our flight was to leave in two hours I chose to go to the airport and have my hand taken care of there. Once in Florida I went to two different health clinics and was told that the wound could not be re-stitched because the incision in my hand had been open for more than four hours. So I resigned myself to having my hand closed in a fist position for another week.

Once in Florida we spent the first few nights at the Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Studios in Orlando. It was fifty degrees everyday and raining every day. I was hoping for better weather. It was not to be. Of course we went to both the Magic Kingdom and Epcot at Disney. I made one serious mistake at The Hard Rock Hotel. I was sitting by their pool while my daughter went down the water slide for ten thousandth time. I had been asked dozens of times about my hand. Why was it all bandaged up? Under the influence of my third Pina Colada I told an inquisitive young life guard that someone had slashed me with a knife and that I had killed the perpetrator with my gun. The guard asked me several times to repeat my story which I did. And each time I told the story it became more ridiculous. This, however, was not a good thing for me to joke about. In time I saw the guard talking with a policeman and both were looking my way. I quickly gathered up my daughter and retreated to our room. We checked out early the following morning. It is not a good thing to joke about shooting someone. I could have been in deep trouble. Even though nothing came of my exaggeration I'll never do that again.

From there we spent three nights at the Animal Kingdom Lodge in Disney. I'll tell you right from the start that when you go to any Disney facility you should just give them all of your money when you walk in the front door. You cannot get away without spending a fortune at any of their facilities. Their marketing strategies are the stuff of legends. Consider this just for a moment. For our last breakfast at the Animal Kingdom Lodge my daughter had a bowl of cereal, my wife had pancakes and I had a few eggs, juice and toast. It cost me $67 for the three of us. But my daughter did get a hug from a walking stuffed animal that wandered through the dining room. The following morning we ate at another Disney facility. Of course, my daughter had to have autographs from as many Disney characters as possible. While my Lindsey and my wife were in the rest room Snow White in full regalia entered the dining room and began signing autographs. Not to disappoint my daughter I got in line and waited for my turn with Snow White. A few minutes later I got a hug and autograph from Ms. White. She was then escorted from the room. A few minutes later, another Disney character, Belle, entered the room and of course I got in line by myself and waited for an autograph. Once I was in position and receiving a hug from Belle, I heard someone say "Oh, it's that weird guy with the bandaged hand." I just smiled, had my photo taken with Belle and then returned to finish my breakfast. My daughter was thrilled with the autographs but burst into tears when she realized that she had not had a hug from her two favorite Disney characters. I can take the insults from the audience but not the tears from my daughter. Oh, by the way, the room itself was $350 per night. (Right now I'm looking for a second job as it will take me another two years to pay off my Visa bill!)

The day after we returned home I flew directly to Bozeman, Montana where I spent thirteen days photographing a few homes and typing away on my lap top. And this coming Sunday I fly first to Detroit, then Seattle, then to Medford, Oregon. After photographing a house I then fly back to Seattle, then to Kalispell and then drive to Flat Head Lake. After Photographing another home I then drive down to Bozeman, Montana and stay there for three days of writing in the office of architect Larry Pearson. Then I fly to Minneapolis and then back to Albany.

Those of you who read my ramblings know my thoughts on airplanes and airports. But just please bear with me for a moment as I ramble on. Writing for me is good therapy and, just for a second, look upon yourselves as therapists helping a needy soul (that's me). If you count up the flights that I've been on for the past few weeks they add up to eight with seven more flights coming up during the next week.

And for the sake of brevity I'll just comment on the interesting things that happened during my time on airplanes.

Our flight to Atlanta a few weeks ago was overbooked and we graciously volunteered to take the next flight out. And as a perk we did receive three free airplane tickets anywhere in the country. We were also upgraded to first class for the next flight! My wife and daughter had great seats but I sat in a single seat in the front with no leg room. Frankly, flying first class is over rated. There are no meals, no free cocktails and no extra service to warrant extra money. But I had to consider this. Whenever I get on a plane I'm always envious of those who ride in first class. I check out each person as I make my way to the rear of the plane and wonder if those riding in first class are rich or famous. None of the first class passengers ever look at me as they are busy on their cell phones or reading the Wall Street Journal.

When I was in my first class seat on this trip I looked at everyone hoping that they would think I was rich or famous or in some way special. To my chagrin no one even looked at me. It was a dark day in my life.

The most regrettable flight was my recent flight to Montana. Boarding a small plane a woman and her newborn sat down right next to me. As the plane rocketed down the runway the infant hit me with violent projectile vomiting. The mother was apologetic and tried to help clean me up. But being disgusted I got up and immediately walked toward the restroom. Unfortunately I was stopped short by aggressive stewardess who told to immediately sit down in my chair. I could understand this as we were right in the middle of taking off. And so I sat down thinking at least I would have a good story for my Newsletter. Now, being the father of a six year old I am familiar with this sort of stuff and would clean myself up in a few moments once we were airborne. But moments after I sat down the infant had a horrible case of diarrhea. I am going to be completely honest here and not try to alter the scene in anyway. The smell was enough to knock the crown off the pope. But when the mother decided to change the child right in front of me it was too much. I got up from my chair, ran to the rest room and threw up all over the place. And all the while a stewardess was pounding on the door demanding that I immediately return to my seat. It was not a pleasant sight and I will stop talking about this now as the thought of the entire experience brings waves of nausea to my poor stomach.

And so I spent twelve days in the office of architect Larry Pearson. I only photographed two homes while in Montana but made very good progress on the text for my book THE RUSTIC HOME which will be on the market in the middle of this coming October. I was actually very happy to be in the office as I was able to get many answers to questions. It always shocks me when I actually start to count up the hours it takes to complete a book …and I was happy that people in the office saw me working from seven in the morning until six at night without a break. And right now I'm only about half way through the text and still need to photograph a few more homes. And I need to get all this done and onto my editors lap by February 15th or else I'll get yelled at! But I'll get it done and it will be a great book!

I should also mention that my full color book on hickory furniture is now complete and in the hands of my capable editor Madge Baird from Gibbs Smith Publisher. That book will be out mid August.

On another note, I was a professor at Tufts University for eight years before I moved up here to the Adirondack Park. It was a part time position but my courses were always immediately filled and with a long waiting list to get in if a cancellation occurred. Each semester I was also awarded letters from the Dean of the College complimenting me for being nominated by the student body as the most inspirational instructor at the University. I've kept those letters and am still thrilled to this day that the students thought highly of me.

One of the questions that continually came up in my classes was something to the effect of "how well do you know yourself?" or "how do you get to know yourself" My comment to that was always that it is a question that is very difficult to answer. Knowledge of oneself comes from working on ones weaknesses and developing ones strengths. Life is a process of involvement. It is not a spectator sport. You'll never get to know yourself by sitting on a couch each day. Students were always surprised when I commented that I knew myself very well and that I continue to work on my weaknesses. Life is not trying to improve yourself by comparing your abilities to someone else. It's best to try to improve your own time as a runner then it is to try to beat everyone else in the world. As a Jedi Knight once said…"there's always a bigger fish".

Business continues to expand here at my gallery in Lake George, NY. And we're thrilled to be involved in numerous projects around the country. In truth, it's only the very high end things that are selling. In reality, we really don't carry mid level items and we encourage our builders to use the best materials available and to create only superb examples of what ever inspires them. We've been getting some really great paintings from artist Veronica Nemethy. She's also completed several hand painted glass shades for sconces and table lamps. I'll post a few examples of her latest offerings on my website sometime during the next week. We've also picked up a few exceptional pieces from artist extraordinaire Barney Bellinger. I'll soon post those on my site as well. That is, if they have not sold first.

We've been sending more and more pieces to places such as Minnesota, Wisconsin, Montana, Austria, Switzerland and Japan. We've also had several inquiries from Africa and as far away as Australia. Our custom orders continue to grow as well. Right now we're working on several vanities for a new home on Lake George, a massive bar for another Adirondack home and a series of desks for an office in the Rocky Mountains. We're also building numerous beds for two different B&Bs, cupboards and dining room tables as well.

So far I've sold nearly 150 copies of my latest book ADIRONDACK HOME. I've offered this book at the low cost of $40 each plus shipping. Beginning next week the book will be $60 plus shipping which is the normal retail price for that book. I'll happily sign each book and send it off to you. On the other hand, you can buy the book at Amazon.com for around $37 plus shipping. I've also seen copies on EBAY for the same amount. Many people have wanted to purchase multiple copies from me. In truth, if you call the publisher at 1-800-748-5439 or visit them at www.gibbs-smith.com. you may qualify for a multiple-copies discount. Give them a call for multiple orders (and to see many other great books as well!) At the same time, I want to personally say thanks to all of you who have purchased the book from me. I greatly appreciate your business.

I want to add just a few comments about the book I'm just now finishing. Initially we were going to call this next book THE WESTERN HOME. We usually change the title once the book is complete and ready to go to the printer. At this point we are calling the new book THE RUSTIC HOME. In truth that title clearly depicts the nature of the book. If we included the word Western in the title it may eliminate any interest in the book here in the East. But the book is, in reality, about Rustic homes. At the same time, I am including more then log cabins in this book. Many homes today had a rustic room or a rustic porch and I've included many examples of such. But some of the homes I've seen are real shockers. I photographed a rustic building in Montana last week. From the outside it looked just like many other high-end rustic ski chalets. But the interior was ultra modern fifties. Just imagine a George Jetson home and you'll understand. I included this home in the book as an example of the constant and ongoing evolution and interpretation of the term "rustic".

I've seen hundreds of homes all over the country. Many are great and in some way I've loved all of them. But the real innovations are being created by a handful of incredibly talented architects and builders in the Northern Rockies. Builders such as Yellowstone Traditions, OSM, BK Builders and Chris Lohss Construction are pushing the envelope when it comes to innovation and craftsmanship. Further, architect Larry Pearson has established himself as the leading architect in the genre of regional rustic design. His homes are so great that I often have the inclination to bow down before them. This book, however, is not only about the homes of Larry Pearson. Rather an individual is only as great as the people he surrounds himself with. Great credit must be give to the builders of these homes and to the many people who offer their extraordinary talent to create world class homes. I have enjoyed working on this book more then any other I have complete so far. I know you'll enjoy seeing this book as well. Look for it mid October this year.

On just another, completely different thought. I really am sick of all the negative crap in the world. The volcano under Yellowstone National Park will not explode this week killing everything on the planet. A massive meteor is not going to strike the planet this week. A monster tsunami is not going to wipe out the world this month. Aids, Ebola, avian flu and other diseases will take their toll but that's the natural order of things. The second coming of Jesus Christ exists only in the minds of religious fanatics. The media is replete with stories of mass murders, war, and violence and why the Chicago Cubs have not won a world series seven decades. True, all the above can happen but, holy cow, we need some peace in our lives. Frankly, I'm sick of all the negative crap. And so for this month, I'm not watching the news or anything related to all the garbage in the world.

And on another note, whenever I mention any religion or god or any of that stuff I get bombarded with all kinds of religious material via email. A few years ago some guy decided to email me the entire bible. At that time I had a dial-up connection that was slower then our judicial system. A day later I finally had to unplug my computer to get the email to end.

Consider this for just a moment. Religious thoughts and religious materials are written by religious fanatics. This stuff is not written by normal people who have insight or experience in worldly matters. I recall a biblical story about a tribe who marched around a castle blowing their horns. Apparently the castle crumbled to the ground. Religious fanatics interpret this as an act of god. In truth, if a group of experienced engineers examined the building before it fell they might have concluded that it was poorly designed, the foundation was not properly constructed, there were too many people on the scaffolding, the materials used in construction were substandard, or any number of other things. The mindset of who writes the story is the one who records history.

Frankly, there has been more violence and wars and death and misery because of religions then any other cause in the history of the world. I could go on and on about all this stuff but I think that most people understand what I am saying. If you really want to see miracles performed in front of your eyes spend a Saturday night in an emergency room at any urban hospital. Doctors really do bring people back to life. These are miracle workers to me.

At any rate I'm now going back to work. I have a few dozen emails to respond to and Sunday morning I have to hop on another plane for a trip to the West Coast. Tonight I'm taking my wonderful wife out for our twelfth anniversary dinner. Saturday night I'm playing music with my old friend guitarist Tony Cocca. I hope I can still play as my hand is still sore and swollen. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS, Sorry for the short Newsletter but I've got work to do. More later.

Thursday, December 1, 2005

It’s once again time to dispel numerous rumors that come to me “on the grapevine”. Here goes: I’m not having a nervous breakdown. I have not been declared “psychotic” (although on occasion I will admit to being a little “strange”…..but probably no more so then other people in the world). I am not going through a divorce. I am not an alcoholic and I don’t use illegal drugs (at least not since the late 1960s). My business is dramatically growing (as is my wonderful daughter). We have not gone out of business. My gallery is still open seven days a week everyday of the year. We do not carry furniture made in China. We are not moving to Alaska, Montana or Key West (although I love those places). And we are not going to open a bowling alley in Wyoming. My health is still good (thank god for Lipitor!). (I will admit, however, that I find myself feeling the ravages of age. I have to have surgery on my right hand next week to clear up some joint problems that’s been plaguing me for awhile and preventing me from adequately playing my bass guitar. Recovery from the surgery, I’ve been told, is about ten days. In truth, I’m down-playing this procedure but it is not without its complications. I hope all goes well). Further, although still very active I find that I can’t (and don’t want to) do the same things I did when I was twenty. There is, however, an interesting old adage that says that if you can still do the same things you did when you were twenty then you weren’t doing very much when you were young). And finally, contrary to one particularly vicious rumor, my book on Adirondack homes, has not been canceled. In truth, finally, my fifteenth book, ADIRONDACK HOME ($60), is now available and on the market! I will be sending out copies to those of you who have ordered it (at the reduced rate of $40 plus shipping) within the next few days. Those who have seen it say it’s my best book yet!

And speaking of books this coming August will see the publication of my hard-cover, color book on the history of hickory furniture! And then in the fall of next year my book titled THE WESTERN HOME, will be on the market! This new book will feature the extraordinary works of architect Larry Pearson of Bozeman, Montana. I’m also hard at work (if you can call what I do work) on another book titled the Romance of the Fireplace! And beyond that I’m working on a few other projects that will sure to please readers interested in rustic themes.

So a few weeks ago I attended a four day musical workshop for professional and advanced musicians in Ohio. Called the Fur Peace Ranch the camp is owned by Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna fame. Classes are small and taught by world famous musicians. Actually we had about six hours of actual class room stuff and then we play improvisational music until we passed out in the wee hours of the morning. During the Sunday night performance I played a tune on stage with Jorma. For me and many others in the world this guy is our idle. And I can assure everyone that nothing is more intimidating then performing with this guy. Even more difficult is the audience of world class musicians who are listening for every little error. Needless to say that just about every one of the student performers, many professional, working musicians, make mistakes. Some of us are so intimidated that we forget the song all together. That actually happened to me last year. All in all I had a great weekend and look forward to returning to the camp next year.

So right now, as I write this, I’m in Bozeman, Montana. And I’m thinking of the airplane flight out here. We arrived at the airport on time, checked our luggage and proceeded to the gate. Suddenly a severe rain storm came up. Fortunately, it did not delay our departure. As we boarded the plane I was told that I could not carry-on my camera bag. I mentioned that the bag would fit securely under my seat and that I wanted the bag on the plane. “I’m sorry sir. But you cannot bring the bag on board”, said the steward. “I’m sorry, but I want the bag on board”, I politely said. “Sir, you cannot bring the bag on board”. “Look, there’s fifteen thousand dollars worth of camera gear in this bag and I’m not going to let you toss the equipment in the baggage compartment. This is very fragile equipment”, I said. With stress and anger in his voice he said “we are trained to carefully handle all luggage and you cannot have the bag on board. It’s simply too large. If you do not surrender the bag immediately than you cannot board the plane”. Two other airplane employees were now standing very close to me. Considering that my wife and daughter were already on the plane I acquiesced and surrendered my bag. As I turned and walked down the isle I said quietly, just enough for the steward to hear, “go screw yourself”. And I meant it. “What did you say?, asked one of the attendants. “I said “go to school yourself”. Nothing more was said.

As I found my isle a monstrous fat lady insisted that she had reserved the isle seat. My boarding pass, I said, clearly stated that I was to have the isle seat. “Oh, no you don’t” said the behemoth. I wanted to tell her to jump of a bridge and while you’re at it eat another dozen boxes of Twinkies on the way down. But some battles are not worth the effort. I took the window seat and said nothing more.

As I sat in the chair I watched with horror through the window as my camera bag was wheeled to the baggage compartment on a small, uncovered cart. There it sat in the pouring rain for almost five minutes. In time a burly, big guy picked up my bag and tossed it into the hold of the plane. So much, I thought, for carefully trained luggage handlers. I hate airplanes and stewards and stewardesses and baggage handlers and ticket takers and security enforces and just about everything about the airlines. No wonder they are all going out of business. If they would learn to treat people with some respect and realize that it was their job to serve us common folks, and that their customers actually paid their salaries, then traveling in the air might not be such a nightmare. The only people I really will do anything for are the pilots. If they want me to sit on the floor and shut up I will. I want them calm, focused and completely capable of flying the plane. I don’t need an aggravated, tense pilot flying the plane.

So here I am in Bozeman. I was supposed to photograph five different homes over the ten days I was to be here. Unfortunately, problems arouse with two of the homes and my appointments were cancelled. I’ll photograph the homes in mid December.

So what else was I to do with the extra time? I went fly fishing of course …what else? And it was tough! The temperature on my first day on the river was around twenty degrees. My fly line froze on just about every third cast. Around eleven in the morning a monster snow storm came up. It was a true white-out. Winds over fifty miles per hour slammed me. I could not see my hands in front of my face. I found a dense clump of bushes and using them as cover sat on the ground for more then a half hour. In time the storm passed and I went back to fishing. On that day I landed three brown trout over twenty four inches and at least thirty trout in the ten to fourteen inch range. I fished for four straight days. Each day was extraordinary. Deer were everywhere. The bright Montana sky illuminated the gorgeous Rocky Mountains in the Yellowstone Valley just north of Yellowstone National Park. Clear and cold the water in which I was fishing was a spring that ran into the Yellowstone River. I saw no other person for the period I fished. It was an absolutely wonderful time. Each day I landed over thirty fish and released them all!

We spent several days at Chico Hot Springs Lodge. This is an unusual place. Set on the footsteps of serious mountains the lodge boasts an Olympic size natural hot springs pool. I spent time each night soaking in the ninety five degree temperature water. Overhead were the clear mountain skies that as the evenings progressed a full moon shown its brilliant face to anyone wishing to enjoy the mysteries of the celestial heavens. In time clouds covered the sky and the drama of falling snow flakes renewed a sense of awe in me. There are not many places where one can stand in a pool of hot water in nothing more then a bathing suit and enjoy the twenty degree temperatures. Often I could not see the other end of the pool as steam blanketed the air obscuring the view of the mountains. In the daytime those who look will see deer and elk grazing on the mountain side. I also soaked in the pool at six AM each morning. I was the only one there. It was quiet. And peaceful. I relished those moments. And they passed too soon. Departing from the pool is no easy matter. Wet hair quickly freezes and steam rises from hot bodies. Wet towels stiffen. And ones feet freeze in moments to the metal stairs as you ascend quickly through the cold. But it’s a great way to start the day.

The food at Chico Lodge is five star. Everything is delicious. Reservations are made significantly in advance to insure seating. We ate there several times. But I also enjoyed the down and dirty cowboy bar a few miles down the road. The ambiance of the setting added to the uniqueness of the experience. Full of mounted taxidermy, old photos, bad art and branding irons each morning I sat near a group of elderly cowboys who were decked-out in full western regalia. The talk of the present hunting season, how much the locals hated the reintroduction of the wolves, the price of gas and the mechanics of changing a carburetor on an 87 Chevy pick-up truck caught my ear. The only problem with taverns and bars in Montana is that they still allow smoking throughout all hours of the day and night. Because there are no TV’s in the inexpensive rooms at Chico I had planned on watching a few TV programs in the bar. I did not because, frankly, tobacco smoke “reeks” beyond comprehension and kills people.

Last night (Sunday, 11-19-05) was one of my “personal” nights. Once a month I make a pig out of myself. Instead of eating correctly, I stopped at the local gas station deli and bought a pound of bologna, a loaf of rye bread, a small jar of mayonnaise and a bag of potato chips. I sat by myself in my room and made a pig of myself. It’s OK to do that once in a while.

My only concerns regarding Chicago Lodge this past weekend was the annual Cat/Griz event. It’s the largest event in Montana. The annual football game between the two rival Montana universities brings out strange behavior in the many fans most of whom decided to party at the tavern at Chico. On both evenings fans consumed far more then their fair share of libations and succeeded in keeping up us old people till late in the night. Further, the obviously newly wedded couple in the room directly above me certainly seemed to enjoy the physical pleasures of each others company throughout the night as they pounded on walls and moaned and groaned till the sun came up! I could only smile as I sat next to them at breakfast in the dining hall.

At any rate I completely enjoyed my visit to Montana. I photographed three homes designed by Larry Pearson. Stunning in their design the photos of the homes came out well and will appear in print next fall. As always I was well treated and welcomed into the inner workings of a complex office. But in truth homes are not the sole product of individual architects. It takes an enormous effort from hundreds of very skilled craftsmen and women to complete any of the projects I’ve seen so far. Credit must be given to those who interpret the drawings, acquire the materials, build the homes and on and on. Hopefully, I can present the homes I’ve photographed to show their warmth, uniqueness and originality. Tragically, and I’m being completely honest here, photography can never do justice to the “soul” of a home. Photography is nothing more than a photographer placing their personality into a very brief moment of time. My photos are nothing more then my interpretation (and my personality) of the work and lives of others. Photography is not an exacting art. I wish it was but it is not. To explain further consider a photo of a grand mountain range. Photography can never be as dramatic as the mountains themselves. It cannot show the “life” or the moodiness or the drama inherent in nature. But we do the best we can with what tools we have available to us. Nonetheless, I still believe that photography is nothing less then a magical process fully capable of indulging individuals in a mesmerizing artistic process.

Here’s a related thought. What I find hard to adjust to is the realities of many human endeavors. Studying my own behavior I often marvel at my (and others) cavalier behavior when viewing art works of any form. Many paintings (or any other sophisticated effort) is often the result of enormous effort on the part of an individual. Some paintings take months to complete. And, as viewers, we often spend only a few seconds or minutes “looking” at such works. Tragically, very few of us comprehend or appreciate that when we view a retrospective or major collection of an individuals work we fail to comprehend that it took a complete lifetime of effort to create the works before us. Considering my own efforts it really does take an entire year and the effort of many people to create one of my books. And I hope that when looking at the works of others we can all stop for just a second to appreciate the enormous effort it takes to create.

During this trip to Montana we took another few days off and traveled down to Jackson Hole in Wyoming. Unfortunately, the short cut through Yellowstone Park was closed and we were forced to take the long route through Idaho. Once in Jackson we spent almost an entire day at the National Museum of Wildlife Art and then pondered at the huge elk herd wintering in the Elk Refuge just on the outskirts of town.

Each morning my daughter and I arose before sunrise and traveled a few miles north of town in hopes of seeing wildlife. On one open field I noticed two moose traversing a mountain about a half mile from us. We watched them for several minutes. Then my daughter asked if I could get them closer to the car. So I rolled down the window and quietly said “com’on, come on over here… big guys”. The two moose stopped running, look at us and started trotting straight toward our vehicle. In time they came within twenty yards of us and stopped. Then one by one they came within five yards of us, looked at us straight on and then crossed the road on which we were parked. “Daddy, how did you get them to do that?”, asked my six year old daughter. “Its magic” was my only reply. Such events like that are what I call magical moments. My daughter and I will never forget it. Its moments like those that make living worthwhile.

Of course, neither my wife nor my sister-in-law, who was traveling with us, believed our story of the two moose. They wanted to see photographs. We had none because the cameras were still in the motel room. But every once in a while my daughter and I look at each other and smile. “Remember the two moose?” we say to each other. We both smile and let out a gleeful laugh. It’s one of those personal moments that makes my life on the planet extraordinary. Neither I nor my daughter will ever forget it. I hope all parents can have a “moose” moment with their children. The world would be a better place if we spent more time with our kids.

Here’s another strange event that bears reckoning. As I get older I found that I occasionally “mumble” to myself. There is an old Blues tune that’s been going around in my head for years now. “I just want my wife to come home, She left me standing all along”…or something like that. I occasionally mumble lines to that song and other things like “What do I have to do now” out loud. And I hope no one hears me. One day I was in an office and another gentleman started to talk to himself as well. Actually, it was quite an interesting conversation but we were just talking to ourselves and not to each other. I had no idea what he was saying. Shortly someone came in the office and asked what we had been talking about. The three of us just looked at each other for several seconds and then the third person just said “Ooh, never mind” and left the room. It’s probably my inability to write about this experience but when I think about it it was quite comical. What can I say…life is strange once in a while.

There is a small, exceptional rustic design firm for sale just south of me in the Woodstock, New York area. Romancing the Woods (that’s the company name) has been around for more then a decade. Owner Marvin Davis, now a senior statesman, wants to retire. His company designs and constructs really great rustic gazebos, pergolas, trellises, outdoor cedar benches, and rustic architectural elements of all sorts. My book RUSTIC GARDEN ARCHITECTURE featured many photos of their work. His creations enhance many very high end homes and commercial establishments including the Rockefeller Center, Disneyland, and more places then you can shake a stick at. If you’re looking to jump into a ready and waiting, very successful rustic company I suggest that you call Marvin Davis at 845 246 1020. See his stuff at http://www.rtw-inc.com/home2.html This is a very special company and the right person will not be disappointed in both the quality and profitability of the company.

This is a short newsletter. I’ve got a ton of stuff to do and the phone keeps ringing. I promise I’ll write more stuff in the future. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. We had a great dinner at Jill and Brian Gauti’s home on Thanksgiving. Jill is the singer and Brian is the lead guitar player in the Ralph Kylloe Band. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It makes sense to me and I truly thank all the gods ever created by humanity for my blessings. I lead a great life and although I complain a lot I consider myself a very lucky person. But I also give myself some credit as well. I could just lie around on a couch all day, do nothing and die of a heart attack when I’m fifty nine. Individual effort brings meaning to our personal lives.

PSS. Although people think that they are far more creative when they use drugs such as cocaine or marijuana. Recently two groups of people were given IQ tests. One group scored within the normal range. The second group, the drug users, scored ten points lower while they were on the effects of the drugs. Keep this in mind.

PSSS. I’ll be back in Montana the middle of December for a week and then it’s off to Chicago for the Holidays. In January, I’ll be in California and Oregon to finish up another book on Western Homes. February we’ll be in Orlando for my daughters school vacation and then in April we plan on spending a week in Key West for spring tarpon fishing and goofing off. I need it.

PSSSS. Winter is here. Snow is on the ground. It’s cold and dark. I’m chilled to my bones. I need a vacation.

PSSSSS. Are you aware of the fact the only 7% of the worlds population owns their own home?

PSSSSSS. And talk about hosts, on average there are about a hundred trillion bacteria living on and in our bodies. With that thought in mind I’m going to wash my hands more often, in fact, right now!

PSSSSSSS. Here’s the latest review of my book ADIRONDACK HOME

FIVE STARS - "Dream Away The Hours . . .", November 15, 2005

Reviewer: C. Anderson "LodgeLover" (Oregon City, Oregon) -

"...imagining yourself in the homes pictured in this magnificent book. Again, Kylloe has outdone himself capturing the pure essence of what a true home in the Adirondacks is all about. No author has a better technique on showing the reader all the rustic beauty that’s out there far beyond our imaginations, by taking us on his personal home tours into some of the most gorgeous beautiful Adirondack homes, most on lakes. He includes Adirondack history and again shows us in many of the homes the rustic furniture and decorating styles that depicts the true meaning of what life must be like for some to own these truly magnificent homes."

PSSSSSSSSSS. Keep in mind that everyday here in America one hundred and eighteen (118) individuals are killed in automobile crashes.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Greetings to you all!

Last night I had dinner with my daughter at the local Olive Garden. Michele, my wife, was out of town and Lindsey wanted some fresh food. I think she was tired of the jelly sandwiches I had fed her the past few days. Artist Veronica Nemethy and her significant other Peter, were to meet us but had not yet arrived. To appease my six year old daughter I brought along a bag full of her 'Bratz" dolls and accessories. After we were seated at our booth Lindsey spread out her dolls on the table and then took off for the washroom. As I sat alone I arranged her toys and waited for the server. Moments later a group of burly bikers sat down at the table next to me. As they glared at me the largest one finally spoke up and loudly shouted "I really love your doll set. You look good in pink!" Needless to say that the entire crowd in the restaurant broke into laughter. I could only respond with a blushed smile and a "Thank you!" Sometimes you just have to go along with the moment and realize that some of the situations we get ourselves into really can be interpreted as both humorous and strange! And we all do dumb things sometimes. It's best to look for the humor in things. Under most circumstances humor involving you is not a personal attack on your character. Its usually someone just trying to have some fun so don't take things personally.

Here's a classic example. I was walking down Duval Street in Key West a few years back. In front of an open air, street bar I looked down and saw a twenty dollar bill on the side walk. As I reached down to pick it up the bill suddenly shot from my hands. Someone had tied a thin nylon line onto the bill and at the moment anyone went to pick it up a patron at the bar pulled it from their excited hands. And, of course, the entire bar of a hundred of so people broke into hysterics. And it stands to reason that they had done this to many people that sunny afternoon in Key West. What else could I do other then the laugh at the situation? I certainly felt foolish but a little humor can get one through most situations.

Further, strange things happen to us all and I'm convinced that an army of guardian angels watches over me as I struggle from bizarre experience to more bizarre experiences.

Two years ago my band (The Ralph Kylloe Band) was playing at the annual Halloween costume party at San Soucis restaurant very near my home in Lake George. I arrived at the bar early. I was dressed in full Klingnon Warrior regalia. And I must say that I looked good! I walked into the tavern and passed many people on my way to the office and rest rooms. Near the back stood two "really big guys" who appeared to have spent the day at the bar. I mean both these guys were big! So with passionate Klingnon attitude I raised my voice and shouted "Out of my Way"! I was shocked when they parted thus allowing me access to the restroom. Once I completed my visit I turned around and there stood the biggest of the two guys standing by the door. I had no idea what his intentions were but from the looks of things I was at a significant disadvantage. Fully aware that this guy could crush me with one blow (he knew it as well) I filled my chest with air and shouted as loud as I could……"It is the right of all Klingons to die in battle. I die tonight with honor!" Honest to god I sounded good! Worf would be proud! The big guy could do nothing more then explode with laughter as did I. I was actually very convincing! We both left the rest room and I bought the two guys a beer. The two guys stayed for the party and had a great time.

Here's another story that you may find interesting.

A few years ago I exhibited my "goodies" at an antique show at the pier in New York City. After the show closed on Friday night I wandered down from the pier to Times Square about a mile or so away. The receipts from the day were in my pocket. The walk included dark streets and strange characters. In the middle of one block three big guys appeared from a dark gangway. The dim street light offered little solace. Harm was in my path. Trouble was at hand. My blood pressure rose. Now clearly visible one man had a stocking cap pulled down near his eyes. Each wore jewelry and baggy street clothes. Their muscles bulged.

Twenty feet away now I acted without thinking. I walked right up to the largest man and like a fool said the following: "You guys really aggravate me." Dead silence. Looking down at me he asked "Why's that?" "I have to have all kinds of treatments and medications just to keep my hair from falling out….you shave off all your hair and you guys get all the women!"

Five seconds of dead silence followed.

Moments later the three of them broke into riotous laughter. I laughed with them.

"Get the hell out of here" the big one said. As I wondered down the street I could still hear them laughing at the stupid little white guy that just nearly got his head crushed. In time the streets brightened and the din of civilization ricocheted off the walls of concrete valleys. I took a cab back to my truck. I'm certain an army of angels watched over me throughout the entire evening.

A disclaimer is warranted here. I do not encourage anyone to try the above mentioned "stunts". I am responsible for my actions only and I do not encourage anyone to indulge in the above activities. It's a sad day when people have to include disclaimers when relating their adventures to others! So be it.

I've done lots of really dumb things in my life (probably no more then everyone else) and have managed to survive most of it. My wife says she can't take me anywhere.

Right now I'm sitting at a desk in the ballrooms at the Queensbury Hotel about a half hour from my gallery. It's the annual regional book fair and more then eighty authors and books sellers are exhibiting their works. Book buyers (lookers) are funny people. They'll stand at my exhibit and look at every page on every book and take up a half hour of viewing time. They "accidentally" put creases in the pages, drop the books on the floor, crack the bindings and then leave my table disorganized. Most of the people here today are lookers. I'm selling my big books for the full retail amount of $60. Several say they like the books but plan on buying them at Amazon because they're cheaper. Others mention that they'll wait until the books come out in paperback and others say they'll check them out from the library. Other people think I have a ghost writer and purchase my photos from architects and decorators from around the country. I am polite to everyone except the lady who insisted that the chair I was sitting on was made of plastic and not real wood. On and on she went. I remained politically correct and socially acceptable. Frankly, however (and I've said this on many occasions), I hoped she would soon be abducted by aliens and subject to unending and merciless torture.

On several occasions thought the day I just wanted to be home and never go out into the public again. I should live permanently in a cave. I always seem to attract miscreants and weirdoes (probably because I am one myself!).

I incurred the ire of several people here at the book fair today. Several programs are also being presented on how to get a book published. Because I am fairly well known as a writer/photographer of books in the area I get lots of people asking me questions about how to get stated. Several people went on and on about the book they are going to write. I usually stop them after a few sentences and tell them there are two sorts of people in the world…….. people who say their going to write books and people who write them. "Which one are you? I ask. Some people are offended by my question. One ladies husband nearly clobbered me because he thought I had offended his wife's integrity. Talk is cheap. Just sit down at your typewriter, turn off the phone and the god damned TV and write the book. How difficult is that? Some people can't believe that I say that kind of stuff to them. I often wonder how some people can maintain a sense of self worth when they fail to at least try to achieve their own potential.

I am always surprised at how many people want my autograph or want their photos made with me. I never joke with people who request such things and always accommodate them even when I'm eating dinner. But the real truth is that all I really do is press a few buttons on a camera and write a few paragraphs about homes and furniture. Consider this, more then eighty books have been written about Pablo Picasso and I bet that not one person can name the author of any of those books. When I'm dead and gone I'll be long forgotten. And that's how it should and will be. The people whose work I feature in my books are nothing less than brilliant. They will be remembered because they made the world a better place. Some are better then others but when I'm spending time with Barney or Randy Holden or Jimmy Covert or Veronica Nemethy….I am literally awestruck. These people are far more talented then the average person in the world today. I have profound respect for them and it thrills me to say that I know them personally and have had the opportunity to spend time with them. I feel compelled to give credit to those that deserve it. And I'm also in awe of those people who have come up from no where, developed their talents and have done their best to break into the big time. Many never make it. But there is honor in trying. The process has its own intrinsic rewards. People who just vegetate and are unproductive are a waste. They should be used as organ donors or for medical experiments. I'm not kidding.

I sat at the book fair for about four hours. I answered many questions, shook hands with a bunch of people I'll never see again and sold four books. Once I calmed down I "plunked away" on my lap top and listened to my neighbors talk how they wanted to write a book about this or that. I worked for about three hours and completed several pages of text while my neighbors accomplished nothing. Time is a very valuable commodity. Use it wisely. Time can never be replaced. And you never know when your time runs out.

I guess, however, that I'm not as strange as I make myself out to be. I work hard, pay all my bills on time (including $8,000 a year for health insurance for myself and my family), and have lots of friends (and even many that feel we're best friends and I have no idea who they are!).

While at the book fair a man I recognized came up and asked when my new book will be out. I mentioned within the week. He handed me his business card and I noticed that he was a dentist. He had also been in my gallery several times and owned a number of my books. Needing a filling replaced I asked him if he could fit me into his busy appointment schedule. The following morning (Monday morning) I got a call from his office telling me that if I came over immediately the dentist could see me. So I dropped everything, locked my gallery and drove over to his office. Once there the secretary handed me several pages that had to be completed before I could be admitted as a patient.

Now, in truth, I'm really tired of giving out gobs of information about my personal life. Why does a dentist need to know if I'm married or divorced? Why does he want to know how many kids I have? How will that help him to replace a filling in my mouth? On and on it went. More questions and more questions. Then it came to diseases. I don't have any diseases and I don't take any medications. I casually mentioned that to the receptionist. "We'll sir, you must clearly state that on the forms." One of the questions asked for specific information on my genitals. How in the hell is such information going to help the god damned dentist to replace a filling in my tooth. "I don't have any diseases" I again told the arrogant woman behind the counter. "Sir, please answer all the questions on the form". Further into the list of questions they wanted to know the name of my bank, my social security number, my employer, my credit card numbers and on and on. How will that help the god damned dentist? Then they wanted me to fill out a privacy form. They informed me that they would share all my info with other health organizations and would notify me by mail, telephone and email when any future appointments would be necessary. They also wanted to have an OK to leave messages on my answering machine. "Look, lady, I'll pay for the services right here, on the spot and as soon as the dentist has done his job. You don't have to send me a bill. I'll pay you for any services immediately". "Sir, we still need the name of your bank"

Frankly, I'm sick of the invasion of my privacy. Everyday I hear of dozens of people who have had their identities stolen and suddenly find themselves deep in debt for things they did not buy. I don't want to pay for someone else's vacations. I don't want more sales people calling. I'm sick of the spams and scams. I just want a filling in my god damned tooth replaced. Why is that so hard to understand?

Maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I should see a therapist or maybe I'm just sticking up for myself. Sometimes people just rub me the wrong way and if I don't stick up for myself no one else will.

I walked out of the dentist's office without seeing the dentist. . Screw them. I'm not going to fill out more forms. I'm sick of it. There went an hour of my time. I'm certain that the receptionist will tell the dentist that I was rude and uncooperative and I'm certain that he'll never come back to my gallery. So be it…I couldn't care less. Its no wonder that dentists have the highest suicide rate of any professionals. No wonder they have high level of alcoholism and drug abuse. I don't think there is anything more degrading then having to lie flat on your back or nearly upside down and having some weirdo guy stick his hand in your mouth. What kind of a person would want to stick their hand in another person's mouth all day long anyway? If they were really interested in medicine and helping others they would have gone to medical school. I hate all dentists. I really do. I just wish I could find someone to replace my lost filling.

So on this day I am proposing a revolution. When ever I go to another doctors office I want certain questions answered before I subject myself to their so-called talents. How is their health? Are they HIV positive? Do they have any communicable diseases? Do they have genital herpes? How many times have they been sued? What schools did they go to? How were their grades? How long have they been in business? Have they ever preformed certain procedures before? How many times? Have they ever been fired from a position? What is the name of their insurance company? Name of their bank? Are they married? Divorced? Credit information? All this and many other questions only seem fair to me. Am I being unreasonable here? I don't think so. My wife says I'm just scared……………………but I ignore her thoughts on this subject.

On another, lighter, subject……

The Anglers Club of New York has proven to be quite an experience for me. Once a month the club hosts a dinner of some sort. This past week the event was titled "Fly Fishing at War". More then a hundred members attended the dinner held at the clubs old brownstone just off Wall Street in NYC. After cocktails and dinner several club members got up and read letters from Club Members who had written about their fly fishing experiences as soldiers during the first world war. It was quite moving. One soldier, a paratrooper, was more frightened about breaking his fly rod then being shot by Germans as he jumped from an airplane behind enemy lines. The membership of the club is made up of mega-impressive people who are described as the "Captains of Industry" here in America. The club is "men only" and members are only allowed to discuss fly fishing when at the club. It was a breath of really fresh air to only talk about fishing with people who know what they are doing. I look forward to a long association with my fellow anglers.

And so I'm sitting here thinking about my newsletter. All I do is complain. All I ever talk about is the stuff that irritates me. Why in gods name do people read this stuff? Why do I write it? Don't I have better things to do then just complain all day long? One would think from reading my "Newsletters" that I really do lead a horrible life. It appears that all I do is walk around all day and look at the "seedy" side of humanity. Yea, I do… but I really do love my life. In truth, all I do is have fun all the time. I'm not kidding. I really do. Sounds strange, doesn't it? But it's the truth. I may not be where I wanted to be but I sure am in a lot better place now then I used to be. Happy is the man who enjoys his work…..so says some oriental sage. Well, it's true. Honest to god if you don't like what you're doing, if there is no fun in your life, if you can't enjoy the day, if you don't like the people you have to be with then, by all means, go do something else. And if you don't understand this then go take a hot bath or something. Holy cow, have some fun will you please. At the same time we all have responsibilities. Mortgages, kids in college, bills, etc. But sometime in your life it's very necessary to do something you really love, something that just knocks your socks off. In truth, passionate fun just doesn't happen over night. Real joy and pleasure comes from the cultivation of our own selves and our own talents. I really love playing my bass guitar, casting my fly rod, making photos and crafting a great sentence. (My favorite is spending time with my daughter!) This stuff just doesn't happen overnight. The cultivation of ones self brings the greatest joy imaginable.

In truth, I really don't believe that I've ever said anything original in my ramblings. The stuff I write about is all common sense and common knowledge. All this stuff has been said before by people far smarter then I.

All right, let's have some fun right now! Let's see, this Saturday night my band is playing at a great Halloween party where we'll have more fun then I ever thought possible. Next week I'm going to Ohio to spend five days with my buddies from the band Hot Tuna/Jefferson Airplane. We'll play music from eight in the morning until two in the morning. Rumor has it that a few of the guys from the Grateful Dead might show up to "Jam" with us. Then on the ninth of November my family and I will fly to Bozeman, Montana and spend two weeks photographing the greatest rustic homes in the world and "smoozing" with their famous owners. I'll also go fly fishing just about everyday for a few hours, eat great meals and stay in either fabulous homes or high-end resorts. And, get this, its all expenses paid and any money I spend is completely tax deductible! Yellowstone National Park will still be open and it's a great time of the year there and, if possible, I just might take a few runs down a completely private ski slope. Then at Thanksgiving we just might go to Key West or Manhattan for the holidays. Christmas will see us in Chicago where I'll play the blues with a few famous musician friends till dawn and then in January I'll be back in Montana and then off to Oregon for a few days to photograph another great home.

February will see my daughter's school vacation and we'll spend a week or so in Key West. We'll be back in Key West for another vacation in April for a week of very serious fly fishing for hundred pound tarpon with my good friend Keith Short, a fly fishing guide from Wyoming.

And don't, not even for one second, think that I don't appreciate and love my life. I really do thank all gods of all religions ever invented by the human race for the life I lead. No one ever had a greater life then I! I've been incredibly lucky but I've also worked hard for what I've achieved and I greatly appreciate every minute I'm alive. I hope others feel that way about their time on this planet. Take care, Ralph

PS. I have been told by my publisher that my books are presently in the warehouse in Utah and will be shipped to me Thursday, October 27, 2005. I should receive them within the week and will mail them out to people who have preordered them. If you want a signed, first edition copy please email me. The first fifty copies will be $40 each plus shipping. After that the books will be $60 each. R

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

I've said this before. I hate airplanes. Actually that's not exactly correct. It's the people that fly on them that drive me nuts. So let me back up a bit and I'll start my ramblings with things that happened a few weeks ago.

I spent the past eight days fly fishing in Alaska. The first flight out from Albany, 6AM, to Chicago was OK. The flight was not full and mercifully I found three unoccupied seats and took a nap for the duration of the flight. The flight from Chicago to Seattle was the stuff that writers and observers of human behavior love to talk about.

Humans are a funny lot. We crave power and we love to be able to influence things. At any and every opportunity we love to be able to affect the lives of others. We are in truth, hungry of power. It is, it seems a basic human need. And, very often in a negative way. Here's a classic example. People who use public phones are generally on the line for about a minute and a half. When there are other people waiting to use the same public phone the present user stays on the line for almost five minutes. Interesting, isn't it? We crave power even under the most unlikely circumstances.

And so I boarded the plane in Chicago. Because I was to sit in the last row I was just about first on the plane. After others were seated in the rear another passenger wandered down the isle toward the middle of the plane. He was pulling a wheeled suitcase behind him. Once at his seat he unzipped his suitcase, pulled out a new tie and neatly tied the garment around his neck. He then pulled out a new suit jacket and put it on. He then rearranged the overhead compartment and neatly placed his bag on the shelf. He then opened his brief case and pulled out some papers. And all the while a hundred or so people stood behind him anxiously waiting for him to get out of the god damned isle. His little display of "power and influence" took about eight minutes and raised the blood pressure of everyone on the plane. Everyone hated the guy. Frankly, I wanted to go up and clobber him in the head but I controlled myself. I am always impressed at how completely inconsiderate we often are of others. It is a tragic human weakness that we all have to live with.

The rest of the flight to Anchorage was non-eventful. I finished reading another book about bear attacks while on the plane. I do this every time I fish in Alaska to remind myself of the dangers of having bears in close contact with humans.

I have been elected to membership in the Anglers Club of New York (which is a big deal if you're into fly fishing). Four gentlemen from the Anglers Club came along with me on the trip and met me at the lodge in Cooper Landing. They had never been to Alaska before and I'm certain they were skeptical about my reports of extraordinary fishing. Unfortunately I was not able to fish with them as only four people are allowed in one boat. I was assigned to another boat with my favorite guide Fred Telleen and saw my "buddies" only a few times at breakfast and dinner. In truth, they were all "unique" characters and I felt immediately comfortable with them when we saw each other.

One day I fished with a different couple that had never been to Alaska and had never fly fished before, which, in truth, if you have a good guide, is no big deal. Unfortunately the guide failed to give them proper instructions and they struggled throughout the day. Frankly, however, the woman drove me nuts. Every time she caught a fish, which was quite often, she talked to the fish in obnoxious "baby talk". "Oh my little baby, you're so cute. I just love you!" On and on she went. She also had a laugh that was really irritating. She also drove me nuts when she landed monstrous rainbow one right after another. I'm not kidding when I say that she landed four rainbows over thirty inches each. She also landed at least fifteen trout that were about twenty four inches and a ton of fish in the twenty inch range. Her technique was terrible. She left excessive slack in the line and had terrible casting technique. And with each fish landed she kept it out of the water too long and talked her horrible baby talk and squealed like a pig at the sight of a new fish. And her poor husband hardly caught anything all day. I felt so bad for him that whenever I got a fish on the line I handed him my rod and allowed him to reel in the fish (which he greatly appreciated!)

But people always have choices in their lives. I could have let the woman's demeanor really bother me or I could have just gone along with the experience and recognize that people are different from me and just not let things like that bother me. I chose the latter. I did try to explain to her that many advanced fly fishermen in the world today go their entire lives and never catch a trout above twenty inches. These were truly fish of a lifetime. She never did realize how extraordinary her day was and like an old song that plays constantly in ones head I can still hear her baby talk and high pitch laughter. I hope that she fishes sometime in the lower 48 states and catches just a few ten inch trout. Maybe then she'll realize how extraordinary her day on the Kenai River in Alaska really was!

Fishing throughout the week was extraordinary. I landed several rainbows above thirty inches and lost many more due to the strength of the fish and the fast running water. I also landed many fish in the twenty four-twenty-eight inch range. And keep in mind that these are huge, fat, football shaped fish! Further, this was strictly "catch and release" fishing and that we use nothing but tiny barbless hooks. On average I landed between 50 and a hundred fish a day. And almost all of them were over eighteen inches. We saw huge Brown Bears just about every day. I politely kept my distance and was always conscious that these waters and land belong to them. I did not argue ownership and politely moved when they wandered too close.

Strange, I was lonely while I was there. I fished with different people every day and didn't spend as much time as I wanted with the four gentlemen from the Anglers Club. I always departed for fishing in the absolute darkness of the morning and they chose to leave later than I, thus returning late in the evening as well. As I sat alone at dinner one night I wished I was a stronger person. I wished that things had turned out differently in my life. I wished that I had achieved my potential in my life. I felt that I was never able to unlock my talents. I felt like a failure. I felt that I had missed the entire purpose in life. And all of that is hard to live with. But so be it. You dance with the girl you came with. While at Gwins Lodge later that week, I was having dinner with the four individuals from the Anglers Club. It was a very busy evening and the restaurant was full. Our waitress brought the wrong diner to one of my guests. He, of course complained. "Make the best of it", she said and promptly left to serve other guests. It was a very noble and brave thing to say. Certainly an unusual comment coming from a waitress. But she was right. I vowed to personally make the best of it. Life is not easy sometimes. All of life is a series of mountains and valleys. The following morning I landed a thirty two inch Rainbow Trout within ten minutes of being on the water! How quickly life changes! (I'll have photos of the fish for my next newsletter!)

I did meet with a rustic furniture builder while I was there. He had left a note on my cabin door and I met him the following night about an hour south of where I was staying. Greg Berryman (Alaskatwig@webtv.net) showed me a great armchair he had built. Comfortable and sturdy the chair was carefully constructed. Greg is one of the many great undiscovered rustic artists in the country and no doubt will take his place in the rustic art world as time goes on. Check him out!

The trip back to Albany was a nightmare. I traveled more then thirty hours and didn't sleep a wink. Anchorage to Seattle was OK but the red -eye flight to Newark was horrible. A full plane, every other person was either a snorer or serious gas-passer. The worst was the gentleman who stood in the isle and felt the need to lean over me to talk to the individual in the window seat. To me there is something very unsettling about having some guys pant zipper ten inches from my face. Some people are not bothered by that but when he leaned heavily on my shoulders I had to speak up. Once we landed a woman swung her handbag too hard and clobbered me in the head. Moments later a guy dropped his heavy suitcase from the overhead compartment and nearly knocked me unconscious. Neither of the two people apologized.

The flight back to Albany and then the drive back to Lake George was exhausting. I had to stop on the side of the road to nap for a few minutes for fear of running off the highway. Once in Lake George I was given the details of the cruise ship tragedy that happened here on the lake. Twenty people had died when a tourist boat overturned. The town is still in shock.

We'll probably be going back to Alaska a year from now so if you want more information let me know.

Business continues to grow here in Lake George. The walk-in traffic slows down at this time of the year but we still do a tremendous business from the many long-time customers we've dealt with throughout the years. One or twice a week I receive phone calls from numerous people throughout the country who want to either start or expand their rustic furniture business. I respond to each query personally and most of the time I'd like to think that my suggestions are helpful. Here's my latest email to an entrepreneur on the West Coast.

"Hi, Thanks for the phone call and email regarding your furnishings and fishing.

I've looked at your website and it's very impressive. All the pieces appear well made and well designed. I could go on and on about the forms and designs but in short furniture not only needs to be aesthetically pleasing but very functional and comfortable as well. For instance, are the chair seats form-fitted (molded) or are they straight boards? How comfortable are they?

But here's the bottom line. I exhibited at the Lake Home and Cabin Show last April in Minneapolis. There were about three hundred or so exhibitors at the show. At least six of the dealers were selling peeled log furniture. All of the furniture in their individual booths was very well made and reasonably priced. Right now you are doing exactly the same thing that literally hundreds of other builders are doing around the country. You have to ask your self, "What am I doing differently that makes me stand out from the crowd of other builders all wanting a share of the market?" Right now you are just one of hundreds. How do you plan on distinguishing yourself? Right now you are producing machine-made, mass produced furniture. If you continue in this direction you'll wind up probably making a living but you'll fail to break into the art world. What do you want out of your life? And when you answer this question be honest with your self. How do you want to be remembered in this world when you're dead and gone?

So you have some choices to make. Do you want to be artists or factory owners? At some point you'll have to "step up to the plate" and take a swing at greatness. I really hope you do. Believe me when I say that the public is ready and waiting for great art to appear on the market. It's just a matter of people taking the time to do things correctly and to create great art. Success is there for the taking. And the doors are open for all who have the drive to want to stand out from the crowd.

You should review the pieces of handmade furniture on my website and in my books. You have access to great materials in your part of the world. And you should really spend some time in museums looking at why some furniture is in a museum and others of the same period are in second hand/used furniture shops. I'll be more then happy to talk with you at any time and please don't hate my guts for saying the above. It's the same advice that was given to me many years ago. Frankly, I wouldn't know you if you walked up to me on the street. It's not personal. So please keep in touch. Ralph PS. The six builders of peeled log furniture sold very little of anything at the Minneapolis show. I sold out my booth and went home with a pocket full of checks. And I continue to take orders from people I met at that show. My furniture sold because it was original, unique and very much a part of the art world. I mention all this because the public really loves great stuff and will pay almost any price for functional art work. Ralph

PSS. Please excuse any misspelled or incorrect words. I'm running out for band practice right now. We have a gig tonight and will probably play until three in the morning."

Further, people often ask me about pricing. How much should they charge? Here's a brief primer on pricing.

There are three ways to determine what you should charge for your merchandise.

1. Comparative Pricing. Just check out what others are charging for similar items. This is actually dangerous because we often think that our pieces are as good as others in the field. But comparative pricing is almost the standard norm in the real world. If you want to establish your self then charge less then what everyone else is charging for similar items. This is called "predatory pricing". What you are doing by charging less is actually buying "market share". You want a fair share of the market and you'll do it by cheap pricing. You'll make up for the low margins by selling more of your stuff. You'll make a living by volume and later on, once you've established your self you can raise your prices. This is standard business practice in the real world.

2. Cost Plus. This is also a standard practice. Figure out how many hours you worked on something as well as the cost of materials. It is not uncommon for craftspeople to charge $25 per hour for their labor. Times that (or whatever you think you're worth) times the hours spent and then add in your costs of materials. And that's what you try to sell your items for!

3. Value Added. This is tricky but almost all artists and creative types use this method to price their creations. Here's an example. A computer company in Boston was having a terrible time getting their new software to do what it was designed to do. They had spent months preparing the package and could not get it to market because of flaws. They hired a friend of mine to trouble -shoot the program. Within two hours he solved the problem. The program was then offered to the market and within a month the company had profited by two million dollars because of the program. So what should the expert charge? He normally charges $100 per hour but in this case the company was able to make an enormous profit in a very short time because of the skills of the trouble shooter. He charged them $50,000. The company happily paid!

Artists work within this format as well. What is a painting or a piece of handmade furniture worth? It's worth only what someone else is willing to pay for it. If something sells immediately then it was sold too cheap. If a piece has sat around for months on end and no one has offered anything for it then it's too expensive. Businesses, especially entry level businesses, need cash flow. If you've had something for a long time and it has not sold then lower the price and get rid of it. You can build something better at your next attempt. Don't ever think that your stuff is as good or better then the next guy. That is a very dangerous trap. The public will decide the value of your merchandise. I talk with people very often that say that their stuff is as good or better then a certain established artist and that their piece should be the same price. Don't ever think this way. A long established artist has a significant reputation and their offerings are usually of very high quality.

Here are a few other suggestions that may be helpful to "budding" artists. You need to place your creations in front of people. They won't see it if it's sitting in your basement. Send photos of your stuff to the local newspapers, magazines and book writers. They love human interest stories and are always looking to offer someone serious free PR who does interesting and original work. Further, there are hundreds of craft shows around the country that are attended by thousands of potential buyers. You should exhibit at as many of these shows as possible. Advertising is very tricky. And it's expensive. If you choose to advertise then be prepared for the long haul. Advertising once does not do it. You must appear over and over again. To determine where to advertise call the publication and ask for a media kit. Don't talk with a salesperson… just get a media kit. This kit gives you all the info you'll need to know. And if you decide to advertise always negotiate with the sales person. They will always come down in price for first time advertisers. And once you start to get customers always ask how they heard about you. This will help in the long run to determine the best direction for your advertising budget. The best advertising, however, is word of mouth. Stand by your furniture, guarantee it, make free deliveries and provide great service. Reputations are critical. Do what's right. Don't get greedy. And don't be afraid to work on short margins. The more furniture you have out there the more customers will find you. Good salesmanship is also critical. Look people right in the eye and be personal. Be proud of your work. And don't be afraid to take chances.

Here's something really critical. Don't make copies of the work of others. You'll look foolish, incur the wrath of others and will eventually go down the drain. You can be influenced by the work of others but you'll never make it to the big leagues by either being mediocre or copying the work of others.

I could go on and on about all this stuff but this is the basics. And this is all standard stuff. I'm not saying anything new here. I hope something I've mentioned here works for those in business. It does for me. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. I was verbally attacked at the last Rustic Furniture Fair here in New York for stating who I believe are the real "shakers and movers" in the east coast rustic arts scene. I'll publicly state again that I believe that Barney Bellinger, Randy Holden, Chris Wager, Jerry Farrell and Peter Winter are the best in the business. Wayne Ignatuck and Steve Chisholm are also doing really great stuff and are making a mark in the rustic arts. All this of course is my personal opinion and if someone doesn't like it then they can go jump in the lake. How someone can be upset by the opinion of another person is beyond me. Especially when it comes to something as subjective as the arts!

PSS. Time goes fast these days. And I'm concerned that life is passing me by. I've come to say to myself several times a day "I'm here right now so enjoy the moment.. would you please". It doesn't make things go slower but I don't know what else to do. And I don't have any other solutions. Think I'll go have a glass of wine with my wife and daughter and stop rambling for now………………………………………

PSSS. For all eternity parents have thought that the next generation was going crazy, irresponsible and destined for straight for hell. Personally, I thought that the Punk Rockers were the weirdest yet and that civilization was coming to an end. But I recall that all generations thought that the generations after them were the ruination of all humanity. I recall the hippies (I was one and still am), the beatniks, the zoot suiters, the bohemians and on and on backwards. In truth, humanity is not falling apart. We are getting better and each generation will improve on the generation before. So don't fret about the crazy antics of kids. They are compelled by nature to find their own path. They must rebel from us. They must leave the fold. And they must create their own lives…which they will. It is what all species do.

Personally I believe that I lived in the greatest generation. I take nothing away from the previous generations who fought the great wars (and won!). But musically we had the Beatles, Led Zeplin, The Temptations, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Bob Dylan and so many more. I fail to see or hear the great music of today's era. I just don't think that Rap is making a serious contribution to culture. But these are only my thoughts and I'm certain my mother would have argued for Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin Sammy Davis, Bing Crosby and Tony Bennet. At any rate kids today are smarter then we were and will make the world better then the one in which we presently reside. But I'm just an old guy and my thoughts count for very little in the scheme of things. So be it….that's the nature of the world in which we live.

PSSSS. My latest book ADIRONDACK HOME should now be somewhere here in America. They are printed in China. I should have copies here in my office within the week (I hope and pray). I have a lengthy list of people who want them. I am selling the first fifty copies for $40. each plus shipping. After the first fifty copies are sold the price will then be $60 each plus shipping. If you would like a copy please email me. If you call in an order please be sure to speak with my wife Michele. She is far more organized that I am. 518 696 4100. Ralph

Friday, September 9, 2005

He was a handsome man with a strong handshake and an infectious smile. Some individuals exude strength and confidence. Billy was one of them. In his mid forties he came into my gallery with a wondrous eye and seemed to take pleasure in everything. He took his time as he made his way around my tables, beds, rockers and other furnishings. I asked if he had any questions or if there was anything I could answer for him. He ignored me. I was not offended. Ten minutes later I again approached him with the intention of engaging him in conversation. He didn't respond. A few moments later I stood directly in front of him and commented on the piece of furniture he was looking at. In that moment it became apparent that he was deaf. To no avail I spoke significantly louder (which is what most people would do under the circumstances). It also became apparent to me that he could not speak. His eyes, however, told me that he wanted to talk but his muscles rejected any desire on the part of his brain to communicate with the outside world.

Sometimes you meet people that you bond with immediately. He and I were instant friends. For the next several minutes I maneuvered his wheel chair throughout my gallery and even though he could not hear what I was saying I commented on things that caught his eye. I would like to believe that he appreciated my efforts and that, just maybe, he could feel the vibrations of my voice. I'll never know. In time he took out a pad of paper and began writing. He was a former ski instructor and an avid lover of the outdoors. Ten years earlier while swimming he dove into a lake in the Adirondacks and struck a submerged object. His neck was broken leaving him paralyzed from his chest down. The injury also caused the loss of both his hearing and ability to speak.

He and I sat in my gallery frantically writing each other notes for nearly an hour. My handwriting was nearly illegible. His was clear and concise. (I cursed my third grade teacher Mrs. Case, who felt the need to publicly chastise me for my horrible handwriting when I was eight years old. She was right and I am now sorry I never improved my penmanship. Thank God for word processors!) He mentioned (actually wrote) that he loved rustic furniture and made rustic signs of twigs and birch bark to supplement his income. Without seeing them I ordered several. In time I wheeled his chair and him to his vehicle where an electric lift hoisted him into his van. Once inside he slowly struggled into the driver's seat and prepared to leave. Only a few feet away from him I smiled and waved. His dark brown eyes pierced deeply into me and for just a second I could sense a smile coming from him.

As he drove from my driveway I wondered if he was embarrassed to have had to climb ungraciously out of his wheel chair and into the driver's seat. I wondered if he chose to isolate himself from the rest of the world for fear of embarrassing himself and making the rest of the able-bodied world piety him. I wondered if he was able to maintain a sense of worth. I wondered if he had friends or dreamed of a better life. I wondered if he had a family or people who loved him. But somehow I didn't worry about him. He had a strength in him that most people, myself included, did not have. He was strong in spirit and a powerful force of life exuded from him. Strong in character is a good way to describe him. Inside myself I knew that I could never survive in his condition. He was far more resilient then I. If I was ever rendered to his condition where I could neither walk, talk or hear just tie me to a wheel chair and push me off the end of my boat dock.

Later that evening when I was alone on one of my evening walks I found tears rolling down my face. Who in the "living-fuck" was I to complain about my business or competitors or ungrateful people or the high price of gas or arrogant artists or demanding clients? The thought of Billy in his wheel chair, unable to speak or hear, left me humbled and embarrassed. I had absolutely no right to feel sorry for myself. Self piety is a wretched curse that ruins the ability of people to function. Wallowing in the muck of self loathing is one of the devils greatest tools.

And, then, sometimes life punches you right in the face and screams "Snap out of it". And when things like that happen its best to pay attention. I know I do. I hope to see Billy again sometime. Strange as it sounds we need more people like Billy in the world.

But Billy's predicament is just cause for thought. Why does life struggle so hard to continue? Even under the most horrible of circumstances just about all livings struggle to survive. There are no easy answers to these questions. Many people, unable to cope with the adversities in life, choose to end their own lives. Others choose to go on living regardless of their misfortunes.

There have been several times in my life that I've suffered from moderate to severe depression. The death of my parents, divorces, loss of jobs earlier in my life, broken relationships, career failures, the death of friends: these are life's stumbling blocks. We all have experienced them. For me I've never found relief from these tortuous moments by traditional methods. I've never found peace or happiness in alcohol, drugs (prescribed or otherwise), or talk therapies from counselors, therapists or other well intended professionals. And I'm too far skeptical to seek peace in religions of any sort.

I've always found peace in the natural beauty of the world. My problems have always seemed insignificant when I stare at the soaring red wood trees in California or gaze at quiet rivers as they meander across the earth toward the ocean, or the forms and shapes of billowing clouds that will never again appear as they are at that very moment. Trees to me are the most beautiful forms on the planet but as I give this thought as I write this I realize that I have never seen anything that did not have profound elements of beauty in it. Beauty is there for all of us. It's just a matter of taking the time to appreciate it. Beauty is the antidote for hysteria.

And so I consider my ramblings from my last Newsletter that I sent out a few weeks ago. Many people commented that I sounded so angry and discouraged. And as I reread my comments I can understand how it was perceived that way. But those of you who know me realize I'm an "up-beat" person and choose to pick myself up by my bootstraps once I have fallen flat on my face. At the same time, life is not about being a "one-hit wonder". It's what you do for an encore that brings meaning and significance to ones life. The quest for perfection is a life long process. We may never achieve it but we are compelled to improve ourselves and the world around us. The "good" in the world and our own perfection is worth fighting for. Humanity is bursting with both talent and creativity. It's a shame that many of us choose to ignore our abilities.

Life is about getting into the ring and putting yourself in the path of harm. Nothing good comes from isolation. Sometimes a few knocks in the head puts some sense into us.

But, tragically, you can't do everything. I have a few lengthy novels in me just dying to get out. Whether I find the time (or the motivation) to write them is another thing. Novels are very difficult to get published. First you need a great story then you have to find an agent. Publishing companies won't even look at a manuscript today unless it's brought to them by an agent. And even agents are very difficult to impress (let alone getting them to take on your novel). And all this takes time. And reinforcements for your efforts are few and far between. My one novel "Picker" (2003) (450 pages) is still sitting unpublished at the bottom of one of my desk drawers. I may use it for "kindling" on some cold winter night.

In truth, however, I'm really enjoying playing music with my band. We've been together for more than six years and we're now playing more than ever. Becoming competent on an instrument is no easy task. It takes years. And once you find people you can get along with (both musically and personally) it takes a long time to coalesce as a band. But, I'll tell you, standing on a stage and having an audience up and dancing is quite a thrill. I don't think I'll ever tire of it.

Learning to play my bass guitar competently is one of the things I'm proudest of. When I turned fifty (eight years ago) I asked myself what I wanted to do the most with my few remaining years. I had always wanted (like many people) to become a competent musician. Prior to my fiftieth birthday I could do a two hour version of "Louie, Louie" on my guitar but little more then that . So for hours each day (but not everyday…sometimes I had to go fly fishing or work on another book!) I practiced scales and changes of all sorts. I even took years of lessons from my now friends Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy from the bands Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna! This was obviously a real thrill for me. These two guys have been my musical hero's for the past forty years and it's been a real thrill to have actually stood on stage with them and played a few songs! And so now my band, The Ralph Kylloe Band, is an improvisational jam band doing the music of the Grateful Dead, the Blues and other fun stuff. And we're all having a great time of it!

Fall is my favorite time of the year. But it's an ominous time. The dark winter months are just around the corner. In the fall I'm very conscious of every moment because I am well aware that snow will soon be blasting me in the face. Awareness of the moment is reward in itself.

Tuesday, 9/6/05, is the opening of the fall Brimfield Antique Shows, in Brimfield, Mass. More the twenty five hundred dealers sell their wares to tens of thousands of buyers all looking for treasures. I don't think I've missed more then a few Brimfield (held three times a year) shows in thirty years. Yesterday I drove out (a three hour one way drive) and prepared to both exhibit and buy stuff as I have done for years. But after two hours of walking in the sun I was exhausted. My heart just was not in it. I missed my wife and daughter. I came home late last night and in an hour from now I'll take my daughter to play miniature golf and enjoy her presence. Tomorrow will be her first day in first grade! I wouldn't miss it for the world. She's getting older now and I want to enjoy her company before she's gone. It seems every time I blink I'm five years older. My priorities are different now. You only have one chance to raise a child. She needs her daddy. I want to do it right.

This coming weekend is the Rustic Furniture Fair at the Adirondack Museum. I'll go up there Saturday morning and poke my head around for awhile just to see what's going on and to look for any new, emerging rustic artists. The following weekend is the Adirondack Antique Show held in Indian Lake, about forty minutes above me. This is also a great show. You'll see a few hundred antique dealers set up along the roads going into Indiana Lake and then a hundred or so exhibitors sell "all things rustic" at the actual antique show.

Then on September 19 I leave for Bozeman, Montana to photograph a few more homes. While out there I'll do a book signing at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming on Friday, September 23 and "schmooze" with friends for a few days. I return to Lake George on the following Tuesday and then on Thursday I'm off with five or six friends to fish the extraordinary Kenai River in Alaska for a week. Once I'm back from Alaska I then return to Montana to finish up photographing a few more homes.

Here's a thought that's really stupid. Just to show you how strange things can become around here consider this. A month or so ago I had a computer guru install a new computer with every spam blocker, virus eliminator, worm destroyer and firewall ever conceived by the human race. Before I had the new computer with all the bells and whistles installed I had up to five hundred (500) spam's a day, everyday. Now with the new computer I get about ten to fifteen emails a day and they are all business related! But, and don't laugh at me please, it's now kind of lonely around here. At least before I felt that someone was thinking of me and a dark side of me enjoyed all the attention (even if it was just junk email)! But I'll get over this momentary lapse of sanity!

OK, Ok enough of the personal stuff.

So are you happy with the "adjusted" gas prices? Are you happy for Exxon because they profited more than five hundred million dollars over the same period last year? Do you realize that Exxon never paid the bill for their oil spill on Valdez, Alaska a few years back? Are you happy with our federal government's response to hurricane Katrina? Are you aware that we are spending one hundred and sixty eight million dollars ($168,000,000.) a day, every day, for the war in Iraq? I'll stop here for fear that someone out there may start to think that America is heading in the wrong direction. Maybe its time to consider new leaders for our country.

On a different subject who are your favorite public speakers? In no particular order here's my vote for the most charismatic speakers in the past few generations, including but not limited to:

Carl Sagan
Muhammad Ali
Mario Cuomo
Howard Cosell
Jesse Jackson
Martin Luther King Jr.
Bill Clinton
Bobby Kennedy
John Kennedy
Jim Morrison

Here's also a list of the worst speakers I've ever heard, including:

Walter Mondale
Dr. Phil
Leon Spinks (the boxer)
George W. Bush
George H. W. Bush
Janet Reno (former Attorney General)

I'm going to stop there. It's too depressing to think of these people.

Great leaders and great speakers are few and far between. I want to be inspired and motivated. I want to be led and challenged. I want to stand and cheer for what's right and good in the world. I hope that someone comes along in my lifetime that just captures my imagination and thrills me. I want to hear powerful words and great strength. I and America needs that right about now. I'm sick of the wars and the carnage. I want someone who can get people to agree on things. I'm tired of renegade countries, terrorists and threats. We need people who can solve problems through words and inspiration. We need some peace in this land.

Final Thoughts

It's now time to read a few books to my daughter. I'll make her lunch in the morning and my wife will have her new clothes and new school supplies organized and ready to go. I'll stand with my daughter by the side of the road and wait for her first ride on the school bus. Once she's gone I'll wander alone into my back yard, shed a quiet tear and thank god I'm alive. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. "Never forget that beauty is in the eyes of the beer holder".

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

So…Why don’t you just go and blow your brains out? I’m serious. Why stay alive? With all the crap in the world why bother? Don’t you just get sick of it all sometimes?

As the owner of a small business I ask myself this question often. There is no easy road in life. There is no free ride. I don’t care how many toys you have or what you’re worth there are still headaches. Sometimes the problems here in my little business just don’t seem to let up. And so I ask myself “why don’t I just kill myself?” That would solve everything…..at least it would all be out of my hair.

And so every once in a while I seriously consider the above question. And I often actually write down the answers. I do this because it forces me to count the blessings in my life of which there are many. It’s just that once in a while I need to remind myself of all the great things I’m involved in. And seeing it in black and white forces me to laugh at myself for even considering the question. When I consider all the great things I get to do I’d have to be really nuts to go off the deep-end. And I may be a bit crazy but I’m not nuts!

In truth, counting ones blessings is far more productive then dwelling on all the garbage in the world. And furthermore, I’m always curious about what’s around the next corner. Surprises do happen. You never know what going to happen next. And there’s a real thrill in that. It’s a quest for the unknown. A challenge. And further, who in their right mind would want to spend time in a coffin while the worms eat your guts out when you could be eating ice cream and watching a sunset? And besides, we each have a responsibility to better ourselves and the world around us.

You can probably tell that I’ve had too much coffee this morning and it’s just now really kicking in. I’ll probably change the beginning of this newsletter later but for now I’ll just leave it and read it later.

But as long as I’m complaining I’ll just ramble on for a while. Some of the people that come in my store are real “wacko’s”. We often get people in here who have no intention of buying any of our furniture and just want to see how we build it. Some people want to make photos of our furniture so they can make copies of it in their own workshops. Many people come in with the intention of opening a gallery just like mine and start asking all kinds of questions about our sources, builders, etc. Some people just come in a sit in the chairs, say very little and then leave after I have asked them several times if they had any questions. And there have been several people over the years that have actually scared me. These are the real “creepy” people. It doesn’t happen often, maybe just once a year, and, frankly, but I don’t like dealing with them at all. All the rest of the non-buyers mentioned above can raise my blood pressure but I deal with each scenario differently and once their gone I just try to forget about them.

One time four “big guys” who were right out of the movie Deliverance came in at closing time during the winter. I was here alone and it was dark out. The tension in the air was so thick one could cut it with a knife. I was polite but immediately felt very intimidated by their presence. One of the men pulled out a camera and started making photos of some of the one-of-a-kind chairs. I spoke up and mentioned that I usually don’t allow the making of photos and asked what he was going to do with the pictures. “I’m going to build these at home and want photos”. “Well”, I said, “for $60 you can buy one of my books….then you have all the photos you need”. “If I buy one of your books I won’t have money for beer”, he said. His cohorts cracked up. Tension was rising. “Why is this shit so much fucking money?” asked another of the men. I talked for a few seconds and the guy said “I don’t give a fuck about your chairs”. His dilated pupils spoke of serious drug use. I could tell he was sweating as well. Fortunately one of the other men realized that things could get out of hand and wisely spoke up saying “I’m leaving, let’s get out of here.” With that the other three men walked toward the door. And if looks could kill I would be a dead man right now. The scene lasted about ten minutes and I honestly felt that they were preparing to rob me or checking out my place to burglarize the building later on.

The following day I had a complete security alarm system installed and am happy I did. Nothing ever came of the event but when I think of it now I was in a bit of danger. Although we are a successful business we take in very little cash. It’s almost always checks and charge cards. If the group of men had attempted robbery they would have gotten very little from me. But, in truth, I don’t need crazed drug addicts pointing a gun at me.

There is the tragic propensity on the part of humanity to look on the negative side of things. We often think the worst of situations. Often times our assessments are incorrect. But sometimes we have to follow our instincts and assess the obvious for what it was. Why take chances?

So here’s what’s new. Right now I’m working on a great book on hickory furniture (and five other books as well). I promised someone that I would photograph their home in Indianapolis and use the photos in this upcoming book. So they emailed me last Thursday and after looking at my calendar I realized that the only time I had left was the following day. So at great expense I hopped a plane the following morning. Fortunately, everything regarding the first flight was noneventful. Unfortunately I arrived in Indianapolis and was immediately stuck in rush hour traffic and then got lost by taking the wrong road which cost me two hours. The photo shoot went well but as I had already made many photos of hickory furniture throughout the country it was immediately apparent that the trip to Indiana was unnecessary. On my way back to the airport I got stuck in traffic that was going to the Nextel Race, a huge stockcar event at the Indianapolis Speedway. And so I sat in traffic for two hours while police insisted that I follow signs to somewhere I had no desire to go. Once I finally arrived at the airport I made my flight with only seconds to spare. The second leg of the trip was unfortunate. The plane broke down and was four hours late taking off. Once I was finally on the plane the person I was sitting next to looked me right in the eye and said, “Do you know that Jesus Christ died on the cross for you?” “That’s very nice”, I said, “Thanks for the information”. And so for the next two hours he quoted scripture from the bible to me. I didn’t respond once to him and faked sleeping for most of the trip. I think I’ll take acting lessons regarding sleeping as I can’t take salesmen, would-be preachers or other quasi-miscreants on airplanes any more.

Passenger seats on airplanes are very close to one another. Those sitting next to us are actually inside our personal safety zones. There is always a fight for the middle arm rest. I always get an isle seat. I can’t stand climbing over people to get to the rest room. But isle seats are not without their hazards. People always bump their fat asses into me and never say excuse me which I find unconscionable. Sitting in the last seat on a plane is also horrible. The rest room is usually two feet from my seat and I have to put up with people one foot away from me while they wait in line to use the rest room. Usually the last seat on a plane does not recline and I’m forced to sit upright for hours on end. And then they offer you a bag of pretzels. There are thirteen pretzels in each bag. I know this because I’ve counted the contents of dozens of bags of salty pretzels as I zoom through the atmosphere. And then there are the self check-in computers in many airports. I can’t figure them out. I want to talk with a real person sometimes. I want some personal service not another flashing sign to “touch here to confirm”.

My most recent “worst flight” came a few months ago. I was with my wife and we were returning from a great western trip. I had a window seat. As we were landing I watched in horror as another plane was landing on another runway and coming right at us. Closer and closer it came. When we were within fifty feet of the ground our plane suddenly roared straight up at full throttle. Everyone in the plane was shocked and terrified as we ascended dramatically almost straight up. Once we were again level the pilot apologized to us and casually mentioned that “it must have been the air traffic control officers first day on the job”. In time we circled the airport and landed safely.

But I could go on and on about airplane trips. Bizarre stuff happens in airports and on planes all the time. One time a guy got so drunk on one of my flights that he had to be subdued by other passengers on the plane. Once we landed he was hauled off in shackles by airport police. Another time, right after the 911 tragedy, three big Middle Eastern guys wearing turbans boarded my plane. Nothing happened but I knew what every other passenger on the flight was thinking. And then there are the last minute security searches by officers who can barely speak English. I can’t stand these guys but I never joke or argue with them. I get a big kick when they search elderly grandmothers and three year old kids. But I am glad they are there doing their jobs.

But in truth I like airports. I like the book stores and the food courts. Finally many airports are offering good, fresh food and not pre-frozen, processed crap that sits in your stomach for a week and gives you horrible hemorrhoids and colon cancer. Books are my salvation on airplanes. Last week I finished reading a really great book titled “King of The World” by David Remick. Its an extraordinary biography about Muhammad Ali. The author won the Pulitzer for his effort. Check this book out if you can. You won’t be disappointed.

Business continues to exceed my expectations here at my gallery in Lake George, NY. We are up about forty per cent in sales from last year. We’ve also been selling about twice as much Old Hickory then we were last year. Set of chairs and dining tables are the big sellers.

Regarding our high-end pieces. We’ve sold an enormous amount of furniture this past spring and summer. Most of the pieces that come in never get posted on my website. They come in one day and go out the next and they take a very long time to replace. Also about half of our orders are custom designs and are never seen by people other then those who ordered them. So don’t be upset with me because my website occasionally seems bare.

Here’s something to consider during your morning coffee break. Reputations can be ruined very quickly and we are very careful to do what we say we are going to do. We sold a beautiful dining room table to a client down the road from us more then five years ago. Last week the client came to me and mentioned that the top had split. The next day I went down to the house and indeed the hard wood top had a crack in it. But only a few inches! I wondered if any furniture store in the country would guarantee a piece of furniture five years after the sale. I certainly don’t think Wal-mart would. But I said to the client, “No problem, we’ll build you a new top”. The new top will cost me about a thousand dollars but we’ll be able to cut up the old top and use the smaller pieces in other projects. In truth, I probably could have gotten away with telling the clients that the piece was beyond warrantee. But that’s not how we do business.

The world is a very small place and the “good will” from keeping customers happy goes a long way to building a successful business. But business is one thing. And personal image is another. Replacing the top is the right thing to do. That’s how I would like to be treated and that’s how I try to treat others.

On the other hand an older woman and her son were just here and I politely asked them to leave. She said her son wanted to make rustic furniture and was here to get design ideas and learn how to build rustic pieces. He crawled under the tables, opened all the drawers, made notes, asked about finishes, etc. I mentioned that his inquisitiveness was not fair to us and mentioned that he should take one of Dan Mack’s courses or visit the Rustic Furniture Fair and ask other builders how to make things. The woman became rude and mentioned that it was my responsibility to teach her son (he was 25 years old) the rustic furniture business so he could make a living at it. In truth, I really don’t mind helping struggling neophytes along. But when they cross the border with “attitude” and “unacceptable behavior” I draw the line. I just don’t need “snotty”, demanding people in my life.

My book ADIRONDACK HOME will be out on the market October 10. I am disappointed that I won’t have copies of the book for the numerous shows that happen in September but it will be worth the wait. It’s a great book. But the release of any of my books is both a thrill and a nightmare for me. Those with items pictured in the book will be very pleased. At the same time I’m certain that many people will also hate my guts for not including their works. With the publication of each book I also get a dozen or so nasty letters berating me for this or that. Here’s an example. A few years ago I pictured a chandelier in one of my books. I included the name of the designer within the caption. A month or so after the release of the book I received a very adversarial letter from an attorney demanding to know why I did not include the name, address and contact information for the electrician who wired the lamp. I asked the attorney if I should have included the names of all the gardeners, electricians, painters, carpenters, carpet installers, kitchen cabinet designers, roofing specialists, masons, draft men, etc, etc., who were involved with the house. Or what about the guy who dug up the ore to make the steel for the chandelier or the guy who made the bricks for the foundation? Or the God Damned truckers who delivered all the stuff or the real estate broker who sold the owners the property? As usual and as expected, I never heard back from the attorney. But this kind of stuff darkens my day. I take solace in the great quote from Winston Churchill who profoundly said that “Monuments were never built to critics.”

And so to those who will send me nasty letters I say go jump in the lake. And while you’re there I hope you’re attacked by a horde of leeches that suck all your blood out. Write your own damned books. Stop sitting in front of the god damned TV and do something constructive with your life. And leave me alone.

All right, alright I’ll calm down. But honest to god I get tired of the crap and the rumors and having to justify my existence to all the jealous “wanna-be’s” out there. If you would build better furniture and not insult me behind my back at every opportunity and put more effort into becoming a better person and artist you just might get some free PR . And while you’re at it just stop and consider how many times I’ve bailed rustic furniture makers out of jail or loaned them money to buy their cars and tools. Or paid for their divorces, therapists and prescription psycho drugs. Or loaned them down payments for their homes or shops. Or provided expensive materials at no cost to them. Or the many times I’ve hand-held aspiring artists while they learned their craft. Or bought substandard furniture from someone who was absolutely broke and sold it for significantly less then what I’ve paid for it. Or how many people I’ve helped with their careers who’ve forgotten about the free PR I’ve given them. And while you’re at it consider that I don’t take any consignments in my gallery. When someone shows up here with something I like they immediately get a check that will clear the bank on the spot. Or if they need the money I’ll give them an advance on an unseen project. And when you consider all that keep in mind that I support about 20 families who just might be unemployed without my support. I remember one time a guy sat on my front and openly wept because he didn’t have money for food to feed his family. On the spot I loaned him $2,500 for a new truck and also gave him a significant advance for pieces of furniture he wanted to build. I even featured a piece of his furniture in one of my books. He never even thanked me for the PR and complained that I didn’t list his name in the resource list. A few months later he was saying all sorts of crap about me to many of my friends and business associates. No one believed him and I hear that he’s nearly out of business. I am always amazed at how quickly people forget about those who helped with their careers. What goes around comes around. Burning bridges is really a stupid thing to do.

And so now that I’m through with my tirade I going to get a dozen chocolate donuts, a loaf of bread and a quart of orange juice. My gorgeous daughter and I are going to sit at the edge of my dock, feed the ducks and watch the sun go down over beautiful Lake George, the Queen of American lakes! She’ll tell me that I’m the greatest Dad ever and the nicest person in the world. And I’ll believe every word she says because she’s absolutely right! Life is good. Keep your chin up because if you don’t you just might walk into a dump truck. My best to all of you, Ralph

PS. My trip to Alaska is now full. Eight of us are going to fish for monster Rainbow Trout and Silver Salmon for six wonderful days the first week of October. If you want further info on next years trip let me know. And the week before the Alaska trip I’ll be back in Bozeman, Montana working on another book! And when I return from Alaska its back to Montana for work on another project!

PSS. Its now a day later and I am in the process of editing this Newsletter. My wife always reads my writings before it’s sent out and just about hit the ceiling when she finished reading this Newsletter. She thinks I’m nuts for writing about this kind of stuff. And I suppose that there are many people out there who just want to read about rustic furniture. There is a part of me that says I should eliminate most of what I wrote and just stick to the basics of the rustic furniture world. Who really cares about this stuff anyway? But, for me that’s too boring. People can read about that stuff anywhere. But, what the heck? I’m a personal kind of guy who likes to put the cards on the table. Between 300 and 600 people read my Newsletter everyday and the number is growing. I get all kinds of responses and thoroughly enjoy hearing from others. After all what kind of a person would I be if I kept all this stuff inside and just rambled on and on about the weather? This is who I am and all this stuff is a part of my life. So be it. Power to the people! R

PSSS. It’s now Monday August 22. It’s been a tough past five days. Last Thursday during a routine visit my Doctor noticed a lump on my face. The next day I was in the hospital. I was given several pills to take before the surgery that were supposed to “relax” me. Unfortunately I found them to be ineffective as I casually walked into the operating room for a date with a surgeon. After sticking me ten times with his god damned hypodermic needle the area below my right eye was numb. I was awake during the surgery. Nearly an hour later the surgeon was done, I was all stitched up and ready to go home! Then the phone rang. It was the pathologist. The malignant tumor was bigger then initially thought and he wanted better margins. So my surgeon took out the twenty stitches, reopened the wound and dug an extra half inch under my eye to remove more tissue. Forty minutes later I was done. The tumor was out and off I went. I was conscious throughout the procedure and miserable as a dog with mange. The first procedure wasn’t bad but the second operation was the pits. The experience of my tissues smoking when cauterized was less then thrilling. I could feel each stitch as he again sewed up my face. All in all however the surgeon did a great job. He had a “dark” sense of humor (which I thoroughly enjoyed) and played great blues music throughout the procedure. The only down side was that he didn’t give me any good drugs. I was looking forward to lying on my couch for the next three days in “la-la” land. I was disappointed when he told me to take ibuprofen which is about as much fun as kool-aid.

I took the rest of the day off. I hired someone to watch my booth at the Adirondack Living Show on Saturday. However, I got so bored sitting in bed Saturday that my wife and I showed up in the evening at the show and enjoyed a brief party and the warm regards from several friends. Jeff Fraser, the show promoter, also publicly acknowledged me for my efforts and thanked me for my continuing contributions to the entire rustic movement through my writings, books and other works. Those in the audience (about a hundred or so) applauded which I greatly appreciated. Its little things like that that keeps me going. I worked the show on Sunday and in the evening several friends helped break down my booth, load my truck and rearrange my gallery. Later that night, Henry Caldwell took my family and me out for an evening cruise in his historic 1898, mahogany, 37 foot electric boat on beautiful Lake George. A full moon rose over the mountains as we cruised silently across the lake. It was a wonderful end to the day.

And so I sit here with a monstrous black eye. I’ll have the stitches out on Tuesday and I anxiously await the news from my surgeon regarding my health. One thing for certain is that whenever I plan on being in the sun I promise to use industrial strength, heavy duty sun block. We fair skinned, light haired people don’t need any more radiation from the sun! And I’ve had enough radiation in my life to melt a moose! Ralph

PSSSS. The Adirondack Living Show held this past weekend was the best ever. Even though I was not there for most of the show, my gallery, five minutes from the exhibition hall, was filled with more people then ever who came from the Forum to see my gallery. Those artists who want a great place to show their creations should apply to exhibit at the show. And anyone wanting to see all things related to rustic living should not miss these shows, they just keep getting better and better!

All right I’m done!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

I've come to expect it. Strange experiences in airplanes, that is. I don't know why but I now realize that it's important to either fall asleep or be good at faking it on flights. Here's a few reasons. My recent flight from Albany to Minneapolis seemed just another connecting flight to me…until Mr. Know-It-All sat right down next to me.

"Hi, my name is……." I didn't catch his name. I didn't want to. I'd been up since three AM and just wanted to be left alone.

"I'm a tech rep for "so and so" computers". I wanted to say "I don't care…leave me alone".

"Do you work with computers?".

"Mister, I struggle with solitaire and can't even figure out how to open my emails". I hoped that would shut him up. It didn't. I wasn't being rude mind you. I was just encouraging him to let me have some peace for the moment. It didn't work.

And so for the next two hours and twenty eight minutes I listened while he described in detail the technology of modern day computers.

"The S-22 model of the KM microchip fits nicely into boards of the YXm35s", he said proudly. On and on he went like a dog in heat. He lost me after the first sentence. At the end of the more than two hour flight he handed me his business card and assured me that I was now ready to take on the world of computers. "Just call me if you need anything" he said. "I'll keep it in mind and many thanks for all the info", I said. I pray I never see him again.

All this brings something else to mind. Many of us in this world are bad listeners. Conversely, many of us can occasionally talk too much. A conversation should be a personal communication between two people. It's not about giving someone a lecture. We need to be able to react to the comments from others which requires actually listening to what others are actually saying. And then making a comment relevant to what the other person is saying. This is no easy task. Many of us are so locked into our own lives that we selfishly occupy lengthy amounts of the precious time of others. A good idea is to keep your comments to a reasonable amount of time and let someone else talk for a while. More on this at a later time.

Eventually, I got another flight and landed in Bozeman, Montana later that day. My car was ready and I drove to a hotel on the outskirts of the growing town of Bozeman. The following morning I met Queen Jacque Spitler at the office of architect Larry Pearson. Jacque is a great friend, a very talented lady and the manager of Larry Pearson Architects. Larry is perhaps the greatest living architect today. And I say this with no reservation. Arguably one of the nicest people in the world his talent is both mega-impressive and prodigious.

My book THE RUSTIC CABIN (2004) contained several of his homes and at present I am hard at work on a book titled THE WESTERN HOME due out in the fall of 2006. This new book is about the homes of Larry Pearson. Jacque and I were to spend the next week photographing several of his recent projects for this next book.

I will say from the start that world class homes are not the result of one individual. They can't be. They're far too complicated. Great homes are the result of an enormous amount of work completed by a host of enormously talented people. I'll talk about all the individuals involved in these projects in the text of the book when it comes out so for now sit tight. But I have to tell you. Some of the homes defy comprehension. The richness and warmth of the recycled woods and the craftsmanship required to complete the structures renews my faith in the originality, creativity and abilities of humanity. The character of these homes goes way beyond the norm. These places are really heavenly inspired.

And photographing these buildings is far more difficult then one can possibly imagine. In the past I've used only existing natural light to make images for my books. But the size of many of the buildings requires me to reconsider the time of day, type of film, possible supplemental lighting sources, etc., in order to get decent, useable images. And I'll also say that photography is a very poor medium in which to portray the uniqueness and grandeur of these homes. As a photographer I must admit that nothing can really adequately portray the "art" inherent in these residences. It's just not possible.

So much for that. My one mishap occurred in a gorgeous building that was many miles and hours into the interior of the Montana wilderness. A gorgeous home I photographed several settings in the place during the first two hours we were there. Unfortunately, the power went out in the complex and so I stood there with three others (all on payroll) for the next two hours with nothing to do. Finally, I called it a day and returned to my hotel. I'll have to photograph the building on my next visit there in September.

In general I can make photos for four or five hours a day. Then I get visually tired and usually spend the rest of the day having the film processed, doing errands or fishing. And when I'm in Montana I fish. Out of the seven days I was in Montana I fished five of them. The rivers were 'blown-out" and far too muddy for fly fishing so I signed up to utilize a few clear, private, spring fed streams that feed the Yellowstone River. Fishing was excellent. The water clear and cold, the air fresh and the fish rose as the sun poked its nose over the Rockies. Each morning deer wandered within a few yards of me as I slowly made my way down the middle of a twenty yards stream. My one mishap was when I stepped into a deep hole and completely submerged myself. To my horror my feet tangled in weeds and for a second I thought this might be the end of me. Fortunately, the weeds released their grip and I once again breathed the free air. But I did really contemplate the seriousness of the moment. I vowed to be more careful. Fear does strange things to people…. especially when you're alone.

Fishing was good to excellent. Hatches occurred and I caught seven to ten great Rainbows and Brown trout each day. Fly fishing, however, is not without its humiliating moments. At Nelsons (a private spring creek) I stood for four hours on one spot and was humiliated as hundreds of huge trout snatched bugs from the water all around me. I tried everything in my fly box and ended the day catching only one twenty-two inch trout on an emerger PMD (a fly about to hatch). All fly fishermen have had such experiences and such events are designed by the fish-gods to humble us lowly humans whose egos have begun to run amuck. And, it is humbling!

On one of the evenings I was in Bozeman the folks at Larry Pearson's office asked me to give a brief talk on Fly Fishing before a group that evening. So I prepared a twenty minute slide show and made arrangements to get to the meeting site. Being the author/photographer of the award winning book "Fly Fishing the Great Western Rivers" I find it very easy to speak on the subject. Little did I realize that the group I was speaking to was the Young Presidents Club of California. This is a group of mega impressive, young business leaders (30-50 years old) who are CEOs/Owners/Presidents of very large firms on the west coast. I opened my talk with the comment that "I thought I was to be talking before a group of Wal-Mart employees or Tupper Ware salespeople……but I suspect that after meeting many of the folks here that that is not the case!" The audience loved it and the ice was broken. Surprisingly many of the eighty or so people at the meeting knew me and of my books. I sold an additional 20 copies of my Fly Fishing book there and also had a great dinner with the crowd in a gorgeous ski resort in Big Sky, Montana. It was a very grand evening!

A week after I arrived my wife and daughter showed up. We were to travel to Glacier National Park to make photos for my new book on hickory furniture. At the last second we were able to get a room at the gorgeous Lake McDonald Lodge, a old structure complete with antique hickory furniture, classical antique rustic décor and a great dining room. Further, anyone who has been to Glacier knows of the "Drive to the Sun" road. The drive along the mountain ledges is enough to send even the hardiest of souls into cardiac arrest. I've driven it several times and my heart can't take it anymore so we went around the park and made our way into Canada.

Traveling with a six year old is no easy task and patience is the prime requirement when doing so. Every hour or so we stopped to see all the tourist attractions, the water slides, the ice cream shops, the miniature golf parks and the rest stops. Each night we had to stay at a hotel with a pool. But all went well.

My one chance for doing nothing for a few days came in Kamloops, B.C., Canada. That area is home to the largest trout in North America. We stayed at a great family resort complete with a swimming pool and other kids. The one unique thing about the resort was that the grounds were occupied by literally hundreds of marmots, picas and prairie dogs. At any given time you could see at least fifty of these little creatures. And it was mating season! These small creatures ran all over the place all day and night fighting with each other, screaming with high pitched squeals and making little babies. Sounded a lot like my college campus during the late 60's.

The guide I had hired to take me fishing forgot to write me in so I was left to my own resources. Fortunately, I was able to rent a boat and I happily hunted huge rising trout each morning and evening. Each outing was about three hours long and each time I was out I brought in two and sometimes three trout. Each was above twenty-four inches. My largest was twenty six inches. Tragically, I hooked the largest one in the gills and after a lengthy attempt to keep him alive he floated to the surface belly up. Most good fly fisherman today are "catch and release only" and I greatly regretted killing such a beautiful fish. However, the chef at the lodge masterfully cooked him up for us and we had a great lunch of fresh trout!

From there we traveled through the Canadian Rockies to Jasper National Park where we stayed at the Fairmont Lake Lodge. We delighted in feeding the horses but was less then impressed with the hotel which is touted as five stars. From there we traveled to Lake Louise to another Fairmont Hotel for a two night stay. This place was spectacular. Well worth the cost! While ascending the local ski gondola to the top of a mountain a monster male grizzly walked right under us. I made sure we did not fall from our open air seats. From there we traveled down to the Fairmont Banff Springs Resort for another two night stay. Another stunning place! There I went fishing on the beautiful Bow River and landed several nice Brown Trout while my six year-old daughter had her hair trimmed and nails painted at the Spa ($75)!

From there we went back to Glacier National Park and spent a relaxing afternoon being rocketed near the speed of light through water slides at the local water park. My stomach still has not settled down!

Once back in Montana we stayed at the famous Chico Hot Springs Lodge (life is not complete without a stay at this place) just south of Livingston, Montana. From there we spent a night at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone (always great but presently undergoing renovations). And then finally a night in West Yellowstone (a hotel with a waterslide) and then back to Bozeman. And during all the drives we stopped at every "fishy looking" river (so I could toss a few flies) and every gas station so Lindsey could have another Popsicle!

The flight home was of course eventful. A full flight in a small plane, we sat on the runway for more then two hours while they tried to correct some mechanical problems. The pilot politely opened the bar for free drinks and apparently everyone on the plane (including all the teenagers) was drunk within the hour. One "punk rock, heavy metal rapper" insisted on playing his music really loud and was asked, to no avail, by his inebriated mother on several occasions to turn down the "God Dammed" music. He didn't comply with her requests. We finally returned home at about four in the morning and passed out in our clothes.

And so here I sit with a pile of mail to open and more then a thousand emails to sort out. But the trip was worth it. I made many photos to be used in upcoming books and we also got to see some of the most beautiful scenery in North America.

Speaking of books: here's my plan for my future books during the next few years; including;

ADIRONDACK HOME, fall 2005
THE CABIN, fall, 2005
THE HICKORY FURNITURE BOOK, Spring, 2006
THE WESTERN HOME, Fall 2006
THE RALPH KYLLOE RUSTIC COOKBOOK, Spring 2007
THE RUSTIC ARTIST, Fall 2007

Speaking of books you should check out the following new titles, including

"Searching For the Sound" by Phil Lesh. This book was written by the bass player for the Grateful Dead. It's a personal insight into the evolution of the Dead and is great reading.

"The United States of Wal-Mart" by John Dicker. A fascinating look into the workings of the largest retailer in the world. (Once you read the book you'll never shop there again!)

"Alone and Under" by William Queen. A really great book about an undercover ATF agent who infiltrates a violent motorcycle gang. This book actually brought tears to my eyes and is one of the greatest books I've ever read. This is a very moving book and will be enjoyed by all who read it.

(I feel compelled to mention that the author of this book brought up several things that I found emotionally interesting. During his two and a half year association with the gang he became very close to the other members. They became his brothers. When his mother died no one in the police force he was closely associated with even acknowledged or offered sympathies of any sort. Each member of the motorcycle gang, however, including murderers, drug dealers and all-around bad guys offered their sympathies, hugged him and told him they loved him. During that period the agent almost gave up his police career and rode off to be a permanent gang member. And to some degree I would not have blamed him.

This section of the book was very poignant for me. When my own mother died a few years ago I was very surprised that many of my closest friends said nothing to me in terms of sympathy or even acknowledged my loss. I did receive a very heart warming letter from a friend of mine as well a very heart felt phone call from another musician friend in Chicago. I greatly appreciated hearing from both of them. I think that most of us don't know how to deal with death. The loss of someone close to you can be horribly tragic and no one can understand such turmoil unless they've been through it themselves. However, a simple acknowledgement or statement such as "I'm sorry to hear about your mom" really does wonders to help people through perhaps the most difficult period of their lives. I know I learned a lot about people during that period of my life and today, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes me feel, I make the effort to express my sympathies to those who need it. It's something we all should do. )

On another note the good people of Lake George, NY (where my family and I live) were recently notified by mail that there are three convicted sex offenders living in our county. This put the brakes on things for me and just about everyone who else lives here. As the father of a six year old daughter I am extremely protective of my only child. Throughout her year in Kindergarten my wife and I drove our daughter to and from school. Once we were notified of the existence of the sex offenders I began to look at everyone (both men and women) differently. I definitely was suspicious of all the single men hanging out at the school after classes. Frankly, I wondered if they were the offenders. It suddenly dawned on me, however, that they were probably thinking the same thing of me. In time, however, it became clear that all of the men were just there to pick up their kids but us regular parents became very suspicious of anyone unknown to us. Fortunately nothing (to the best of my knowledge) bizarre has happened here.

The month of August sees the Adirondack Living Show here in beautiful Lake George, NY. August 19-21 a hundred or so exhibitors set up their wares and sell stuff to the public here in the Adirondacks. In truth, it's a great show not to be missed by anyone interested in rustic lifestyles. Call Jeff Fraser at 518 371 6363.

Business continues to be great. Many of the really great pieces of rustic furniture have sold from my gallery and are time-consuming to replace. We still have a hundred or so great pieces on our gallery floor so don't hesitate to stop on by. Our 40% off sale on all Old Hickory items continues to be well received and we are placing orders with the company frequently.

My annual trip to Alaska is filling up fast. At present there are five of us going. There is room for eight. So if you are interested let me know as soon as possible. The dates we'll be fishing are September 29 through October 4. We'll be fishing the mighty Kenai River about 2 hours south of Anchorage. You'll catch up to fifty rainbows a day…all above 20". And these are huge fat fish! You'll also catch a bunch of monster fighting Dolly Vardens as well! And you'll also tangle with several 30" trout as well. And if you know what you're doing you'll be able to land them! You can also catch as many silver salmon as you can handle! We'll be staying at Gwins Lodge in Cooper Landing. If you want more info please call me. Beginners and spouses of any gender or orientation are more then welcome.

We'll that's about it. If I don't start returning phone calls and responding to emails I'll get yelled at so it's off to work I go. Keep in touch please, Ralph

PS. My ADIRONDACK HOME book is off to the printer. It will be available about October 10. You'll love this book as it shows many gorgeous homes and great furniture!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

I really hate being sick. I don’t think there is a worse human experience then nausea and vomiting although I’ve heard childbirth can be quite nasty. This past Thursday evening I stopped in for a quick sushi dinner before heading out to a gorgeous river with fly fisherman/rustic furniture maker Phil Kellogg. As I consumed my last bit of raw fish the sushi chef handed me a custom made delicacy complete with a touch of mayonnaise and sliced onion on top! (It must have been the mayonnaise.) A bit later I met with Phil and we fished for Brown Trout with Sulphers (a bug) till dark. We both caught a few fish and it was great to be on the water.

I got home well after dark and, like a good man, took the wrath of my wife for not calling to say I would be late. After we had our “little” discussion I sneaked a bowl of ice cream and several chocolate chip cookies as I watched a few episodes of the Chappelle show.

I woke up the following morning with every muscle aching. “Must have been a great workout walking up and down the river last night”, I thought to myself. An hour later I was doubled over and spent the next three days wanting to die. And so now the worst is over and I won’t bore people with the disgusting details of my illness. I suspect that each of us has our own stories about this kind of stuff. I don’t think it’s necessary to remind myself or others of the joys of good health. Little jabs in the ribs like the flu are sent to remind us of how lucky we are to have a few healthy days in our lives and to appreciate them when they come. It could be a lot worse.

On the down side to all this is that I had to cancel my trip to Indiana for a book signing in Nashville, Indiana last weekend. It was a well advertised event and I was looking forward to meeting new people and signing a few books! So I apologize to the good people in Indiana and the wonderful folks at the Old Hickory Furniture Company who were sponsoring the event. Bob and Rocco, I’ll make it up to you somehow…I promise!

Speaking of Old Hickory……we are still offering anything manufactured by the Old Hickory Furniture Company at 40% off their suggested retail price plus shipping. So give me a call and I’ll give you a great deal!

Years ago I contracted a very serious disease. Tularemia is a potentially fatal illness and people die from it. I was very ill for about four months. It was a dark time in my life. It cost me the use of one of my lungs. But I was lucky and I survived. I am always out of breath now and I often wonder if the illness took a few years off my life. If I hadn’t survived, however, I wouldn’t have written so many books about rustic stuff and just maybe rustic furnishings would not be as popular as it is today. So I guess that’s my legacy and the purpose of my life…..to document the evolution of a folk art movement. Its not really what I planned to do but I accept it. It’s a strange purpose in life but someone had to do it. So please excuse me while I ponder the meaning of my life for a while. Illnesses do that to people and I can assure everyone that I am grateful for every moment I am alive.

As long as I rambling on about this kind of stuff I have an unusual confession to make. I am a tormented guy. I really am. I don’t see myself as normal or well- adjusted at all. People who are busy all the time and can’t seem to sit still are usually individuals who have so much negative stuff going on in their heads they usually try to escape their torment by staying busy. And I fall into that category. I’m not kidding. Many of us tormented individuals are really bothered by “scary” thoughts. Stuff like this plagues us. But there is a difference between people who think about weird stuff and individuals who act on their impulses.

Fortunately there are all kinds of great outlets for people like us. I write books, play music, go fly fishing, make photos, enjoy nature, work. (Which, in truth, is really not a bad way to live!). Many of the most accomplished individuals in the world really are tormented people. But creative individuals find creative outlets for their energy. I’ve gotten to know many accomplished people in my life and once in a long while I’ll bring up the subject of motivation. Many times after a long conversation (which is always fascinating) individuals will admit to being plagued by unwanted thoughts. (Its more common then you think!) Expressing thoughts through art, writing, sports and unlimited other activities not only advances societies and humanity but is great individual therapy as well. Cultural activities are a socially acceptable way of expressing oneself and channeling ones energy. I used to think I was really nuts but when I think of a guy like author Stephen King (the horror writer) I wonder what’s going on in his head. I seem normal when I think of all the bizarre stuff that’s out there in the world.

But at some point you have to come to grips with who you are. You have to dance with the girl you came with. Learning to work on your strengths decreases your weaknesses. Trying to better oneself is a sign of maturity. And keep in mind that just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you’re getting better. Laziness and inactivity is the ultimate sin. Trying to better oneself and ones world is the ultimate quest and the reason we’re here. I hope I’m going in the right direction. I don’t mean to ramble on about all this …but I do get melancholy once in a while. So please excuse me for this brief moment of weakness!

On another thought last week I had my teeth cleaned at the local dentist. The person who cleaned my teeth was the ultimate sadist. I hate sitting in a dentist chair. It’s humiliating and degrading. Sitting there with a mouth full of metal equipment you’re supposed to answer their stupid questions with a smile on your face. And so this Nazi of a dental hygienist stabbed me enough to make me jump five feet out of the chair on each occasion. With blood running out of my mouth I asked her to take it easy on me as she had been very aggressive in her ultimate pursuit of universal oral hygiene. “Well, you don’t have to be so “snippy” about it”, she shouted at me. Frankly, this woman was the antichrist. I’m not kidding. Ten minutes later I was out of her torture chamber. I did not respond to her demand that I not wait so long between cleanings. I will not visit her again. I wrote a very factual, aggressive letter to her boss, the dentist. If you don’t stick up for yourself no one else will. People will walk all over you if you let them. Brutal people need to be put in their place and reported to their superiors. They also need to be subjected to their own brutality on occasion. It just might make them more sensitive to the indignities they so readily impart on others.

So it’s been a tough week. My new hyper fast, satellite, internet connection ($600 just to install it) only works when the sun is out and I know my editor is ready to shoot me because I couldn’t download the final text of my new book when I needed to. We’ve had severe storms here for the past several days. (Madge, it’s not my fault!)

Frankly, I’m thrilled with the design and editing of my new book, ADIRONDACK HOME! My dear friend editor Madge Baird has masterfully crafted and polished the book with a gentle hand. The writing is in my voice and the photos have been laid-out just the way I love them. I’ve featured about a dozen or so spectacular homes in the book and also included a gallery section of individual photos from various settings in the area. The homes themselves range from the very rustic to the ultramodern that include a few rustic touches to embellish their ambiance. Along with the architectural offerings I’ve also shown extensive examples of the works of rustic artists Barney Bellinger, Lori Toledo, Brian Kelly, Phil Kellogg, Chris Wager, Peter Winter, John Bennett, Robby Secor, Tony and Robin Williams, Randy Holden, and several other very talented individuals.

I do know that some people will be a bit disappointed with the final selection and use of the photos. We only have room for so many. I submitted (I think) 375 photos and we’ve used only 335 or so. The editor has final say so don’t be mad at me please! I’ve also included a short resource list. I did not include the names and address of individual artists. But I did mention home builders, galleries, architects, designers and a few others.

On the subject of books: I have a list of ten different books I’m presently working on. It will take me about four years to finish all of them but I’ll get them done. I love making the photos and meeting the new people. Their homes are usually gorgeous and their hospitality is very much appreciated.

Well, its now the second week in June. This week Americade invades my sleepy town of Lake George. Fifty thousand motor cycles and more then a hundred thousand individuals take over the southern Adirondacks. I won’t go to town now for the next week. There is no place to park and I can’t take the roar of the Harleys. Its funny though, these are not motorcycle gangs or outlaws. Most of the bikers in town are rapidly approaching the realm of the geriatric. Most of them are slow to get off their bikes and I can’t remember hearing of a fist fight in the more then ten years that I’ve lived here during bike week. But they do fill the motels, restaurants and bars and sing along to Grateful Dead tunes. All in all they’re a colorful group. They’ve found a calling and camaraderie with others who share their same interests.

But just to complain for a minute I personally believe that motor cycles and motor boats should be subject to the same noise standards as automobiles….but that’s just my opinion. Frankly, I’m sick of the roar on the roads and the roar on the water as cigar boats blast up and down the lake in search of their masculinity.

Actually, we’re moving in the right direction here in the town of Lake George. We successfully banned jet skis from our lake because so many drivers of these vehicles were driving them while drunk. Last year we had three deaths on the lake because jet skiers slammed into the 300 passenger tourist boats that cruise the lake. I guess that they just couldn’t see the three story boats that are more then a hundred feet long. How stupid can they get? And I’m certain at least one of the families of an individual who died will try to sue the steamship company because they “couldn’t see” the boat in broad day light. Or maybe the boat didn’t sound its horn to warn everyone in a fifty mile radius that they were on the move.

On another note, I had my first serious run-in with wine when I was 20. I had taken a drive during spring break from Illinois where I was an undergraduate student. We drove a VW van down to New Orleans. It was a real adventure. Once there we wandered in and out of the French Quarter and enjoyed the sights. Later that evening we found our way to a seedy area where a number of people stood around bonfires. These were real “ho-bo’s”. Living in crates and under bridges we eventually mingled with the residents of the area. Later that night we wandered back into town where we purchased six gallons of “Kook-a-Munga” wine at 59 cents a gallon (sic). And so I tried it. It wasn’t bad. But the wine actually had chunks of stuff in it and I didn’t know if it was grape skins or toe nails left over from when it was stomped into wine in someone’s basement. So for the rest of the night I ate a dozen donuts and drank a gallon of wine with about five or so homeless men standing around a bon fire in the middle of a freight car train terminal. I thought the whole thing was cool! What did I know?

I slept in a box for the next two days. I have never, ever had a hang-over like that. I was violently ill and wanted to die. Three days later my buddy picked me up and drove me back to Illinois. I spent the entire ride lying in the back of his van throwing up. I didn’t drink wine, any kind of wine, for more then twenty years after that.

My own father, a man I was never close to even though we lived together, had a rather pedestrian approach to alcohol. I can clearly remember him saying that “if it burns when I drink it and makes me dizzy, then it’s a good drink”. Today I don’t exactly follow that same principal but I guess its one approach to involvement with the spirits. A year or so ago I had dinner with a friend in Montana who mentioned casually that the wine we were drinking cost over a thousand dollars a bottle. I made sure I finished my glass and did my best to not spill any of it on the table cloth. I could also hear my fathers drinking philosophy roaring in my head. I wondered what he would say about expensive wine. I suspect he would rather have spent the money on fishing gear.

Well, business continues to be better then ever. We’ve made many deliveries in the past six weeks and took more orders then I ever have. It’s the high-stuff that’s selling. People want originality and uniqueness. They want things that are functional and gorgeous. They want special treatment. Seem like all of us want the same things out of our lives. I hope we all find it. My best to you, Ralph

Thursday, May 26, 2005

It's now about 3AM. As usual I'm up and about but on this early morning I'm very irritated with both my wife and daughter. Here's why. My daughter plays music around the house constantly. When we're in the car I usually loose the arguments about whose going to listen to what on the CD player. I even purchased my daughter a portable CD player so she can listen to her own music. So if I'm not listening to my daughter's music then I'm subject to the music preferred by my wife. For the past hour I've been lying quietly in bed trying to sleep…to no avail. The only music I hear in my head is either "I am a very Happy Moose", passionately beloved by my daughter, or the music of the Bee Gee's. I can't stand disco music and right now I hear "Stay'in Alive" blaring in my head. Right now I feel cursed. My wife also loves the music of "Meat Loaf" and I have my share of his music rumbling around in my head as well. How in the name of all the God's ever created by the human race am I supposed to get anything done when all I hear is Meat Loaf pounding away at my psyche? I can't take it anymore. And so for the next hour or so I'm going to listen to Jimmy Buffet on my office stereo and play endless games of solitaire on my computer. Maybe that will clear my thoughts and give me some peace and rest. Oh woe is me!

Here's my schedule for the summer and early fall.

This coming weekend I'll make several deliveries both in and out of state. Business has been quite extraordinary and, in truth, we've sold more furniture this month then during any other period during my past almost thirty years in business.

June 3-5 I'll be in Nashville, Indiana signing books during the "Log Home" celebration. Once the weekend is over I'll be in Indianapolis photographing a high-end golf course club house recently completely furnished with hickory furniture. From there I have to be in northern Indiana where I purchased several pieces of antique Old Hickory furnishings from an old lodge.

I continue to make progress on my hickory furniture book and will have the completed manuscript to my editor/publisher by July first. It appears that the book may be on the market in the spring of 2006.

Between June 17-19 I'll be attending a fly fishing workshop run by famed fly fisherperson Joan Wulff. This workshop will focus on just casting the fly rod. I never thought there would be anything else one could learn about throwing a tiny fly through the air but those who've attended the clinic swear by it. So I'll give it a try.

Between June 20 and July 6 we'll be in Bozeman, Montana photographing a few more high end-rustic homes designed by Architect Larry Pearson. Larry, for my taste and experience, is the most accomplished and creative of all the architects working within the rustic realm. Another of my upcoming books "The Western Home" (fall, 2006, $60), will again feature the works of this incredible architect. From Bozeman we'll travel up to Glacier National Park to photograph a few more homes. And from there we're headed up to Banff, Canada and then to Kamloops, Canada to fly fish for Rainbow Trout.

August again sees the Adirondack Living Show and once that is over I will be venturing out to the coast of northern California and on up to Seattle to visit the sites of recent installations and to photograph a few more homes. September sees the Adirondack Antique Show, the Rustic Furniture Fair and then the Western Design Conference. The first of October will be the date of my annual ten day fly fishing trip to Alaska and in November I'll be at the Fur Peach Ranch in Ohio to play music with my old buddies from Hot Tuna for four days. In late November I'll be back in Montana to photograph a few homes and to continue work on a few more books.

As we speak I am negotiating with my publisher and the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, Wyoming, to complete a wonderful book on the history, architecture and the collections of the museum. And I'm certain that my "spare" moments will be taken up with other projects as the summer progresses.

I spent Monday, May 23 in Manhattan. After a five hour drive through New York rush hour traffic I found a parking garage in the Wall Street district. After having my vehicle searched by three big guys I parked my car four floors below street level. Once I took the elevator to the main lobby I had to pass through a metal detector and have my brief case examined as well. From there I took a cab (I'll talk more about the ride in a minute) to Rockefeller Plaza. After finding the correct building I had to present photo ID's and have a security pass made up for me. Before the pass was issued the security team called the office of the individual I was to see to confirm my appointment. Ever present in the area were large, suited men that, I'm certain, were fully armed and prepared for anything. Before I could gain access to an elevator I again had to pass through a metal detector.

I had mixed feelings about all the security. Things aren't the same in America anymore. Especially in New York. In a small way I enjoyed the attention and I must say that I also felt safe as I navigated the system to gain access to the various people I wanted to see. I don't joke with any security people either in New York or in any airports. Most of the security people are dead serious and don't tolerate nonsense. I would not want their jobs for anything. And frankly, I imagine more of them would rather be doing something else then looking for the negative aspects of humanity all day. I must admit however, to see fully armed soldiers with loaded machine guns, battle helmets and flak jackets is a bit unnerving. But that's the world in which we live and that's where our tax dollars go. There is no free ride in the world today. It is the price we pay. Vigilance is a necessity.

New York City is a serious place and as a writer I often take notice of the more unusual aspects of human behavior. But keep in mind that when I write this stuff I am writing it through my eyes and how I personally experienced it. Some people prefer to see the glass as half full and others see it as half empty. I prefer to see the glass with lots in it and room for more. When I have spoken with others who have experienced the exact same thing with me they say that that they interpreted the experience differently from the way I perceived it. So who knows what life is really like? It's all subjective and open to personal interpretation. That's the nice thing about math. Two and two always equals four. There is no personal interpretation or arguments about the outcome. It's not a personal assault on someone and, fortunately, few people will ever disagree on the outcome. I wish more in life was that simple. Sometimes simple is better. How, as an incredibly diverse society, we have come as far as we have….I'll never know.

Driving into New York City Monday morning I noticed that several people were waving to me. I waved back! "Hey", I said to myself, "people are finally getting to know me from my books and I'm now finally being recognized for all my long years of effort". My ego was once again deflated when shortly I realized that the people were actually just trying to wave down a taxi rather than waving to me.

Speaking of taxis. Inside the back seat of all New York City cabs is the passenger "Bill of Rights". Along with the exact fare the cabs drivers charge are the following statements.

Passengers are entitled to the following, including;

1. Safe, courteous drivers who obey all traffic rules,
2. Knowledgeable drivers who speak English,
3. Air conditioning and heat when requested,
4. A noise free trip with clean air and no artificial scents.

Oh my God. What have we here?

My first cab driver was an interesting fellow. He had just finished his curry lunch. The vehicle "reeked" of his heavily spiced food. Further, he had an incense stick burning which reminded me of my college days. The smell instantly gave me a thunderous headache. The driver was from Pakistan. He could barely speak English. His turban nearly touched the ceiling of the cab. His lengthy beard, I am certain, protruded onto his lap and for forty five minutes I listened raptly while he went on and on about his hatred for Indians (the ones from New Delhi). "We will not use nuclear weapons on them but I think we should", he said in a high, squeaky voice. "They are all low-life's. I hate all of them". I could actually see his blood pressure rising as he went on and on. "My only son married an Indian. I hate him. I will never speak to him again. I hate him. I hate them." On and on and on he went, like a dog in heat.

And while he spoke he had loud blaring Pakistani music blasting from his "boom box". I had to admit that the music was rather "catchy". At least it wasn't the Bee Gees.

What could I say to all this? Sometimes its best, I reminded myself, just to shut up and experience the moment as it is and thank God when it's over. But in his own way he was an interesting fellow. Its far better to look for individuality and the uniqueness in things than to constantly ridicule people who are different from you. All living things have worth and who am I to debase others who have chosen a particular path in life different from mine.

As we made our way to mid town down Second Avenue the driver maneuvered his vehicle in excess of fifty miles per hour. I could see pedestrians fleeing for their lives as he ran another red light. I was actually hanging on for my own dear life as he was practically on two wheels as he turned corners. As he sat on his cushion of beads he actually looked quite comfortable as he honked his horn incessantly as if to let the entire world know that "HE" was coming. I wondered if the second coming of Christ will arrive in this guys cab. It might be appropriate because he sure got everyone's attention.

Once we arrived at Rockefeller Plaza I paid him his $39 and gave him a three dollar tip. "May all the gods bless you my friend and may our paths again cross as we seek the joys and bliss of the after-life", he said to me as I gently closed the cab door. I had nothing to say other than to praise God for allowing me to live in Lake George, New York, where deer and bear often wander through my backyard.

In time I wondered if he had ever read the Passenger Bill of Rights so clearly posted for all passengers to see in the back of his vehicle. I wondered if he would loose his license to drive if I reported him to the authorities. Who are the Taxi authorities in NYC anyway? I wondered what he would do if he could no longer drive his vehicle. I could only wish him well as he sought the bliss of the after-life. I'm certain I'll never see him again. But I can assure everyone that he will live on in my memories as the Bizarre Nightmare Cab Driver from Hell.

In time I made my way back to the Wall Street area where I had lunch with seven great gentlemen at the Anglers Club of New York. This was the second in a series of interviews necessary for membership in the club. Frankly, I'm thrilled to have been nominated for membership. The club is the oldest fly fishing club in America and will be celebrating their 100th birthday next year with a great celebration. All the members I had lunch with were impeccably dressed in three piece business suits. We talked for more then two hours. It was an incredible breath of fresh air for me as fishing is the only subject allowed to be discussed in the club. And so for quite some time we spoke of fly fishing all over America, the spring insect hatch, fishing in northern Scotland, the latest equipment, the evolution of the art and the club in general. The individuals I met were no doubt very influential business leaders in America and I suspect that the club is a profound respite within their complicated lives. Further, I was thrilled that several of the members knew of me before hand and had copies of many of my books. Some people have waited for years for membership invitations. Frankly it was thrilling just to spend a few hours with this group and I hope to do more of it in the future. We all need diversions in our lives.

This past Sunday I had high speed satellite internet service installed in my computer. We are next to the last house in Lake George and the powers that be are too cheap to run cable this far out in the country. So for the past five years I've had to settle for "dial-up" email and web service which is like waiting for the government to end all filibusters.

So the installer came out and tried his best to find a place for the satellite dish. He finally found what he was looking for in my front yard. "Kinda far from the house", he said. "I'll have to dig a trench". "How much?" I asked. "Three fifty a foot" he said.

So I marched off the distance. It was about a hundred feet.

"How deep do you have to go?" I asked. "About six inches" he said. "So that's three hundred and fifty dollars to dig the trench". "Yep" he said.

So I went to the tool shed, got a few tools including a hoe and dug the trench myself. The installer just stood there in disbelief for the full half hour while I dug the trench. He would have charged me $350 dollars to do what I did in a half hour. That's equal to $700 per hour. I think I'm going to change my career and did trenchs for a living. With that kind of money how can I go wrong?

Well folks, it's now time to put my daughter to sleep. Once she's gone to dream land I'm certain I'll lie there for an hour or so quietly resting. As I sit here at my desk I pray I will not be bombarded with the high squealing voices of the Bee Gee's or Meat Loaf. I need a little peace in my life. My best to all of you. Ralph

Monday, May 16, 2005

My penis is fine. Everything still works.

Right now you're probably saying Kylloe has gone off his rocker. Why in heaven would he say that? He must be nuts. He's got to be crazy. And you're probably right! And you may be thinking about unsubscribing from my newsletter. And frankly, I wouldn't blame you in the least.

But bear with me for a moment while I explain. Between May 12th and May 14th, along with all my business emails, I received 1,578 unwanted emails that I subsequently `deleted from my computer. I have the latest version of spam blocker from Norton anti virus and I've added just about all the deleted #'s to my "block-sender" list on my computer. And so I'm telling entire world right now that I don't need penis enlargement pills. I don't need Viagra or any of the hundreds of other medications offered on the internet. I don't want the latest guaranteed fat burning drugs. I don't want to refinance my homes. I don't need a mortgage. My homes are paid off. I don't want to buy land in Costa Rica. I don't want to know what my car is worth. I am not interested in marrying a woman from Russia, Rumania, Thailand or China. I am not interested in porno and don't want to see the latest bizarre sexual scenes between humans and animals. I don't want anti-aging pills for my cat. I don't want to meet lonely housewives. I don't need life insurance. I don't want any metal furniture from China. I don't play the stock market and don't want shares in moon mining exploration start-up companies. I don't want or need any new software. I don't want to learn a new language in two weeks and I don't need a guaranteed Ph.D. on-line for $50. I don't want printers ink and I don't want a fake Rolex watch for $50. And I will not be sending Mr. Shi Yu ten thousand dollars for a guaranteed percentage from the $24 million dollar account of General Ibrahim Moussa who will receive the funds once the Iraq war is over! So just leave me alone would you please! You people drive me nuts.

On another subject, I play in a very good Rock and Roll band. Its fun, its art and we do realize that we'll never replace the Beatles. A year ago we were playing in a bar and the song we were doing was somewhat boring. No one was dancing and I failed to see any individuals at least tapping their foot to the beat of the music. So I changed the tempo of the song (bass players can do that by speeding up the song.) I played more notes that included some very rhythmic melodies. The audience perked up and began to dance. This reminded me once again that each of us, ultimately, is responsible for making things better for ourselves and in the world. If we do not take responsibility for the quality of life in our own lives and on the planet no one else will. It's a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

I've been very busy for the past thirty days. First, the Minneapolis Lake Home and Cabin Show, then The Adirondack Living Show and finally the Brimfield Antique Market Place. Frankly, I'm exhausted. But, from my perspective, here are the insights from each of these events.

Because I no longer enjoy long drives I sent my furniture to Minneapolis on a truck. I just can't take sitting in a vehicle for thirty hours. So I flew. The flight was interesting to say the least. I don't know why but strange things happen to me on airplanes. The only seat left on the flight to Chicago was a middle seat near the back of the plane. It's just a two hour flight so it was no big deal. Within minutes two huge ladies appeared and one of them sat down on either side of me. Both of them needed an additional seatbelt to fasten themselves in. So needless to say both of them overcrowded the three seats and both of them had their arms in my lap. One lady wore a babushka. Both were plainly dressed. Both women had hair growing from their chins. They both spoke what I believed to be Polish. And so I spoke up and said "Yak Sha Mosh"! I think that's a greeting of some sort in Polish. With that both ladies broke into hysterical laughter. This was not your usual chuckle or giggle but a gut busting laughter that shook the entire plane. Their laughter was so profound that I could not help but laugh with them. Apparently they kept telling each other jokes because the laughter grew more profound with each comment from them. And I loved their laughter so much that I just couldn't help but join in. I really had no idea what they were talking about but honest to God it was really funny. Shortly beverages were served. I held my glass up to both of them and said "Dy boy sha" which is a Polish drinking toast. "Dy boy sha" both of them said back. We downed our ginger ales. Then one of the ladies started talking directly to me in very fast Polish. I had no idea what she was saying. As I was about to explain that I couldn't speak their language the other lady spoke right over me and told another joke of which the true meaning was obviously apparent to only the two of them. Both of them again broke into gut snorting laughter. I couldn't help but join in. I mean all this was really funny. And I just couldn't help myself. I laughed harder then I had in years.

A half hour later both of the ladies were sound asleep. Both their heads were on my shoulders. They were snoring so loudly I'm certain I lost another ten per cent of my hearing. Sometimes in life it's just best to go along with the spontaneity of the moment. As I write this I start laughing to myself with the thought of the two fat Polish Ladies with hair on their chins. It was probably the funniest two hours I've spent in my life. No one could ever understand the joy of that moment and words are completely inadequate to describe the experience. But it was one of those little gems in life that I'll carry to my grave. I hope I have more of them. Sometimes little experiences like the two fat ladies make life worth living.

The show in Minneapolis was not what I expected. Professionally run by promoter Dave Greer the show far exceeded my expectations. Two hundred and fifty exhibitors filled one of three huge rooms in the Convention Center in downtown Minneapolis. The move-in was easy. People were friendly and helpful. The city incredibly clean.

Minnesota is the land of lakes and water front cabins. They're everywhere. To my delight the people in that area had not been exposed to high-end rustic furniture. Most people who came into my booth were awe struck by the quality of the pieces I had with me. I sold a few pieces immediately. During the show I sold more then fifty books and signed many more for people who brought their books in for me to sign. One individual, early in the show, offered me $75, 000 for everything in my booth. I said no. I eventually sold most of the pieces by the end of the show and when he returned Sunday night he purchased a few things from me and ordered several more. Just before the show opened I was on TV four different times. I even shared the spot light with comedian Louie Anderson. He appeared just before me in the same studio and he and I talked and bantered with each other for several minutes during and after the interviews.

One interesting thing occurred while I was in Minneapolis. Right next to my show the national High School Dance Competition was being held in another hall. The competition went from seven in the morning to eleven at night. I was fortunate to sit in the audience for a few hours each day. The competition ranged between pairs all the way up to full production events that included seventy five dancers.

It was the first time in a long time that I felt strangely close to humanity. These were my people. This was humanity at its finest. People perfecting their skills and interacting with others as it should be. I just felt incredibly proud to be human. I was incredibly surprised at how talented twelve and fourteen year old kids can be. Life is no longer about me. It's about them and the continuity of the human spirit. We are so bombarded with the horrors of humanity it was a breath of fresh air to see people passionately in the pursuit of art.

But it was a long home show. The doors opened at nine and stayed open until 9PM. My wife was supposed to fly out to help with the show but our daughter came down with strep throat requiring the two of them to stay home. The long days were made worse by the fact that I was sharing a room with an individual who snored louder then Godzilla. I'm not kidding.

All in all I was thrilled with the show. More then 16,000 people walked through the front doors. We were definitely the hit of the exhibition and the many new people I met made the effort to visit the good people of Minnesota worthwhile. Now, a week after the show, I have received several other custom orders. Other individuals should strongly consider either exhibiting at the show or attending to see the many fine dealers.

A day after I returned from Minneapolis I had to pack my truck for the Adirondack Living Show held at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY. The doors opened at noon on Friday and then closed at eight pm. Friday was a busy day and customers were present until the doors closed. Saturday started off slow but picked up as the day went on. I sold several mirrors that were made by frame artist Lori Toledo. I also took several other orders for her mirrors. I left the show early because it was my wife's birthday. I took her to Georges on Lake George. We had an excellent dinner. Sunday was Mothers Day and everyone was surprised that significantly more people attended the show then on the previous day. All in all the show went well. The one humorous thing that happened was when a section of curtain fell. Behind the curtain sat a young woman breast feeding her infant. Needless to say that she and the many people who saw her were a bit surprised! The only hard part of the show was breaking down my booth. We had to bring furniture down a flight of stairs. I didn't get home until nearly ten PM.

Shows are funny things. They take an enormous amount of work. If you do well at the show you love the show promoter. If you didn't sell anything you curse the promoter because it's all his fault. Few people ever take responsibility for having less then desirable merchandise or asking too much money for the things they're selling or having the same merchandise in their booth show after show. Jeff Frazer, the promoter of the Adirondack Living Show, runs a great exhibition. It's well advertised, professionally run and he even offers a great Saturday night party for his exhibitors. Next time you're in the area be sure to check out his shows!

The following morning, Monday May, 9, I packed my truck and was out of town by 10AM. Three hours away is the sleepy town of Brimfield , Massachusetts. Three times a year five thousand antique dealers and more then fifty thousand retail collectors invade the town in search of treasures. I started walking by one PM and didn't stop until about eight in the evening. I bought and sold many things on the spot. I also picked up several great pieces of antique rustic furniture which I'll offer through my gallery. The following morning I was on the fields at four AM and walked the shows until about eight PM. By that time my feet were worn raw. When I was younger I could run the shows for fourteen hours a day. Nearly fifty eight years old now, I can assure everyone that I suffered greatly as did my best to find "the stuff"!

The antique rustic furniture business is different now from what it was twenty years ago. Then I was the king. No one else wanted the stuff and I could load my truck and trailer with great pieces easily. Now days everyone has jumped on the rustic bandwagon and prices have sky rocketed. And I must admit that I feel a bit protective about my position in the business. I missed several pieces I wanted but, and I've always adhered to this principal, if you work hard you'll get your fair share. And I did purchase several really great pieces of Old Hickory and many really great rustic accessories like camp signs, snow shoes, and other related items as the days went on.

I have not missed a Brimfield show in twenty eight years. And I know lots of people there. It's funny to see the same people and to hear the latest gossip. Many people have died throughout the years and many people have gone on to new things. Some have divorced and everyone is older now and showing it. The hunt for the treasure is the same. Its no different then the Klondike or California gold rush.

And I've changed as well. I no longer beat people up on prices. I'll negotiate with people but I know when to stop. I try not to make a fool out of myself. Other people deserve to make a living as well.

I returned home late Wednesday night and unloaded my trailer with my treasures. I then passed out on the couch. Thinking I could take Thursday off I was not surprised when people wanted my attention all day.

It's tough to get old. But strangely, I love what I do. It's not work to me. I get tired, yes, but I still love just about everything about my business. I consider myself an incredibly lucky guy. I hope others feel the same way about their life's work.

During the past month or so I've read the following books. I strongly suggest you look at these, including:

1. Stephen Hawking: A Life in Science. By M. White and J. Gribbin. An absolutely great book about the wheelchair bound astrophysicist. Some sections are a bit advanced but you love the book.

2. The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Green. This is an advanced book but explains the advances in science regarding the Universe in which we all live.

3. The Artists Way. Julia Cameron. This is the best book I've read in a long time. I've learned more stuff about my own personality and art then I thought possible. The author will bring out the artist in all of us and ultimately make us all better people. Trust me when I say you'll love this book.

During the past ten years I've kept a very low profile regarding rustic antiques. Just to keep the record straight I still buy and sell a few hundred pieces of antique rustic furniture a year. I just don't advertise it. But just to let people know that I'm still very active in the business I am adding a new section to my website. Titled "Antique Rustic Furnishings", be sure to check out the section as I am now offering some very great pieces on my site. And if you have something to sell please send me a few photos. The new section should be up on my website within the week.

And thank you all for your support in renaming my upcoming book on Adirondack stuff. I received hundreds of votes and have successfully convinced my publisher that the book should be titled ADIRONDACK HOME. At this point I am incredibly proud of the book. Unfortunately, it won't be on the market until late September. Nonetheless, I will be posting a copy of the cover for your enjoyment! The book sells retail for $60. However, just to let everyone know how much I appreciate your support I am offering this book to the first one hundred subscribers who contact me at the price of $40 plus $9-$12 for delivery. That's cheaper then Amazon or other book discounters! In truth, this will be my best book yet. I used a larger format camera and the transparencies have reproduced far better then I expected.

And so now I have to run over to my cabin on Lake George. We're putting in my docks today and I'll get yelled at if I'm late. I look forward to the summer season and I hope to be able to enjoy the Adirondacks more then I have in the past. On the other hand, I have no problem hanging out in my gallery talking with the greatest people on earth and offering the greatest rustic furniture that world has ever seen! And I'm not the least bit biased! My best to you, Ralph

PS. I have a significant amount of documentation on rustic furniture artist Reverend Ben Davis. Davis created furniture up until the 1940s. I've featured his pieces several times in my books and one of his cabinets was featured on the cover of my book Rustic Traditions. I would like to present his work in a small book just about him. The paper back book will cost less than $20. As I will have to publish this by myself I want to make certain people are going to buy the book before I spend $3,500 to have it printed. If anyone is interested in seeing his work in print let me know please.

PSS. Within the week I'll be posting another fifteen or so new pieces on my website. So check back please. My best to you, R

Sunday, April 17, 2005

I love Key West. I really do. I love wandering around admiring the architecture, the marinas, the lush green scenery, the food and the laid back atmosphere. And I’m not ashamed to mention that I’ve been known to spend a night or two frequenting the bars. Although I’m not one to over do things I love the expression “when you visit the bars in the lower Keys you’ll probably crawl home on bended knees.” In truth, just about everyday of my life I try to think of ways to retire and live there permanently. In fact I’m in Key West right now as I begin to write this edition of my Newsletter.

I began coming here about thirty years ago. As a treat I rented a room in a nice B&B. The man at the front desk smiled at me politely as he showed me to my room. “Come on down for evening cocktails”, he said. “It’s by the pool just after sunset”. “Great, I’ll be there” I mentioned. Nice people, free cocktails and something to do in the evening. What the heck?

So I wandered around town for the day and in the evening I ventured down to the pool where a number of chairs were neatly arranged. I had a few drinks and enjoyed some light conversation with some of the other guests. At eight PM the host asked that everyone be seated and moments later rather loud blaring music blasted from the in-house PA system. Then an announcer declared “And here he is folks, direct from New Orleans…..Mr. Fabulous!” The guests started screaming. With that this meat-head, muscle bound Arnold Schwarzenegger looking guy jumps out from behind some curtains and starts dancing all over the place. He was only wearing a tiny g-string as his muscles bulged all over the place. The fifty or so people in the audience went wild. Frankly, I didn’t know what to do. To me it was embarrassing. Then it dawned on me that there were only men in the audience. But I was cool and didn’t make a fool of myself. In time I was asked to dance by a guy with earrings. I politely declined. Shortly, several other “guests” arrived and I could only wonder about the mental health of certain aspects of humanity when I realized that the new guests were in full drag. I tried as much as possible to appear nonchalant and comfortable but all this really drove my anxiety level to new heights. Men were now swimming naked in the pool and shortly I noticed several “couples” in compromising positions in full view of the rest of the party. I was invited to participate in these activities but politely declined. Shortly, after I finished my drink I snuck up to my room packed my clothes and departed. “You’re leaving so early?” the front desk clerk asked. “Unfortunately, yes” I said. “Too bad….it really gets going here later on. Would you care to make another reservation?” the desk clerk asked. “I don’t think so” was my only response. “Too bad” said the clerk. “I’d love to get to know you” he said as I departed. I didn’t respond.

Although I had paid for a room at the B&B I slept in my car that night and watched the sun rise over the Southern Most Beach in America in the morning. Sometimes, some things in this world are a bit too strange for me.

But, in truth, I love Key West. I still bring my family there and we always have a great time. We just stick to the heterosexual B&Bs and don’t go to the weirdo bars or hang out with guys with too much lipstick.

Thursday, April 7, 2005. Key West. I wander on over to a barber shop on Fleming Street as few blocks off Duval Street. As I walk I always stop to feed the chickens and cats that are just about everywhere. Once inside the shop I sit down in a chair as I wait for the barber to finish up on another customer. I pick up a tattered magazine and peruse the pages of a year old Playboy. Moments later I’m invited to sit in the barber chair and once there am wrapped in a sheet to prevent my now gray/white hair, which will shortly be trimmed from my head, from falling on my worn Grateful Dead tee shirt.

“How do you want me to cut your hair?” asked the barber. This seemed to me like a straight forward question. But, in truth, I sometimes/many times say some things that some people find strange or offensive. I have a tendency to just joke and kid with lots of folks. That’s part of my nature. Those people who know me enjoy my bantering and find me easy going. But not everyone. And I never know when the “dark side” of humanity will raise its ugly head. I don’t intend to be offensive but sometimes things just come out wrong, or are completely misconstrued by some malcontent. And sometimes some people are just having a bad day. It has nothing to do with me, mind you, it’s just things aren’t always right with some people.

“With a pair of scissors”, I said.

“What do you mean by that crack?” asked the barber. “What are you some kind of wise guy? If I cut your hair with a pair of scissors it’ll take me all god damned day and I don’t have time for that shit. I bet you’re from New York. All you New York people are wise asses. You come down here and drive the prices so high that no one can afford to live here anymore. This place is now a mad house because of people like you. I used to love it here but you people ruined it.” On and on he went. Half way through the experience he lit up a Cuban Cigar and blew smoke directly in my face. For fourteen minutes I endured his scathing insults and sarcasms. And with each on- going statement he flashed his scissors and electric clippers just inches from my eyes and throat. I started to wonder if this might be my last haircut. The other people in the shop who were also waiting for a hair cut looked perplexed at the barber’s behavior and I thought they all just might walk out.

In time I was spun around in the chair and forced to endure more of the barber’s wrath. “Here’s your God Damned hair cut. It’s fourteen dollars and I don’t take credit cards” he said. I looked in the mirror. He had done an excellent job. I took the money out of my pocket and paid him. I also gave him a two dollar tip! “Very nice haircut”, I said directly to him as I further admired his handy work in the mirror.

After I left the shop I wandered down to the Half Shelf Raw Bar on the waterfront and had a dozen raw oysters and several pina coladas. Sometimes it’s just best to ignore provocative situations and compliment people when they do a good job. Other times I wish some people would be run over by a God Damned Mack truck or get attacked by flesh eating bacteria. God help us all.

Each evening I fished for Tarpon with my friend Keith Shorts from Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The first night we hired a guide who billed himself as the best guide in the Keys. Out on the flats we caught nothing for five hours and had to listen to him while he rambled on about communists, women, the Cubans, beer, the government, the Iraqis, fishing and all sorts of other stuff. He talked for five straight hours. As the sun set he commented, “The fish just aren’t biting”. We went back to the dock with no fish in the boat.

We hired a different guide the next day. This new guy was the hardest working guide I had seen in a long time. If the fish weren’t in one spot we traveled to other areas. At 7PM I landed a huge 110 pound tarpon. An hour later I fought with a sixty pound fish. He towed us out into the Gulf of Mexico where tragically, ten feet from the boat, he was attacked and cut in half by a ten foot shark. Scared me to death. I will never swim in the ocean again. Keith also caught several fish that evening and we both agreed that it was one of the finest fishing experiences either of us ever had.

The next evening we went out again. Keith landed another huge 100 pound tarpon and I brought three more big fish to the boat. All were released back to the water.

But this guide was also strange. He yelled at both of us all day and night. I couldn’t do anything right around him. I asked stupid questions, couldn’t cast correctly, didn’t fight the fish properly, stood in the wrong part of the boat, didn’t move fast enough and on and on. But talk is cheap. And sometimes it’s just best to ignore those with troubles far beyond one’s individual comprehension. He put us on fish and we had plenty of action. The other guide did not. I don’t care how strange someone is I just expect them to do their job. We gave him a hundred dollars in cash as a tip.

My family and I arrived back home in Lake George, NY, at one AM on Tuesday, April 12. I fell asleep immediately. The alarm went off at 6AM. Ten minutes later an eighteen wheeler showed up at my gallery with a delivery. It took almost two hours to unload the truck. I was on the road by 9:30 AM. I was to have lunch at the Anglers Club of New York with a client of mine. After searching for the place in downtown Manhattan I finally found the correct entrance way. I rang the bell and ascended a flight of steep stairs to the club. The club itself is an old world association in a wonderful old world brownstone building. I had a great lunch with three wonderful gentlemen. Everyone there was in three piece business suits. I presented the club with a complimentary copy of my book FLY FISHING THE GREAT WESTERN RIVERS. Everyone was impressed. I was also invited to apply for membership in the club which is a big deal if you’re into fly fishing. I am presently in the process of completing a lengthy application form and look forward to the interview process.

That evening I spoke about the Adirondacks before a group of about fifty people. The meeting was held at the Metropolitan Club off of Central Park. The Club is a mega impressive building geared to “wow” anyone who walks in the front door. The group of impressive business types were clients of the firm Bear, Sterns. After diner and cocktails the group bantered with me as I showed slides of Great Camps and impressive Adirondack scenery. It was a grand event. It cost $77 to park my car for the evening.

Speaking of high prices. A latté (whatever that is) now costs about $6-$7 depending on where you live. Just to do some research I ordered half a cup of coffee and a half pint of milk at a B&B where I was recently staying. I poured the milk into the coffee, closed the lid and violently shook the cup. I then handed it to a friend and after tasting it she said that “that’s one of the best latté’s I’ve ever had. Thank you!” There’s a lot to be said for marketing and presentation.

Business has picked up dramatically in the past month. People are beginning to wander up to the Adirondacks and we have agreed to be involved in several major projects including ski lodges, B&Bs, private residences and other concerns. We also are just at the beginning of talks involving a huge project regarding a log structure based on Alaskan architecture. I’ve been asked to oversee the entire project. We’ll see what comes of this.

Our 40% off all Old Hickory products continues to draw attention. We’ve sold a ton of stuff and have decided to continue with the sale. Just to clarify things: the prices for Old Hickory items on our website are already about 20-%-30% less then what Old Hickory suggests we sell them for. But please call us and we’ll give you the best prices we can. To see the entire Old Hickory collection go directly to www.oldhickory.com

We’ve also been asked to be involved in a new TV program that will feature several very high end rustic homes. Time will tell what comes of this venture.

We continue to offer copies of “hurt” books at the price of $15 per book plus shipping. I’m not certain how many copies the publisher has left but please feel free to contact me regarding this offer.

We are presently at the “yelling” stage of my Adirondack book. The publisher wants to call the book ADIRONDACK RUSTIC which I think is a stupid title. I’m arguing for either THE ADIRONDACK HOME or ADIRONDACK RETREATS. Let me know which title you prefer please. The book will be out in September. And I’m certain that we’ll have several “heated’ disagreements regarding the design and layout of the book. But we’ll get it done and on the market.

We will be exhibiting at the Lake, Home and Cabin Show on April 29-May1 in Minneapolis. This promises to be a great show. There will be more then 250 exhibitors. I’ve also been asked to be on TV for a lengthy interview regarding the direction of rustic living, rustic furniture, etc. I will be appearing on KARE channel 11 in Minneapolis. Call Dave Greer at 888 471 1192 for more info on the TV program and the show!

I’ll also be exhibiting at the Adirondack Living Show held at the Pepsi Arena in Albany, NY, May 6-8. This is a really great show and I’ll be bringing several exceptional pieces of rustic furniture. Call Jeff Fraser at 518 371 6363 for more info on this show.

My business is more complicated now. The phone rings often and people want info on all sorts of things. I spend a lot of time putting out fires and doing things I care little about. I probably won’t open my Keene Valley store this summer and will wait patiently until someone comes along to buy the property. I have more then I can do here in Lake George. And I don’t want more headaches in my life. Once in a long while I think about my life and my career. Selling rustic furniture is not what I wanted to do as a young man. But so much of my life is fulfilling that I do my best to dwell on the good things and try to resolve any business related problems that seem to arise more frequently then I wish.

Jackie, my cat died a few days ago. It’s strange how animals affect ones life. She came to me every night for a five minute “kitty massage”. Then she hopped off my chest and fell asleep in the arms of my wife. She was old and lost more than half her body weight during the last few months of her life. Once she couldn’t walk anymore I took her to the vet who gently filled her old body with enough sedative to put her to rest. I wanted her to die peacefully and with dignity. After a brief ceremony we buried her in our back yard. I think of her often.

It’s strange that we treat our pets, both in life and in death, better then we treat our fellow humans. The Florida case is a prime example. To starve someone to death disgusts me. If they knew she was going to die then give her enough morphine to let her go in peace. People deserve something better then bunch of hypocrites of sitting around arguing about the quality of life. To starve someone to death goes way beyond the realm of inhumanity.

On another note spring is finally here in the Adirondacks. The snow is mostly gone from the mountain in my back yard and the ice is off the lakes and ponds. Soon the black flies and mosquitoes will be here. But with them comes the green leafs and warm breezes. Soon the trout will be rising and during the first week of June Lake George will see the invasion of more then 50,000 motorcycles as Americade takes over my town for ten days. I try to leave town when the motorcycles arrive.

My band is once again organized and recording. We’re primarily a jam band and often venture into improvisational forays that thrill me. Music is an unspoken language. Musicians often retreat into the solitude of their music. Our instruments often become our temples. I have a tendency to wander off and forget about the real world when I practice. It’s peaceful there. We all need that once in a while. My best to all of you, Ralph

Tuesday March 15, 2005

Hi Folks. I’ve been receiving a number of emails lately wanting to know when my next newsletter will be coming out. In truth, I see myself as having been lazy for the last six weeks. Sometimes it’s hard for me to motivate myself. When I was in undergraduate college I took an independent studies course in photography. I didn’t meet with my professor for the first three weeks into the semester. When I showed up he asked where I had been. I said that I hadn’t felt motivated or inspired to create anything and was waiting until I felt “the spirit move me”. With that comment he blew his stack. Life is not about waiting for things to happen, he said. Life is about getting things done regardless of how you feel. He told me to resign from his class immediately. I apologized to him and said that I saw his point. He was, of course, correct. He let me stay in the class.

So when ever I find that I need to get some work done and I don’t “feel” like doing it, I loose my temper with myself. “Strike the God Dammed keys” I say to myself when I’m at my computer. I don’t care what letter I hit but I force myself to get going. The approach works 80% of the time. The other twenty per cent of the time I take a nap, play my guitar or rearrange my fly fishing gear.

Most of us have a lazy streak in ourselves. I certainly do. In truth, however, I work seven days a week and I feel horrible when I just sit around. I suppose it has a lot to do with feeling comfortable with oneself. Frankly, I am not and I keep busy to avoid thinking about all the crap that’s happened in my life and continues to happen. It’s an avoidance thing. Right now I have some serious problems that just don’t seem to go away. And they’re having an effect on my life and my own productivity. Once I resolve all this I’ll write about it. It will make a great novel. But not now.

SUCH A DEAL!

I have received a number of “hurt” copies of my books from my publisher. These are books that have some very minor wear on the cover. Since I can’t sell them as “Perfect” I’m offering them at a really low price. Right now I have copies of THE RUSTIC CABIN, CABINS AND CAMPS and RUSTIC ARTISTRY for sale. I am selling these slightly blemished copies for $15 each, plus $8 shipping. That’s right….$15 each plus shipping.! My books are normally $60 each so this is a great deal! This is a perfect opportunity for people to include some of my books in their libraries at a dirt cheap price! I’ll happily sign the books and send them off to you! Don’t miss out on this sale as I have about fifteen copies of each of these books. Email me or call my office at 518 696 4100.

JUMPING AROUND

It’s now Monday, March 14, 2005 and I’m sitting here thinking about the past two days. Last Wednesday a gentleman stopped by my gallery and mentioned that he was promoting a large show this weekend in my town of Lake George. It was the annual Whitetail Classic and geared toward hunters. One of the exhibitors had dropped out at the last second and four booths were available at a greatly discounted rate. Assuming that the show would draw all kinds of cabin and camp owners I accepted his offer. So on Friday afternoon I drove a truck load of great stuff to the hall which was no more then fifteen minutes from my home. The set up was easy and several people help me unload my vehicle.

And so the show opened at ten AM on Saturday. From the start I knew I was visiting another planet. Just about every one of the hundred or so exhibitors were selling guns and/or hunting gear. Several hundred animal mounts were also on display. Further, along with the chewing tobacco and Budweiser exhibitors my favorite concession was the booth that offered bibles complete with camouflage covers. “Something to help you get right with God while you’re waiting to harvest the deer of a lifetime” pitched the salesman. I passed on his product.

All the attendees looked exactly alike. Easily sixty percent of the people attending wore camouflage outfits. Almost all of the kids eight and under had their camo outfits on and a pair of four year old twins was complete with camo pants, jackets, shoes and hats. A tiny baby was covered with a soft camo blanket. The best one was a man pushing a camouflaged baby stroller.

Every man wore a hat advertising some sort of hunting product and every man had his fair share of facial hair. Further, I took special notice of the several men who entered my booth who had chewing tobacco running down their chins.

I was set up near the loading dock which meant I had no heat. I nearly froze to death sitting in my booth. The individual set up next to me was selling artificial animal calls. When activated these devices mimicked ducks, elk, turkeys, geese, and a bunch of other unknown animals. Not surprisingly, the calls were louder then a Who concert. On and on the calls went…all day long. I’m certain I lost a significant part of my hearing due to the frequency and volume emanating from this booth.

Hundreds of people entered my booth and asked questions.
“Are these real antlers?”
“How do you get the bark to stay on?”
“Why is this stuff so expensive?”
“How do you build this or that?”, and on and on.

Several people made photos of my booth with my full knowledge that they were just going to go home and copy my furniture. I argued with one guy and realized that he had his five hunting buddies with him. “Why tempt fate” I asked myself. These were not the kind of people who would understand my concerns or attempt to settle things peacefully.

    Along with the retail people I was approached by a few dozen individuals who wanted me to:
  1. donate a piece of furniture to their charity,
  2. join their organization,
  3. advertise in their publication,
  4. subscribe to their publication,
  5. put my things in their soon-to-open gallery,
  6. give them the names of my artists so they could buy things directly from them, and on and on.

Frankly, I am not a hunter. I just could not shoot a deer or a bear. I’ve have never understood killing something, cutting its head off and hanging it on your wall. But in truth, I don’t have a problem with killing something if your intention is to eat it. But people who shoot lions or bears just to stuff them are beyond my comprehension. For instance, people go to Alaska just to kill grizzly bears. Hunters never eat grizzlies. They just kill them for their skins. I just can’t understand the need to kill something if your intention is not to eat it.

And throughout the weekend I listened patiently to dozens of stories about killing this bear or that deer with this or that rifle. And I was good throughout the weekend. I didn’t cause a scene. Fully realizing that I was completely out of my element I kept my mouth shut and I didn’t argue with anyone.

Late Sunday afternoon one of the gun dealers came into my booth and for over an hour gave me a lecture of the virtues of his recently designed mussel loader. Forty five minutes into his lecture I was incredibly bored and reluctantly agreed to swap him one of my Amish rockers in exchange for his 45 caliber rifle. I really didn’t want a gun but he was such a persistent salesman I just gave in. Moments after I accepted the gun my wife came in told me I was nuts. A few minutes after that Tom Welsh offered to swap me an antler chandelier for the gun. And I actually made money on the deal! I told my wife it was all part of a well conceived plan on my part! She was proud of my astute business ability!

The day ended with no major sales but you never know what will happen six months down the line. You only need one customer and that can happen at anytime. The show is best summed up for me with the statement from one of the many people who visited my booth. “Your stuff is worth more then my truck” he said.

ON ANOTHER NOTE

I recently finished my Adirondack book with a final flurry of activity. I had to finish photographing several different homes in Connecticut and New Hampshire, complete the text, write the captions, type out the resource list and a bunch of other stuff. It took about six weeks to complete the last 15% of the book.

Captions are the hardest things to write. How many different ways can you write “yellow birch table with rustic lamp”? Its gets incredibly redundant after a while and I feel like I’m just repeating myself over and over again. And I had to write 375 captions!

In truth, I’m very happy with the book. We’ve had some disagreements on the photo for the cover but it appears that we’ve worked out the difficulties. The next potential nightmare is the actual design and layout of the book. I hate it when someone takes a scissors to my photos in an attempt to “improve” them. There are many days when I just want to crawl in a cave and stay there. Sometimes, many times, I just can’t stand other people. Just leave me alone please. But, unfortunately, I can’t do it. Maybe in a few years… but not right now. I have too much to do. And, in truth, none of us live in a vacuum. Working with others, although never easy, is a necessity in the world today.

Most people will be incredibly happy with the book. Some will hate me for it. I’m certain I’ll be cursed to hell for all eternity by a few. Here’s why. I can’t include everyone in this book and I continue to feature several of the same rustic artists in my books. The reason for that is that they are the best in the business. Their work is extraordinary. They earned it and they deserve the free PR. Not only do I feature their works of art in my books but I sell their products in my store as well. And I don’t take their things on consignment. I buy their products. Many of them live right on the “edge” and they (and their families and employees) need the money.

In truth, I made 395 photos for the book. We’ll use only 350. It’s the editor who makes the final cuts. So if someone is going to be mad contact my editor please…not me.

Further, I am not including the names of any individual artists in the resource section of the book. Only galleries (where you can buy things), architects, designers, decorators, builders and a few other categories will be included. The reason for this should be obvious to anyone who owns a small business.

All in all I love making the photos for my books. And I love getting the slides back from the lab. For me its art at it’s finest. And I love writing the text. As mentioned earlier the captions are another story. Strangely, however, receiving a first run copy of the book is anti climatic. I usually don’t even look at it. I’ve been onto to something else for months.

Usually, I finish my books in Key West. This time however, I got incredibly sick while we were down there and stayed in bed for five straight days. My first day down there however, I went fishing with my family and landed this four foot tarpon as seen above. After that it was all down hill. I had a horrible ear infection and the flu. It just wasn’t fun at all and I feel cheated out of my vacation. Oh woe is me.

This year I’m also coming out with a small $10 hard-cover book called The Cabin. The brain-child of my editor, the book will feature many of my photos that appeared in my other books. It’s meant to be a point-of-purchase, little gift book just to stimulate the interests of gift givers. And at ten bucks it’s certain to sell lots of copies!

Speaking of books this year will see two from me and 2006 will see the introduction of another large book from me called the Western Home. At the same time I will be publishing a large full color book on hickory furniture. Both of these books will be significant additions to the on-going documentation of the rustic movement in America. The following two years will see the publication of four more books by me which will continue to explore and emphasize the art of the rustic!

The books continue to sell so I might just as well stay busy. It beats sitting in front of the TV watching Rambo reruns.

Not surprisingly, the entire rustic movement continues to grow. Along with all the knock-off stuff that’s being made in China I correspond with individual rustic artists in Israel, Rumania and Ireland! It’s very intriguing for me to see the different forms that come out of different parts of the world. In true folk art fashion artists from around the country are using materials found right outside their back doors!

And the Cabin ethic continues to grow as well. The Adirondack Living shows here in the east are enjoying more and more popularity. The first Adirondack Living show this year will be at the Pepsi Arena the weekend of May 7. Call Jeff Frazier at 518 371 6363. I’ll be exhibiting there and am looking forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones!

A new show in Minneapolis has also caught my attention. The Lake Home and Cabin Show will be held the weekend of April 29. This promises to be a great show as more then 250 exhibitors (myself included) will be showing their wares. Call Dave Greer at 888 471 1192 for more information of this show.

On the other hand here are a few comments that just don’t sit right with me. Something’s I just can’t understand. For instance scalping (I’m referring to buying tickets and then selling them for a higher price……., not chopping someone’s scalp off) is against the law here in America. And yet if you check out the internet you can buy tickets to the Super Bowl at ten times their original costs. Would someone please tell me the difference between standing in front of a stadium selling tickets and selling them on the internet?

I very big into not regulating actions agreed upon by two consenting adults…as long as it’s not hurting anyone. If I want to purchase something that’s not illegal and I have someone that’s willing to sell that item to me…why not?

That goes for prostitution as well (I can see the hate mail now). If two people agree on something and it hurts no one else…why not? If prostitution were legal we would see far fewer violent acts of abuse and rape. The oldest profession in the world has been going on for thousands of generations and is not going to be stopped by our government. The next time you’re in a big city check out the Yellow Pages phone book. Look under massage parlors. Every possible sexual adjective is used to advertise these places. If prostitution is against the law how come massage parlors are not put out of business?

And for the life of me I just can’t see sending someone to prison to twenty years for smoking a marijuana joint. This kind of stuff drives me nuts.

There is also the recent controversy over the brain damaged woman in Florida. Her husband wants her feeding tube disconnected. Some guy just offered him a million dollars to keep her on the tubes. Why doesn’t this guy realize that 40,000 kids die each day of starvation? Why not take the $one million and feed all the kids who need food around the world. How hypocritical can he get?

Then there’s the whole gay marriage thing. Frankly, I think these people are a bit weird. But if they want to get married who really cares? How does it hurt someone if two people find some form of happiness?

On the other hand some friends of mine just returned from a lengthy visit to India. Here’s a quote from their email to me. “ The stench of human and animal life uncared for is something else--overwhelming.”

America is a blessed country. I think we all know that. But it’s not perfect. Actually nothing is so perfect that it cannot get better. Along this same note nothing is so bad that it can’t get worse. Our country was founded on equal justice and equal opportunity. America is not a land of promises….its a land of opportunity. The harder I work the more successful I become. Regardless of the world situation I feel very, very lucky to be living in this country and day and age.

Winter drags on here in the Adirondacks. We lost power last night for four hours and as the temperature dropped into the fifties in my home I was one minute away from starting a fire in the fireplace. Fortunately, the power came back on with no time to spare! The deer still come to nibble on stuff in my back yard and a pair of barred owl now reside here in my backyard and chase the numerous squirrels that eat for free from my bird feeders. They’ll soon be building a new nest and hopefully, will raise a few young owlets. The turkeys still come everyday and pick up corn knocked from the birdfeeders by the marauding squirrels. I look forward to the end of winter. I need to fish in the Adirondack streams and ponds and I want to open my cabin and enjoy the pristine waters of Lake George. I need to see “green” again.

As always comments are welcome. Please be good to your selves and to others around you. That includes your pets and other animals as well. Take care, Ralph

Sunday January 23, 2005

And so here I am sitting in a hotel room in New Hampshire. It’s raining outside. And warm for a January day. I’ve spent the past few days photographing homes in New Hampshire and Vermont for another book. I also delivered a great coffee table to a customer of mine who also allowed me to photograph his home.

Hotels are funny places. I can hear everything that happens down the hall. Even in expensive places like the one I’m in right now….sound travels. In truth, it’s best to be quiet in such places. Right now I’ve heard everything the couple in the next room has said and done all night long. I just wish people would use a little discretion and a little common sense in their behavior when staying in hotels. Fully aware that I would rather not hear what else is going on it’s hard not to listen. Frankly, I have no interest in the intimate lives of others but one cannot just turn off the sound or go to sleep. At least, I can’t.

But along this same line of thought I have to relate an ongoing story that I find, well, interesting. So just bear with me for a moment while I lead up to the story.

Last spring I woke up one morning feeling depressed (which, for me, is not unusual). I wasn’t happy and I knew why. My doctor had just increased the dosage of my blood pressure medication, ordered me to take lipitor to lower my cholesterol and gave me something else to take for what I don’t know. I was also taking nexium for reflux disease and an occasional drug for severe migraine headaches. So I woke up disgusted with myself. At fifty seven if I’m taking all these drugs now what will I be taking when I’m sixty seven? The thought occurred to me that relying on the medical profession for my own health and well being was incredibly stupid. I have to take responsibility for myself. End of story!

So that morning I stopped taking all the drugs, joined the local health club, stopped drinking a glass of wine or two with dinner, quit all the junk food and gave up all the fatty stuff. A month later my blood pressure dropped dramatically, I lost fifteen pounds and felt great. You should try this sometime….it really does make a world of difference.

I’m actually enjoying the exercise more than anything. Three times a week I go to the gym. I shoot baskets by myself for a half an hour, spend another half hour on a tread mill and then spend another half hour lifting weights!

But it’s on the treadmill that I want to talk about. Where I exercise there are about thirty such machines in one room…all facing three TVs that emit no sound. It’s usually crowded in the room. It’s a trendy place and “cool” people go there. Everyone wears earphones so they can listen to their favorite music. No one talks because they’re lost in their own little worlds and the noise from the machines makes it difficult to hear anyway.

So I usually get a treadmill and pound away for a half hour or so and watch the soundless TV’s. On several occasions a woman in her late forties has exercised on the machine next to mine. At first I thought she was mumbling to herself but then I realized she was wearing a headset attached to a portable cell phone. Like everyone else she seemed oblivious to everything else in the room. And so she rambles on and on about all kinds of stuff unaware that other people might actually hear what she’s saying.

I am not a voyeur. That kind of stuff does not interest me. But because this woman has been on a machine next to me “gabbing” away I know everything about her life. I try not to listen but sometimes I just can’t help it. I know all about her son’s “waxy ear build-up”. I know exactly why she divorced her first husband. I know what she had for dinner and how much she hates her job and her boss. I know how jealous she is of her son’s teenage girlfriend. I know that she’s envious of her daughters figure. I know who she’s attracted to (not me). And I know where their going on vacation and I know all about her finances and her new car.

But I had heard enough when she described in detail her recent gynecological exam. I really don’t want to hear that kind of stuff. It’s embarrassing to me. I’m serious. Too much information upsets my day. Some things just should not be discussed in public. I mean, Holy Cow! I stopped using the treadmill early on that day. I played more basket ball and I now go to the gym a half hour earlier just to avoid the entire situation. I have no idea who she speaks with on the phone and I don’t want to know.

A week ago I saw her and her family in a restaurant having a quiet dinner. She will never know that I know her most intimate details. And frankly I wish I never heard all of her stuff. So my point is that people should always use discretion when discussing their lives. Whether it’s in a hotel room or at a gym.

On another point (and I’m not crying in my beer here) I get “lambasted” by somebody just about every time I do anything. No matter what it is I do someone finds something wrong with it. The past September I presented the first annual Ralph Kylloe Award for Excellence in Rustic Design at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming. The conference is a big deal. People come from all over the country and more then a hundred of the best builders/designers/artists exhibit at the conference. My award is based on ten criteria. Craftsmanship, artistic expression, originality, use of indigenous materials, etc., I gave the award to Doug Tedrow of Ketchum, Idaho. His piece met all my criteria. The prize included $500 plus a gorgeous framed certificate.

Doug and I are very good friends and he has won many prizes at the conference in years past. Some people felt the prize was rigged. It was not. Some people felt my presentation of the award was less then professional. Doug and I are both “easy going people” who take great pleasure in just about everything we do. It was a thrill to give him the award and he enjoyed talking about the piece he made at the award ceremony.

Some people are critical of my gallery and my books and my newsletter and just about anything else I do. Sooner or later I hear all the gossip. And, in truth, I bet a lot of people get criticized for all kinds of things. I get tired of hearing people complaining all the time.

One of my all time favorite comments came from Winston Churchill. “Monuments were never built to critics” he said. To that I add that “monuments are built to people who do things”. Critics are a dime a dozen. Critics bore me. They have missed the entire meaning of life. Life is about doing something and getting good at something. I don’t care what it is…marbles, music, jump rope….anything. Talk is cheap. Critics are mostly jealous people who are afraid to put real effort into something. Critics are nothing more then cowards stricken with envy. This does not mean that we should not listen to the comments of others. It does not mean that we should not learn from the experience of those who came before us. There is a profound difference between positive suggestions and negative criticism. And it’s necessary to be able to distinguish between the two. It’s also critical to know how to offer comments on how to make something better or learn something new and when your comments are nothing more then an attack on someone’s personality. And personality attacks are usually based on greed and envy.

At some point however, all the critics can go screw themselves. And I mean that! I can’t stand people who go through life thinking they are the manifestation of perfection and it’s their right to belittle others. What kind of a person would you be if you didn’t follow your own heart and listen to your own thoughts as to what’s right or not. Where would the world be if we only did what other people felt we should do? There would be no innovation, no creativity, and no originality. The world would be filled with a bunch of wimps. We’d all be clones of people who have nothing better to do with their time and lack the initiative to create something. At some point individuals have to stand on their own two feet and follow their own instincts. So often people are afraid of what others will say. People need to be encouraged to try and to create. Life is too short to be on the constant receiving end of negativity, sarcasm and criticism. That’s a cruel way to live.

But maybe what the critics should do is work 12-14 hours per day for thirty years. Keep a store open every day even Christmas and Thanksgiving. Deal with customers from six in the morning until midnight. Write fifteen or so books. Put a hundred thousand miles a year on a vehicle, support a dozen “artists” even when their not producing. And in general “bust their ass” for a life time just to make something of themselves. Maybe if those people who are so critical of others really put some real effort into their own lives they would appreciate the efforts of others.

But what boggles my mind the most is that what the critics have to say eventually comes back to them. Sooner or later we all hear who has been saying bad things about us. And I, like most people, don’t forget stuff. Why some people prefer to burn their bridges with others is beyond me. On the other hand I will be the first to forgive someone for saying something negative and then apologizing for it. Recently I received a very nasty letter from someone berating me for everything I’d written about in a recent newsletter. I responded to him with a lengthy email. A day later he apologized to me and admitted that he was having a hard time in his life. Today we correspond often and I consider him a friend of mine. Forgiveness and understand goes a long way.

Consider this. When you’re dead and you float on up to the great beyond (which, by the way, is filled with great rustic furniture, log cabins and you go fly fishing and play your guitar whenever you want) someone’s going to ask you what you did with your life. I really hope that each of us can say that we used our brains to create wonderful things and not just wandered around for seventy years “lambasting” others.

So to everyone who is afraid to put their best foot forward I say that you’ll have the time of your life when you create something really great. Forget all the naysayers, pundits and know-it-alls. They don’t know what they’re talking about anyway. Beauty, art and the act of creating reward in itself. The pursuit of the artistic is worth all the effort. I guarantee it.

I feel better now for saying all that. And thanks for listening. Writing for me is actually cheaper then seeing my therapist. And I can write this kind of stuff whenever I want. And I don’t have to wait until every other Tuesday to express myself to my therapist!

On another note…it’s now Saturday, January 22, 2005. It’s five in the morning. It’s twenty below zero outside. I would rather stay in my warm bed, take the day off like normal people who’ve worked all week, watch TV, have a nice meal, take a nap and play with my daughter. But I made a promise to a guy that I would deliver a couch to him at his house nearly three hours south of my home. I suppose if I call him to cancel the delivery he would understand. But I made him a promise. As much as possible I always do what I say even when it’s miserable outside. Doing what you say you’re going to do is one of the most important things in life. You do what you say you’re going to do or you don’t say it in the first place. I’m not perfect and I screw up once in a while. But 99% of the time I do what I say. But its surprising to me that people sometimes think responsibility is a big deal. Holy Cow! We’re supposed to be responsible. We’re supposed to do what we say we’re going to do. Just get the damn job done on time, within budget and with the highest quality possible. That’s what people are supposed to do.

And one more thing (the four cups of coffee I had this morning are really kicking in)! I listened to a TV preacher at four AM this morning talking about the correct way to get into heaven. (I know I’ll get several emails from righteous, god fearing people who will condemn me to hell for all eternity for saying this)…….but according to the TV preacher you will be rewarded for your good acts by getting into heaven and existing happily ever after. People, I believe, should do good deeds because it’s the right thing to do…not because you’ll receive some good from it. Helping others is not about rewards. It’s not about bliss and eternity. It’s about humanity and doing the right thing. It’s about a conscious choice to lift the realm of humanity (and yourself) to a higher level. Yes, we can go out and start wars and fill the world with violence but within each of us is the ability to do what is right in the world. Without going on and on about all this I would like to believe that you know what I’m talking about already. Enough said.

There…….I’m done for the time being…..no more rambling.

On another note the annual Ralph Kylloe Alaska Fly Fishing Trip will once again be held the first week of October. We’ll be going back to the Kenai River in Alaska. There we’ll catch huge rainbow trout all day long. I personally guarantee that with just a bit of effort you’ll catch at least 25 rainbows and most of them will be in the 24” range. I can also just about guarantee that you’ll hook up with several rainbows above 30”. Whether you land them depends on your skill level. You can also catch as many huge silver salmon you want!. Deluxe cabins that sleep four will be about $75 per night (that’s for the entire cabin). The guide, Fred Telleen, is between $200 and $225 per day per person (depending on which part of the river we fish). Meals are extra as is fishing license, tips, candy bars, comic books, etc. All gear is provided except warm clothes, rain gear and waders. See “Fishing Trips” on my website for more information. I can assure you that if you are in the least bit interested in seeing the stunning interior of Alaska and catching some of the most beautiful fish in the world then this is the trip for you!

I wish you all well and I look forward to hearing comments from those who find time to read my ramblings and write back. And so now in the pitch dark and twenty below zero outside I lace up my boots and prepare to load a couch on my truck for a delivery. I know the guy will greatly appreciate my arriving on time. But it’s not a big deal to me because that’s what I’m supposed to do. My best to all of you out there, Ralph

PS. I’m often told that I should stick to writing about rustic furniture. So not to disappoint any one this week we’ll be out in the cold and snow collecting trees, branches, roots, twigs, stems, saplings and other organic stuff to make the greatest rustic furniture in the world! There, how’s that?!

Monday January 3, 2005

Greetings to all of you out there! I hope each of you had a safe holiday season.

So this morning I got up early to get going on a number of things. Like everyone else I have to take care of all kinds of things to keep people happy and to keep the bills around here paid. Once I was out of bed I looked out my window and was pleased to see a large flock of wild turkeys feeding on the corn we leave for the deer each evening. It was about 20 degrees here and the squirrels and song birds were having a great time at the feeders. The animals consume about five dollars a day worth of food around here…about the cost of a shot of good whiskey at a good bar! Fortunately, I’d rather spend my money on animal food then on something that makes me dizzy, burns my stomach and leaves me with a serious headache in the morning.

I then wandered into the bathroom to clean my self up which, in truth, is a good thing! I put fresh toothpaste on my toothbrush and proceeded to clean my teeth which I try to do everyday whether they need it or not! After about ten seconds I nearly gagged when I realized that I had put my daughter’s tube of red paint on my toothbrush rather then toothpaste. And so for the next half hour I tried everything possible to turn my teeth white again rather then the bright red they were. In truth it really was funny. My wife and daughter were laughing so hard that I could do nothing more then look on the humorous side of the situation. In truth, however, I was horrified. Was the paint toxic? Was it permanent? It really wasn’t funny at all but laughing is far healthier then hatred, anger and frustration. In truth, humor is a great coping mechanism and is definitely necessary for mental health! Although I have a long way to go when I think of my own mental health humor helps us through the hard times, strengthens our immune systems and allows us to cope with frustrating circumstances that can and do occur at any moment. So lighten up please…………!

Monday December 20. I had the truck and trailer packed. I was going to make deliveries in Michigan and Wisconsin of some high-end pieces and I wanted to see the homes where the items would eventually reside. We set out driving to Chicago about nine in the morning. After driving for twenty minutes we knew we were in trouble as the ice and snow was piling up. Nonetheless, hoping to out run the storm we drove east for about four hours. Unfortunately, the radio weatherman said that we should expect bad weather all the way through Indiana. We drove nearly five hours and made about a hundred miles. We then heard about a crash that involved seventy cars ahead of us. I turned around. Nothing is worth the safety of my family (or me!). It took us five more hours to get home. That night I got some cheap airplane tickets to Chicago for the next day on the internet. We got to the airport at ten in the morning, checked in and then waited over eight hours while the mechanics tried to fix our plane. They were unsuccessful. At six that night we finally took off on another plane. We got to Chicago at ten that evening. Next time you’re frustrated with something try sitting in an airport with a five year old child and a thousand irritated, angry passengers who’ve been eating nothing but hot dogs and drinking diet cokes all day. I won’t say any more about this because my blood pressure rises. I just wish that the airlines would be sensitive to us stranded passengers and at least offer us free bottles of water. A few “Bloody Mary’s” would have been nice but I would have settled for a free bottle of water.

I’ve been hard at work on my Adirondack book. Such things take time and I am always amazed at how long it takes me to make 350 professional photographs. Traveling is time consuming and expensive as is film, hotels, gas, etc. I also need new cameras but a Hasselblad system will cost me over ten thousand bucks and that’s just for one camera and a few lenses. So unless I win the lottery the new photo system will have to wait.

My FORTY PER CENT OFF any item from Old Hickory sale is going well. I’ve already sold a ton of stuff and expect to sell more once my magazine advertising hits the market. I’ve had a few misunderstandings however. In my gallery we already offer about 20% off of Old Hickory items and our price tags reflect that. A few folks wanted forty percent off that as well. The sale is forty per cent off the suggested retail price as stated in the Old Hickory price guide.

But there’s a dark side to the retail business and it does sometimes irritate me. Here’s the latest scenario. A few days ago a well dressed guy and his family came into my store and were looking at the Old Hickory rockers. We talked for several minutes. The guy was an orthopedic surgeon on Long Island and drove a huge, expensive SUV. For the next twenty minutes he proceeded to beat me up for another twenty dollars off one rocking chair. The rocker, fully upholstered in high quality leather, lists in the Old Hickory catalogue for $1,380. We had it priced for $795. I offered it to this guy for $650 and after him “sniveling and whining” I further offered it to him for $595. Considering that I have to pay to have the chair shipped to me and I had further added several spindles (at my expense) on the lower stretchers, $595 was more then what the chair actually cost me. To my surprise he offered me $575 for the chair and also told me that he was also not going to pay tax on the chair. And he did all this in front of his family! Why the guy felt the need to beat me up for another twenty bucks is beyond me. It’s got to be a power thing.

In truth, I’m not trying to get rich on every sale. I just want to feed my family, play some great music and write my books. But people like that guy are an embarrassment to all humanity. Where people get the “gall” beat up on small business owners is beyond me. Frankly, I was embarrassed for him. He left my gallery irritated and frankly I hope he never returns. And furthermore, I hope he drives his filthy fifty thousand dollar SUV into a ditch.

On the other hand, almost all of our customers are really great people. We socialize with many of them and consider ourselves really fortunate that we can even be around these folks let alone “hang out” with them. Most of our clients don’t negotiate with us over prices. They know that I’m giving them the best price I can.

New Years Eve was fun. At first the owner of the restaurant where we were to play called during the day and told me that they had to cancel the party because few people had made reservations. Because I wanted my band to play I offered to cut our fee in half and to further pay for our own dinners and drinks. Fortunately, the owner agreed. We started playing at ten PM to a small crowd. At midnight we had fireworks and Champaign. Everyone left just after midnight. Because we’re “die-hard musicians” we played to two people in the audience for the next two hours. In truth, we never sounded better. There is something very magical about playing the music you love and playing it well. We’re basically a jam band and played Grateful Dead music with all the free form and creativity inherent is such music. I just wish we had recorded the set as it was art at its finest! We made Jerry Garcia, who I’m certain was up in heaven listening in to our interpretation of his music, proud.

In truth musical instruments become extensions of ourselves. They often become our temples. I loose myself when I’m practicing. I journey into another world. Time stops. I hear and play musical phrases that are highly emotive but have no words to describe them. It’s a personnel Mecca and well worth the many years I’ve spent learning to play.

Ever feel like you’re really alone in the world? It’s because we really are. It’s a lonely place out there and there are, in truth, few people on your side. A rather morose thought, isn’t it! As a person and a small business owner I often feel this way. I’m not kidding. Maybe I should see a therapist or try some drugs but at the old age of 57 I don’t think I’m going to change much now. I take solace in getting good at things. I try to cultivate myself as much as possible. I try to be nice to as many people as possible. I look for humor in everything. I try to do good work. I try to learn new stuff. I look for beauty in everything. I don’t have to work hard at this as art is everywhere. I spend time with my daughter. I love to read and write, play music, make photos. I love being in my gallery. I love answering questions. I give thanks for things. All that makes my life easier. Try making your own little world a great place. No one else can do it for you. We can “wallow in the muck” or we can make ourselves happy. And we are only as happy as we want to be. It’s your choice.

It’s winter time now. I don’t like the gray. I don’t mind the cold and frankly I love a great raging blizzard. But I love blue skies and clear water and green trees. The roads here in the Adirondacks are often closed in the winter and we loose power several times throughout the cold season. We feed the deer in my backyard and it’s great to see the ten point buck again. It’s good to know that he made it through another hunting season. The turkeys are here as I write this and this evening a mature porcupine will wander up to our porch and eat the stuff we leave out for him. “Porky”, as my daughter calls him, is a family member. True to image, he just ignores us and goes about his business with full confidence that I’m not going to grab him.

I have a ritual I do every January first. I wake up in the morning and say to myself “sixty days to go”. Every few days I lower the number. It’s the amount of days left in winter before March arrives. When that happens I know that spring is not far away. Spring is a great time around here. We get to open our cabin and “mess” with our boat. The ice leaves Lake George and ducks and loons make little ducks and little loons. We feed them nightly from our dock. Spring is also the time for flea markets, yard sales and house calls. We acquire lots of antique stuff for our gallery during the spring. Antiques are good. They have character and history.

In the past I’ve often complained about the artists I do business with. In truth, they really do drive me nuts. But the world is a better place because of them. They see things and do things that us “artistically challenged” people do not and cannot. I’m often awestruck when Randy Holden or Barney Bellinger, or Chris Wager or Peter Winter or Veronica Nemethy or Brian Kelly or any number of other artists brings in their latest creation. I admire these people greatly. And I thank god that I’ve had the chance to get to know these people. They are the great artists of our time. They will be remembered throughout all time. Fortunately I’ve been writing about them for a long time and making photos of them and their creations for years. A few years from now I’ll publish a big book about them. They earned it and they deserve it. The great characters in the world need to be documented. Their lives need to be preserved and their stories need to be told. They are an inspiration to all of us.

Business continues to be good here in the Adirondacks. We have several jobs we’re working on and I just hope that we can complete things on time. I’ll be in New Hampshire for a few days in the middle of the month making the last photos for my book on Adirondack design. I can tell you right now that some people will be unhappy with the book. There are lots of deserving architects, homeowners, furniture builders and related artists that should be in this next book. But I can’t include them all. There’s just not enough space. So don’t be mad at me please if your home or piece of furniture is not in the book. It’s not personal.

This February I’ll be traveling with my family again to the Wilderness Lodge at Disneyland in Florida. My daughter will run around like mad, spend most of her inheritance and eat too much cotton candy. I’ll spend at least four hours a day on my computer writing the text and captions for my next book. And in between I’ll take some time off to spin on the tea cup ride, zoom down some roller coasters, watch the fireworks, have my photo made with Mickey Mouse and enjoy the warmth of the Florida sun. After Disneyland we’ll travel down to Key West where I’ll put the finishing touches on my book and submit the entire package to my wonderful editor Madge Baird in Utah. I know she’ll get back to me immediately with a ton of corrections and additions and I’ll get them back to her in record time.

Once that’s done I plan, as I always do, to eat several dozen raw oysters, drink several pina coladas, watch the sunset and sing several verses of Margaritaville at one of the many open air bars, including Sloppy Joes, in beautiful Key West. On the way back to our apartment I’ll feed the many cats that wander the streets and marvel at the quaintness of the area. It’s that traditional stuff that I love. It keeps me going. It keeps me young and it keeps me happy. What more can any one ask in this world? My best to all of you. Ralph

PS. Comments and thoughts are always welcome here in the Kylloe household. It’s always great to hear from folks. Just, please, don’t yell at me about anything. I have not, as of yet, recovered from the travails of being in Chicago for the holiday season. Being in a big city is hard on a country boy like me.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Greeting to you all!

In the past I’ve sold more Old Hickory furniture then any other store in the country. Recently, that has changed. Other stores have large advertising budgets and prime retail locations. We still sell tons of hickory furniture a year but we have lost market share to other, better financed retail outlets right here in my own back yard and elsewhere around the country! And that’s OK. That’s the nature of the financial world we live in today. That’s how it should be.

But I’ve had lots of fun with hickory furniture and even have my own collection that I designed and have manufactured for me by the Old Hickory Furniture Company in Indiana. So let’s have some more fun! Just for kicks (and to make a few extra bucks) I'm having a winter sale on hickory furniture! I’M NOW SELLING ANY PIECE OF FURNITURE MANUFACTURED BY THE OLD HICKORY FURNITURE COMPANY FOR 40% OFF THE SUGGESTED RETAIL PRICE! THAT’S RIGHT….40% OFF! AND I AM SERIOUS! Let’s see my competitors match that! So I encourage you to check with the other stores to see what they are willing to do for you in terms of pricing. Furniture must be picked up from my gallery or we can ship it to you from our location. And that price is good on pieces ordered from the catalogue or things I presently have on my floor! Give it some thought, give me a call or stop by my beautiful Lake George, NY gallery!

A SLICE OF MY LIFE. I’m often asked what my days are like. So here goes.

Tuesday, November 16. I’m up early. I pack my photo gear in my truck and I drive about two hours south to meet up with Marvin Davis. Marvin owns a wonderful company called Romancing the Woods located in the Woodstock, NY area (845 246 1020). They design and construct absolutely extraordinary rustic architectural garden elements such as gazebos, pergolas, benches, railing systems and all sorts of other very cool stuff. Using predominately bark-on cedar their creations are the stuff of druids, elves and woodland mythical creatures of all sorts. I love this guys stuff and I’m thrilled to see the variety of great things he shows me at each of the several homes we visit. Romancing the Woods has provided products for all kinds of residences, municipal parks, private and public institutions such as Disney and more places then I can remember. Marvin is one of the great characters of the world. I featured many of his pieces in my book Rustic Garden Architecture and photographed many of his pieces on this day that will be included in my up coming book At Home in the Adirondacks. I return home late in the day and have a two hour tea party with my five year old daughter and several of her mythical friends!

Wednesday, November 17. The phone rings at 7AM. I’ve been up for two hours already. The plane will pick us up at a small airport. We leave our daughter off at kindergarten and drive to the airport which is fifteen minutes from our house. It’s a small airport but plenty big for our purposes. A pilot and co pilot meet us in the terminal. It’s a hi-tech six passenger airplane. My wife Michele, one of our builders, Robby, and I, get into the plane. The four seats in the passenger section face each other. It’s a very comfortable compartment. There are no stewardesses or cocktails. We each have our own headset and speak to each other and the pilot via microphones. We roar down the runway and glide on down to Long Island. We land at a small airport and are driven to a job site. Frankly, it’s a gorgeous building and I wonder why we were invited to see the place. After a tour the owners asked for comments regarding their building. Keep in mind that the building was designed by a very prominent architect that I know and have done business with in the past. But some things stuck out in my mind and, Hey, if someone wants my opinion far be it from me to not tell them!

Homes have to blend with their environment. Roofs should match the color of the surrounding canopy of trees. The siding of the building should match the trees themselves. The overhangs should be correct. The slope of the roof should match the slope of the hills or mountains adjacent to the buildings. A home should never be on top of a hill. The building should flow. It should not have too many straight lines. There should be plenty of windows. Dormers and shed roofs should not block views. Frankly, I like warm, intimate homes. I prefer smaller rooms. People are social creatures and smaller rooms with low slung ceilings foster intimate relations. I don’t like sitting in a gymnasium. I like an old world feel. I love charm, warmth and character. I can’t stand yellow homes and bright logs. Too many log cabins today are highly finished products made of highly manicured logs that look yellow and plastic. I love old logs and reclaimed lumber. They have charm and character. You know….stuff like that. Actually this is all common sense stuff but I’m always surprised at how many people don’t think about these kinds of things before their build their homes.

In truth, too many people rely on architects and decorators for their opinions. And most of the time such “professional” people have little experience with rustic structures and rustic décor. Most decorators and architects prefer to sit in their shinny offices and have virtually no experience in the woods or pondering the meaning of life. Many times clients are sold packages for the convenience of those doing the selling. I’m also shocked at how many times architects have talked their naive clients into building a structure many times larger then what the client actually needs. (Keep in mind that the larger the structure the larger the architectural fee’s) At times I’m tempted to stick the entire lot of designers and architects in Yellowstone National Park for a year. Maybe that would chance their approach to nature and how people can become part of the rustic world. A home should reflect the taste and personalities of the owner…not the architect or decorator or log home builder. Apart from any biases this is my taste and I am surprised so many people want to hear what I have to say about their projects.

So we went through the home and every time I mentioned something, the owner commented “where you a year ago when we started this project?” Over lunch we all agreed on several of my suggestions and further agreed that I would send down a few builders to make a few architectural additions without destroying the integrity of the original plans for the home. A few subtle rustic additions are far better then “junking” up a place with tons of twigs and bark. We further agreed on the purchase of several pieces of furniture from us and we also agreed to create new bathroom vanities for the home. Once finished the home will be a stunning fusion of rustic design and New England architecture. I look forward to working with the clients and on this project. We slept on plane during the flight home.

November 18. I got up at four AM, packed my bags and drove to the airport. The plane took off at mid morning and I landed in Traverse City, Michigan in early afternoon. The flight into Michigan from Chicago was eventful. It was a small commuter flight. I was assigned an isle seat. Low and behold a huge woman carrying a monstrous bag of popcorn and other bags showed up and struggled to get into her window seat next to me. I politely stood and even helped her to place her things under the seat and in the over head bin. Once she settled in she began talking nonstop. I was thrilled when the attendant asked for volunteers to sit in the rear seats to balance the plane. I immediately moved to the back of the plane. To my horror and dismay the fat woman sat down right next to me on the opposing isle seat. And there she sat for over an hour eating her popcorn and telling me every solution in the world to relieve my cough (I was still suffering the residual affects of a severe case of Whooping Cough). “My aunt Emma always uses honey and vinegar rubbed into my chest when I was young to take care of my colds” she said. “Honey Baby” she called me, “you just listen to old Auntie Bertha here and you’ll be on the mend in no time”. In between sentences she took handfuls of popcorn and stuffed them into her fat, blabbing mouth. This went on for the entire duration of the flight. Sometimes I can’t stand other people and sometimes I just want to be left alone. As the old expression goes “the more people I meet the more I like my dog”!

The Traverse City Airport is a recently completed, gorgeous facility. Small in scale and completed in the Arts and Crafts style the airport is a paragon of ease and simplicity. And even the rental car was easy to find!

And so I drove down the highway toward the small town of Boyne City, Michigan, to meet with rustic builders Tony and Robin Williams (231 582 5057, www.logartinc.com). Arguably two of the best builders in the mid west the pair specialize in peeled cedar furnishings and railings. I spent my first night at the Avalanche Lodge (1 866 227 1709) and was the guest of owners Billy and Angela Kuhn. It’s a great place and if you’re in the area check them out. They’ll make you feel right at home!

In the morning I met with Tony and Robin and was given a tour of some of the homes in the area. I was at first a bit skeptical as upper Michigan does not have the reputation or appeal of Aspen or Lake Placid. Nonetheless, I was both shocked and thrilled as we entered home after home that was complete with gorgeous rustic furniture and great rustic architectural elements. These were not modest “wanna-be” dwellings but rather finely tuned structures that were monuments to design and thought! Over the four days I was there I toured ten homes and made great photos in each. (I must admit that I was a bit thrilled and surprised when each of the homes had several copies of my books on their coffee tables. Most of the owners were not in but left specific instructions for me to sign each of their books! Cool stuff!)

On Saturday evening Tony and Robin and a bunch of other folks came over to the Lodge where I was staying for an evening celebration. We played music for several hours. A word of caution is noted here. Robin Williams (AKA Robin Berry) is a world class singer/musician and frankly is on par with greats such as Carol King, Joni Mitchell, and Judy Collins. She is widely known in upper Michigan and has three great CD’s on the market. In truth, I was thrilled to play with her. I just wish I had been there early to learn a few more of her songs. All in all I didn’t do too badly. I only slaughtered three of her songs but did OK and actually may have even added something to several other songs we played that evening.

While in Michigan I was introduced to their 26 year old son, Homer Williams, who was the contractor on several of the buildings. When Homer was eighteen he sailed in the artic circle and along the Viking path of Leif Eriksson in a replica knarr (a Viking transport ship). All in all the homes of Homer were extraordinary and his parents were thrilled to show them off! If anyone needs a great contractor contact Homer Williams in Boyne City!

But Tony and Robin are not to be underestimated themselves. Their staircases and railings were extremely well made and blended beautifully with the homes where they had been installed. Their furniture was masterfully crafted and was inspiring, inviting and functional. There are lots of people out there doing bark-off cedar but Tony and Robin are artists. They are definitely museum quality people. They go way beyond the ordinary and enter the often seemingly unobtainable realm of the artistic. I love their stuff and would sell it in my gallery if they weren’t so far away. Nonetheless, I’ll be featuring their work in my Adirondack book due on the market about nine months from now. If you ever get a chance to do business with them you won’t be disappointed in the least. They’ve been hiding in upstate Michigan for quite sometime but are about to burst onto the national market!

The flight back to New York was again eventful. The plane broke down in Chicago and we sat on the ground an extra two hours while the mechanics scrambled to get the damn thing to fly again. But I never complain about airplane mechanics. Believe me, I want them to do a really great job. They can take as much time as they need. Fortunately, I did have three seats to myself and was able to stretch out for the duration of the flight!

Tuesday, November 23. We had an early morning installation on Lake George. So after taking my daughter to school we delivered about ten pieces to a home about a half hour north of my gallery. In the home we placed a gorgeous antique oriental carpet, several pieces of Old Hickory including a couch, four bar stools and a few rockers. We also delivered a few small tables and other goodies that added ambiance to the home. I liked these clients. They were a pleasure to do business with. I won’t do business with jerks. I don’t care how much money is involved. Life is too short to put up with crab-ass people.

We were back in the gallery by eleven AM were I returned several calls and started eliminating more then fifteen hundred emails that had come in during my four day absence. Most of the emails wanted me to buy Viagra, fake Rolex watches, hair restorer, life insurance, or land in Costa Rica. I declined all the above and began responding to about thirty legitimate emails that were business related. By noon Michele asked me out to lunch and we enjoyed a quiet meal at the local Chinese buffet.

That afternoon I met with a few clients who visited the gallery. I also spoke at lengths with a client in Texas who is just beginning a huge project in Wyoming. We’ll be designing much of their furniture and installing it as their homes nears completion.

I also spoke with architect Larry Pearson. Larry was featured in my book The Rustic Cabin. I’ll also be doing another book on his work that will appear about two years from now. The new book, titled The Rustic Home, will again feature extraordinary western rustic homes. Larry is incredibly appreciative of my efforts and sent me three complimentary plane tickets, hotel and car reservations so my family and I can attend his December 10 Christmas party in Bozeman, Montana! I love having friends in high places!

Wednesday, November 24. Got up at 3:30 AM. Worked on my computer till 6:30 AM returning emails. Went back to bed at seven and slept till 9. One of my builders showed up at 9:30. He’s an extraordinary builder but drives me nuts. He’s always late. Always. I promised one of my best clients that he would have two pieces of furniture for Thanksgiving for his Connecticut home. My builder promised me that it would be no problem. I have been informed minutes ago that he has not even started the bookcases. I hate this guy. He’s embarrassed me so many times and disappointed clients at almost every juncture. But he’s really good at what he does. Like a fool I give him more money. I hate myself for doing this. I loose sleep over this guy. But great art is worth every cent. I will not give him more custom orders.

I get a call from Peter Winter. Peter’s struggled for the past few years. Full of talent and capability I regard Peter as one of the great rustic builders of our time. I’ll help him as much as I can. We all, myself included, have internal demons that can haunt us at any time. I wish he could focus himself and return to his usual pattern of creativity and productivity. I love the guy but we can all be our own worst enemies.

Daily I spend time with Brian Kelly. Brian is a very capable builder who runs a shop on the back side of my storage barn. My business would not run without him. He is not an employee. He’s a private contractor like all of my builders. But I buy everything he does and give him most of my custom orders. We speak at lengths about design. I don’t know if he values my opinions or asks me questions just to make me feel like I’m important. Today, along with numerous other decisions, we decide that we can’t do a bureau according to a customer’s specs because the drawers, the way they are drawn, are too big. A fifty inch drawer is just too big unless we put it on gliders. I’ll email the client later today to discuss options. Brian and I also talk about several other projects. It’s also the time of the year to collect materials. So sometime during the next few weeks we’ll head out to the woods.

I also speak briefly with Lori Toledo who does my picture frames and mirrors and occasionally keeps my gallery open when I’m out running around. Johnny Bennett also calls. John is a talented guy who builds furniture for me and also plays drums in my band. He’s busy for News Years Eve so I find another drummer for the gig. I speak with the rest of the band and they are fine with the change. I talk with Tom Welsh. He wants my help to build a garage and loft. I tell him to hire a professional builder so it’s done correctly. His time is better spent doing what he does best and letting a professional contractor do what he does best.

Barney Bellinger showed up here mid day. We’re delivering an extraordinary piece of furniture to one of his clients on Lake George. I wanted to photograph the piece in its permanent setting rather then in my gallery or studio. The delivery took much longer then I thought. It was too dark in the building so I decided to wait until after the Christmas season to photograph the piece. I also got a lengthy tour of the owner’s home and helped move several pieces of furniture. Barney is the paragon of responsibility and sanity in the world. I often speak with Barney daily about different projects and the local gossip. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say a nasty word about anyone. The only criticism I’ve ever heard about him was that (and I’m being honest here) he needs to comb his hair once in a while. I just wish that was the only negative thing ever said about me!

By the end of the day I responded to about thirty phone calls. Along with all the business calls I receive calls daily from people inquiring about antique rustic furniture including Old Hickory. As the historian for the State of Indiana on the hickory furniture movement all questions to the historical society in Indianapolis regarding hickory furniture are deferred to me. Frankly, I enjoy talking about the subject. The only down side is that many wanna-be antique dealers just want to know what their piece is worth. Once I give them a range they tell everyone that Ralph Kylloe offered them $x for their piece. Throughout the day I speak with my editor via email regarding the introduction to my Adirondack book. They want an extensive history of the Adirondacks included. However, there are dozens of books that offer a detailed, concise history of the region. I’m not convinced that I need to repeat a bunch of material that appears in dozens of other books. I decide to continue reading about the area and will make the correct decisions once I get into the serious writing mode. I also write my publisher a lengthy email stating my concerns for the design of the book. I hate split page photos and I don’t allow photos to be “butted” up next to each other and I don’t want my photos chopped up just to fit a size that the designer deems necessary. Actually, for me, the design of a book is the hardest part of the book producing experience. Everyone wants to stick in their “two cents”. I see my photos as complete in themselves and to change the images would ruin my perfectly composed (at least I think so) still life photos. I take this stuff very seriously. But we’ll get the book done and out on time and no one will ever know of the battles or the super human effort on the part of many people to get the book out!

In the evening I’m attacked by another spell of horrible coughing. I go to bed early. I’m tired of being sick.

Thursday, November 25. Thanksgiving day. I swore I would do no work on this day. But I rose at 5AM and responded to about a dozen business related emails. We’re having dinner at a friend’s house. It will be a low key day.

And so it goes.

Here’s some reading material for you. I am a voracious reader. Reading keeps one on their toes. Several magazines including Newsweek, the Smithsonian, National Geographic, and a few others pass through my hands each week. Books I’ve recently finished include:

“Living History” by Hilary Clinton. An absolutely great book. Few people are aware of her long history of involvement in all kinds of important social issues.

“My Life” by Bill Clinton. An absolutely fascinating book. One of the greatest books I’ve ever read. It’s long but well worth the time to read it. All we ever hear from the press is negative comments on this guy. America was blessed to have this guy as our president for eight great years! It was a relief to finally hear the “other side” of all the so-called scandals.

“Trump: Think Like a Billionaire” by Donald Trump. A very basic book written by a very arrogant ego maniac. I’ve read all of his books. This one is the worst. His Atlantic City properties have recently declared bankruptcy. He says it less then 1% of his total worth. The courts will settle the bills for ten cents on the dollar. Hundreds of small people will more than likely go broke over this. The courts should go into Trumps personal fortune and make him pay all of his bills owed to contractors, small business people and the banks that fronted him money for the Atlantic City projects. To not do this is absolutely immoral and criminal.

“Skipping Christmas” by John Grisham. Grisham is the supreme American story teller. I’ve read all of his books. This is a great one!

“A Viking Voyage” by W. Hodding Carter. A really great book about a great modern adventure.

“A short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. A science book this will help people to understand the very nature of the world in which we live.

It’s now nearly noon on Thanksgiving Day. We’re going over to a friend’s home and will not doubt enjoy a great dinner and grand company. On this day I am especially thankful for being alive and the blessings that come across my path. My daughter continues to grow and is the thrill of my life. I still love my business and the challenges it often throws before me. My wife holds everything together and I am eternally grateful to her. Be good and thank all those who came before us. My best to you, Ralph

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Well folks, its grunt and groan time for me. I’ve had a very severe case of Whooping Cough for the past five weeks. Believe me when I say it’s horrible. You don’t want this. I’ve passed out three times from violent coughing. I won’t ramble on about all this but at least its not lung cancer. After two rounds of antibiotics, more blood work then I care to remember and x-rays I’ve been told that it can last four to eight weeks. So, in truth, I’m really not a happy camper right now and I should not be writing this as I’m certain that people will think I’m nuts or off my rocker. Apart from that I beg your forgiveness but writing for me is sometimes very therapeutic. So, for the next few paragraphs I’m going to ramble on about stuff that’s bothering me and if you want to skip this part of newsletter I understand completely.

Just to deny the latest rumors that I’ve heard about myself, I can attest to the following, including;

1. My marriage is not falling apart.

2. I am not having an affair with someone in Montana or anywhere else for that matter. Never have and never will.

3. I am not about to go out of business.

4. I don’t have lung cancer, or any other fatal disease,

5. I’m not opening a “clams on the half shell” cart in Key West. (Although that’s a great idea!)

6. I am not moving to Alaska to become a fishing guide. (Although that’s also a good idea.)

7. I am not about to declare bankruptcy.

So don’t worry, I’m still here and still selling the greatest rustic furniture ever.

So the election is over. Frankly, this has been the worst election I have ever seen. I’ve never seen so many people polarized over candidates and issues. Strong feelings and opinions have dominated the political scene for sometime now and I am happy the election is over. Frankly, I can’t stand George Bush. He’s as arrogant as they come. I don’t like the war. I don’t like the deficits. The economy is sinking fast. I don’t like snowmobiles in Yellowstone National Park. I don’t like more pollutants in the water and on and on. I want American kids going to good schools and eating good food and having good health care. I want America to grow and prosper. If these are liberal ideas and out-of- date then so be it. Maybe I’m old fashioned. But health, prosperity and peace in our time does not seem a lot to ask of our leaders. I’m tired of slums, homeless people and drug addicts. As a nation I think we can do better. I would rather have my hard earned tax dollars spent here on new schools then in other parts of the world.

But I suppose now is the time to give George the benefit of the doubt. He is the president and commander in chief. As citizens we can “beat him up and bitch and complain” for the next four years or we can offer suggestions and let our voices be heard by our political leaders. Frankly, I prefer to solve problems rather then “bitch” all the time. Complaining is, in itself, an act of cowardice. If you don’t like something then it’s the individual’s responsibility to do what ever they can to change it. Complainers, like Rush Limbaugh, are nothing more than cowards. I would like to see him run for political office and try to effect some change. But he won’t do it because he is in the truest sense of the word a coward. And you can tell him I said it!

I have a crystal ball in a secret room in my house. It has never failed to tell me the truth. We were all appalled with the destruction of the Twin Towers on 9/11. The loss of more than five thousand US citizens was a defining moment in American history. A tragedy beyond words.

But my crystal ball tells me that in 2005 we’ll have a terrorist attack far more lethal then the 9/11 event. And more than 150,000 Americans will lose their lives. Hundreds of thousands of more lives will be permanently damaged. It will be the most horrible thing to ever happen to us.

Yes folks, at least 150,000 Americans will die from the use of tobacco products next year. Seems strange doesn’t it! We complain about the loss of the Twin Towers and the 5,000 who died. But we seem oblivious to the terror in our own land and the horrible diseases the terrorists inflict on us. And its our own citizens who are the terrorists. And they laugh all the way to the bank. They know tobacco will kill you and the government does nothing to stop them. Why? Because of the tax money involved. I recall hearing our president declaring that it is his responsibility to guard the citizens of America. He stands there and says that he will protect us. That is his role in the world today. How hypocritical can he be? And we even subsidize farmers who grow tobacco when their crops fail or the price for their product falls below a certain point. Frankly, all this disgusts me. I can only call our politicians absolute criminals who deserved to be flogged in public.

And the terrible thing about all this is that we file lawsuits against the companies thinking this will stop them. It doesn’t. More and more kids get hooked everyday and will eventually die a miserable, cruel and completely avoidable death. And the President of the United States is completely aware of all this. He should be ashamed of himself. He is allowing the most terrible act of terrorism ever committed to continue. The entire thing disgusts me.

Alright I’m done. I just spent the past fifteen minutes coughing my lungs out. Whooping cough is like primal therapy. Ones guts are just about blasted out of you. I won’t complain anymore. You can now read the rest of the “Greetings” without fear of having to endure more of my ramblings.

“Adirondack” is hot right now. I’ve had the best six weeks (in terms of business) that I’ve ever had. We’ve taken on several more projects and have been asked to oversee the design and construction of other projects across the country. We’ve also sold a ton of great stuff to customers in many different regions of the land. Along with this many owners are adding rustic architectural elements to their new homes and adding a few pieces of high-end furniture to their settings. Further, many homeowners are adding an Adirondack room onto their existing structures. The market continues to grow.

I’ve always told people to buy fewer items for their settings. At the same time I encourage people to buy really high end items as such pieces always go up in value. Great pieces are objects of art in themselves. Objects of art become treasured family heirlooms. They bring us great pleasure.

Great rustic objects are not only beautiful and well made but they should functional as well. A great chair needs to be comfortable and sturdy. Drawers in bureaus and cupboards need to work smoothly. You cannot go wrong by buying pieces from known makers and well established rustic artists.

In truth, rustic objects should be approached with a casual demeanor. The mere presence or sight of these objects should require you to relax. You should want to kick your shoes off and put your feet up on the coffee table. “Take off your tie and put on your old shoes” demands rustic furniture. Great rustic pieces are full of humor. You should “giggle” to yourself when you see them. They have to be fun. They have to inspire. And if you really spend time thinking about a great rustic object you’ll find yourself full of awe at the originality, passion and freedom inherent in nature. And we need to feel these things once in a while. We can’t just think of work or finances or other stuff all day long. We really do need to keep in contact with nature. Rustic furniture and rustic settings calms our fears and renders anxiety to a nonexistent state.

This past week I exhibited at the Adirondack Living Show in Brewster, NY. This was a great show. I sold several pieces of very expensive furniture and met many individuals who are in the initial stages of building a rustic home or adding pieces to their settings. In truth, there were no great crowds or long lines waiting to get in the building. Rather, and to the delight of just about every exhibitor, the right people were there. It was a consuming crowd. Full of interest and desire the crowd was as sophisticated as they can get. Many asked endless questions. I sold more than fifty of my books and would have sold more but I ran out. I brought my best pieces and nearly sold everything by the end of the show.

And there is a reason for all this.

Several of the individuals who are now building furniture are doing museum quality work. And, in truth, it’s taken a while for people to develop their skills and elevate their crafts to the level of the artistic. And the public is now aware of the aesthetic qualities inherent in well- made rustic furniture. I’ve always contended that rustic furniture is not a fad. It’s not a trend. Rather, it’s a very profound folk art that speaks deeply to the souls of those who appreciate great art. People who appreciate beauty are certainly not locked into only one form of art. A person who appreciates beauty looks not only at paintings and statues but also appreciates great music, literature, architecture, fashion, dining, landscapes and, yes, rustic furniture.

And so rustic furniture and rustic settings are gaining momentum within the realm of traditional interior design and architecture. The mere though of rustic stuff sends a little sense of “joy” coursing through my body and as I sit here and write this I feel calmer and more relaxed. I feel good sitting in my antique antler office chair writing this stuff. Its good therapy for me and I feel better about myself. We just installed a new rustic bed this morning in my gallery. Made from huge yellow birch trees, the posts still have their roots attached. On the bed are several rich, earth tone textiles and soft pillows. It’s very inviting. My three legged cat Jackie is already snoozing on the bed. Think I’ll wander on over and join her for a quick nap.

OK. Its now an hour later. I’m up! Fortunately no one came in the gallery and no one called. The nap was great! I encourage everyone to spend an occasional afternoon in quiet solitude.

Actually, I’m glad I’m up. I have a client coming from New Hampshire today and later on I have to meet with a contractor concerning a large project about two hours south of Lake George. We’re involved in a really great project there and we need a very talented contractor to complete the job.

And so here’s my schedule for the next few months. Next week an individual is sending their plane for my wife Michele, one of my builders, Robby and me. They’ll fly us down to their home for ideas on interior design and how to add rustic elements to their home to make it more rustic. We’ll be back the same day. The following day I’ll be in Michigan to photograph some of the works of Tony and Robin Williams. They build absolutely great things from local cedar trees. I’ll spend about five days there. Before Thanksgiving I’ll install a few pieces of high-end furniture in an absolutely great home in Connecticut. While there, I’ll introduce the owners to landscape architect Geffrey Redick who can do wonders with just about any piece of property. Geffrey and I will also tour a site in the Catskills where architect Larry Pearson is developing a great new home for some great clients of mine. We’ll be in Chicago for Thanksgiving and then I have to travel to Georgia to photograph several homes for another book I’m working on. Before Christmas I will be in New Hampshire for several days photographing more homes. Christmas will be spent in Chicago and on New Years Eve the Ralph Kylloe Band (Holy Cow…I have my own band!) will play before a packed house at San Soucis Restaurant on the east side of Lake George. In January I’ll spend about two weeks in Montana working on projects and photographing homes developed by my good friend architect Larry Pearson. Queen Jacque Spitler, who runs Larry’s office, will give me a hand as we document several of the greatest rustic homes ever built (and I’m not kidding!)!

In February, we’ll spend a week at Disney’s Wilderness Lodge in Florida and then down to Key West for another week of sunshine. In truth, I work about five hours a day on these Florida trips. Once I finish making photos for a book then I have to write it! And 350 captions for photos as well! So it’s not all fun and games.

March will be full as well as we will need to install furniture in several different homes here in the east. March is also a serious crunch time for my literary career. My editor keeps me glued to my computer and we discuss (actually battle), at lengths, the design and layout of my books that are scheduled to be at the printing company. In truth, I photograph many more homes and furniture then can possibly appear in my books. I know that some people will be disappointed when the final cut comes and I will never hear the end of it from some of those who are disappointed. But I can’t please everyone so please don’t be mad at me. I do the best I can!

In April I’ll be back in Florida and May begins my crazy summer season. People, thank God, finally start showing up here in my gallery. It will be nice to have people come in as it can get lonely here in the winter. I’ve also been asked to contribute several articles and photos to magazines such as Cabin Life, and numerous others. We’ll see what I can produce. This coming summer I’ll be back in Montana for a few weeks to complete work on another new book titled “The Rustic Home”. It will be another great book. Actually, Jacque Spitler of Larry Pearson’s office thought of the title. The book will show more homes by Larry and his talented crew. Regarding Larry Pearson, I see all kinds of homes. Daily I get portfolios from designers, architects, etc., all over the country who want me to do books on their projects. They are all well done and gorgeous and deserve recognition.

But the homes of Larry Pearson speak a language not commonly heard in the world today. They have stunning character and charm. In truth, my photos and my words are an inadequate measure when defining or documenting these homes. Warm beyond belief, the homes embrace you and make you feel welcome. I feel excited just to be in them. They are the stuff of legends.

A home must be more then an extension of an architect or a builder. A great architect creates an extension of the personalities of the owner. It’s a personal thing. And a profound relationship between architect and owner must exist. Chemistry is everything. Passion is necessary. Clients and architects should never be adversarial. One must compliment the other and greatness will be the result of the collaboration. Art is the antithesis of mediocrity. Art happens only in the presence of great passion.

But an architect is only as good as the person who builds the homes. I’ve featured the creations of Yellowstone Traditions of Bozeman, MT in many of my books. They are active partners with Larry and build many of his homes. They add the class and character. Often they are the unsung heroes of great design. Their work will also appear in this next book.

And so now winter is almost upon us. The leaves have fallen. Ice covers my windshield each morning. I dress my daughter in warm clothes before I take her to kindergarten. Soon the deer will wander into my back yard to feed off the remnants of my green lawn. And soon I’ll start feeding them again. I hope the ten point buck made it through hunting season. The days are shorter now and I hope that on this Veterans Day Americans will stop for just a second to realize that all those who served would probably have wanted to be home with their loved ones, raised a wonderful family and pursued a career of their dreams. Tragically many of them died. I can only pray that they died for a valiant effort. I, personally, thank all of them. My best to you, Ralph

Monday, October 18, 2004

Here I am sitting in a small lodge in Alaska. It’s now early in the morning, the sun is not yet up, the bears are still wandering around and in two hours I’ll be fishing on the mighty Kenai River for monster rainbow trout. Fishing has been extraordinary. More on this later.

Regarding my newsletter…I just wonder how far I should go with this. Between 250 and 650 people read my “Greetings from Ralph” every day. Usually, every time I send out a new “Greetings” I get “lambasted” from at least one person who disagrees with me on everything. So be it! I’m a big boy and I can take it! Whenever I mention God I get several messages from people who condemn me to hell for all eternity. Politics is something else. I get lengthy letters from right wing fanatics who hate everything.

Nonetheless, if I’m going to be condemned then I might as well be damned for what I really am! What would I be if I only did and wrote things to please others? How could I look at myself in the mirror? So be it! So here’s a few stories that I find interesting and that may bring a chuckle or thought to a few “hardy” souls out there.

I spent the past twelve days in Alaska. I had an absolutely great time. My flight out of Albany was memorable. The airlines are saying they are going broke because of fewer passengers and higher costs of fuel. The fuel thing I can understand. But I live on airplanes and during the past two years every one of the flights (about 40 per year) I’ve been on has been full of passengers.

I usually get an isle seat because I like to get up every hour or so to stretch my legs. On the first leg of this trip to Alaska I was assigned a window seat. Shortly after I sat down several people began filling the seats around me. It was an unusual group of individuals. In an attempt to be politically correct shall I refer to them as “calorically challenged”? Or how about “physically challenged” because of excessive obesity? In truth, and I’m not pulling any punches here…they were fat. I mean really fat.

Fat people have a different challenge when it comes to seating. Movie theatre, sports stadium and airplanes seats are too small to accommodate them. Fortunately for such challenged people the arms on airplanes seats can be retracted. Tragically (for me and other ectomorphs) that means that they will occupy a seat and a half or more! Interestingly enough each member of this group on this flight brought along their own extension strap for the seat belt that must be worn on airplanes. The normal seat belts were all too small for them. So there I sat for two hours….”schmoosed” in a corner of an airplane. I couldn’t move if I wanted to.

But here’s the real kicker. Each member of this group must have had a huge dinner of beans and broccoli before they got on the plane. Every few minutes one of them would rise up out of their seats and fill the air with vile gas. I’m not kidding. And after each episode they would chuckle to themselves and say “Oh, how embarrassing. Please excuse me”. With that their entire group would break into riotous laughter! And this went on for nearly two hours! I‘m certain that they were all members of the A.F.S. (that’s the American Flatulence Society). As I recall the experience I can only chuckle to myself. I have nothing more to say on this matter least I get myself into trouble with someone who feels that a discussion of this subject is in bad taste or politically incorrect.

The next leg of the flight (Chicago to Denver) was less interesting but significant. While using the bathroom onboard the plane I found it easier to lean my head on the ceiling of the restroom. Suddenly the plane took a brief tumble thus knocking my head violently against the structure on which I was leaning. When this happened I bit my lip so hard that it bled for three days. I should have had it stitched up but I was too proud for that. So I suffered in silence for the first part of my trip.

It was peak foliage in Alaska. It was magnificent. But fishing is a very personal, human thing. In my book FLY FISHING THE GREAT WESTERN RIVERS I commented on several personal maladies that can afflict anyone, at any time and in any occupation or past-time. I refer to one of the maladies as FBD. Actually the real name is Fishing Bi Polar Disease. Here’s how it manifests itself. You’re having a great time with your buddies. For some unknown reason everyone around you is catching fish. And frankly, you’re happy for them. But as time goes on you want to catch a few fish yourself. And if you don’t catch any fish as the day passes then the downward spiral into mental chaos grabs hold of you. First you get quiet. Then depression sets in. Then you wish you weren’t there. Then, if the people you’re fishing with are your employees you think about firing them. If your wife is there catching fish you think of divorcing her. You start to dislike everyone. You’re now in a free-fall. You curse the day you agreed to go fishing with these people. They start to give you all kinds of worthless advice. You take it personally, almost as though you’re not as good as everyone else. They get louder and act like they’re gods gift to humanity. You get real quiet. You’re dangerous now. You practically hate everyone and everything. But then you catch a fish and then a few more. Then you catch a few really big fish and you return to normal. Life is good again!

This happens to just about everyone and also occurs in just about any activity whether it be sports of any kind, occupations or just about every other endeavor. It certainly happened to me on this trip. Early one afternoon I went to swat a few black flies that were buzzing my head. I accidentally hit my new glasses ($350) and they flew off my head and into ten feet of water. They were gone. I could not read anything. With that I descended onto the oblivion of FBD. I caught no fish for the rest of the day. In the morning it got worse. Every one else was catching huge rainbow trout. But not me. This went on for nearly three hours. I was upset, depressed and angry for loosing my glasses the day earlier. (To make matters worse I succeeded in insulting a fisherman from another group who then threatened to break every bone in my body….and he wasn’t kidding). (Fortunately for me, my guide and other members of my group told me that the guy just really went off the deep end and it was not my fault.) But in time I caught a huge, 31” rainbow trout and then several others. The clouds rolled back and I came back to life. Success, no matter what endeavor you are partaking in, definitely brightens ones life.

The twelve day trip went so well that I wish I was back in Alaska fly fishing right now. Our guide, Fred Telleen (the world’s greatest fishing guide), put us on fish when few others were catching anything. Our cabins at Gwins Lodge in Cooper Landing were warm, dry and comfortable and the food in Gwins Restaurant was superb. Seven of us went on the trip and we all had a great time. I will say that fishing in Alaskan rivers has ruined my ability to fish in the lower 48 states. Nothing compares to fishing in Alaska. We caught at least 25 trout a day and as many silver salmon as we wanted. An average trout was a fat 24” and the largest I caught was 31”. My buddy Brian Correll caught a gorgeous 32”, 18 pound rainbow. Each day we would land two or three rainbows above the magic number of 30”. We will be returning there next year so get your reservations to me early please.

The week before my Alaska trip my wife and I spent a week in Cody, Wyoming, at the Western Design Conference. It was spectacular. I enjoyed spending time with old friends and seeing the works of builders who are on the cutting edge of design and construction. While there I presented the first annual Ralph Kylloe Award for excellence in design. I presented the award in front of seven hundred people to Doug Tedrow of Ketchum, Idaho. Along with ten criteria including workmanship, form, balance, use of indigenous materials, artistic interpretation, etc., I was looking for originality and uniqueness. Because it is a western show and thusly named I also wanted something that embodied the true western spirit. Doug’s piece, for my taste, went well beyond the ordinary. I also didn’t want just another desk, or bed or dining set. I was also looking for something a little “off the wall” and something that set a new standard. I wanted it to reflect the builder’s personality. Doug’s piece stood right out. Original in every way it matched Doug’s personality perfectly! In truth, it reminded me more of a tall cupboard then anything else. You’ll see the piece and several other Tedrow pieces two years from now in another book I’m working on relating to the western home.

Doug is a unique guy and a great friend of mine. Before I presented the award to him I asked five others attending the conference, all “heavy hitters” in the design field, to identify their favorite piece. Each commented, without my prompting them that they had felt Doug’s piece represented the qualities I was looking for. The prize consisted of $500, a beautifully framed certificate and significant photo coverage in an upcoming book by me on western design. During the show it was decided that architect Larry Pearson, Bozeman, Mt., and I would jointly fund the prize. Jacque Spliter, the director of Larry’s office and queen of all architectural office managers also helped me judge the show and will be involved with the presentation of the prize in coming years.

I should also mention, however, that judging an already juried show is extremely difficult. I opened my comments at the award presentations ceremony with the notion that I should split the award money I was giving between each of the hundred or so individual artists because there were so many great pieces there. But each of the exhibitors would then only receive $5 (not necessarily a large sum these days). In truth each individual exhibiting at the show was presenting a remarkable piece of artwork. To say nothing of the fact that great western builders such as Lester Santos, John Gallis, Ron Shanor, R.C Hink, Dan MacPhail, Diane Cole, Andy Sanchez and many others showed astonishing craftsmanship and great artistic abilities. And then there was the obvious problem of the great jewelry, black-smithing, fashions and leather work that was part of the exhibit. Nonetheless, I eventually followed the criteria before me and decided, based on the rules (that I wrote) before me that Doug’s piece was exceptional. Fortunately, everyone I spoke with after the presentation agreed with me.

The only down-side to the awards that were presented was the difficult reality that this was the Western Design Show. It is a show and exhibit geared to the culture and heritage of the west. Several people commented that although it is a western show that the “Best of Show” prize was given to an Adirondack piece. The award was not without controversy. In the future the show promoters, owners, judges and other participants should carefully review and clarify their criteria so no confusion exists surrounding the awarding of prizes.

While in Cody Barney Bellinger, Jimmy Covert and I took an afternoon off and fished a river about an hour outside of Cody. Spectacular in every way the setting was gorgeous. High mountain vistas, a dry desert climate and clear running water, it was a respite from the travails of running a small business. On Thursday night about a hundred and fifty of us took over a local restaurant in Cody. Lester Santos, I and a few others entertained the crowd with an impromptu, four hour electric blues/rock & roll jam. All kinds of people came up to sing a few songs and harmonize with the other singers. It’s amazing what a few drinks can do to inhibitions.

From there we went up through Yellowstone Park to a small historic Inn called Chico Hot Springs Lodge. This is a glorious place. Complete with an enormous hot springs, swimming/soaking pool we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, after a long soak in the hot water, dining in their old world, five star restaurant. I fished in the park and on the Yellowstone River and caught a few fish for my efforts. From there we traveled north through Montana. Montana is a strange place. One small town was having its annual “Testicle Festival”! Obviously feasting on Rocky Mountain oysters the towns residents appeared to be enjoying every second of the experience. Not to be out done a few miles down the road a neighboring town was having their annual “Breast Fest”! Chickens were slaughtered in town and huge bar-b-que roasters were quite active in the towns square. From the looks of the participants a grand time was had by all!

The week before the Western Design Conference I exhibited at the Adirondack Mountain Antique Show. Held annually in Indian Lake, NY, the show was busy for the two days it was open. I sold more then a hundred books, met lots of great people and spoke at lengths with old friends. I must say that I am surprised at how prices of antique Old Hickory have escalated during the past decade. The availability of antique Old Hickory has been dramatically reduced as well. If I had to begin collecting rustic furniture today I would never be able to acquire what I have in my own collection. And even if I could find it I probably could not afford it anyway. In truth, a few months ago, I went through my old records and realized that I’ve owned nearly 15,000 pieces of antique Old Hickory furniture. For years, beginning in the the late 1970s, I traveled through Indiana and knocked on just about every door in the state asking about and trying to buy pieces of old rustic furniture. I had the time of my life and actually made a fairly good living at it! All this will documented in a new book I’m working on doing called “Indiana Hickory Furniture” (or something like that). This will be a full color book that will appear in the fall of 2006. In truth I’m really excited about this new book. My book A HISTORY OF THE OLD HICKORY CHAIR COMPANY is nearly sold out of 6,000 copies and the new color book should be a very welcome addition to the history of rustic furniture in America.

Here’s one for you. Just think folks we are presently 7.34 trillion dollars in debt. That’s right! And four years ago we were nearly debt free. The present administration wants us to believe that because we have “tax cuts” that prosperity is just around the corner and there these is money in every pocket. But consider this. Just imagine that each one of us in America is sent a new credit card. Very nice. Each person including my wife, my five year old daughter and myself has a credit card in own names compliments of the US Government. The only problem is that each of us (my daughter included) presently owes $35,000 for the national debt that exists on our new credit cards. And the interest on that amount is astounding. And that has to be paid off. In my house and probably most of the homes in America if I have that much debt on my credit card I dramatically cut my spending and look for a second job! But our government as of today is passing a bill to be able to increase our national debt. Frankly, I’m not happy about it and will vent my rage toward this irresponsibility on voting day!

On another note (happier note, I might add) work on my next book “AT HOME IN THE ADIRONDACKS” is progressing nicely. It will be my most impressive book yet. I’ve photographed several incredible homes here in the park that will “knock your socks off”! The book will be out at the end of August next summer. I’ve also enjoyed writing it and find that I am writing from more of a personal point of view at this time in my life. Here’s a brief excerpt.

“I woke to brightness. I was sleeping on the shores of the Hudson River here in the Adirondack Mountains. It was early October. The leaves were stunning. In glorious color they actually rattled as a soft breeze caused them to sway in motion. It was like a gentle ballerina moving gracefully to the sounds of subtle music.

The light flowed over a mountain blanketing me with rays that began leaving the sun more then seven minutes earlier. It was cool that morning. My breath was visible as I gazed out of my sleeping bag. A thick fog rose from the river as I peered into the scene before me. The water was clear. No one else was around. I crawled from my sleeping bag and shuttered for a moment as I adjusted to the cold. Dew blanketed everything. I pulled on my waders, tied my wading shoes and pulled on other clothing to make me more comfortable. From the back of my truck I picked up my fly rod and wandered the few feet to the rivers edge. From my vest I took a box of flies and gazed at them for just a few seconds. I then watched the river for signs of life. There was none. Because of the cold and the time of year tricos, PMD’s and other bugs would not show their faces till later in the day. I gazed at the scene before me. My mind wondered.

Months earlier my mother had passed away. She was old and I was prepared for her eventual passage to another life. As I spoke to her when she was in the hospital I asked her to tell me that she still loved me. “More then you’ll ever know”, she said. Those were the last words she ever spoke. A day later I told her it was Ok to leave this life, to go where she felt comfortable. Two days later, in her sleep, she died. I was in the same room with her asleep on the couch. In time I made arrangements for her funeral. Things went smoothly. It was done. I returned to my home in the Adirondacks.

But on this morning I was struck with the reality of life and death. Sorrow and grief hit different people at different times. I wanted to speak with my mother. I wanted to tell her that things were OK. I wanted to tell her that I was successful and doing well. I wanted to tell her about her grand daughter. I wanted to talk with her. But I could not.

As I looked at the scene before me the morning fog filled my eyes. The leaves were dying. Winter would soon arrive. Death comes to all things. I trembled and shuddered in the cold. I bowed my head and thanked god for my time on the planet. There are no answers for some things. I returned to my vehicle, broke down my rod, removed my waders and drove home. The beauty of the river on that day would carry me through my grief of the day. The mountains, in all their old strength and grace, gave me courage to continue. The grace and the color of the trees brought a moment of respite and reminded me of the beauty of all things. I would take solace in that. All things come to an end and nothing is more important then to fully experience the full joy of the moment. The beauty of the Adirondacks and its rich heritage, in a strange, unspoken way, allows me to go on.”

On another note what are the things you enjoy? What’s important to you? I’m a busy guy. I get to do many of the greatest things in the world. I know lots of very impressive people (as well as less than impressive people). I fly fish all over North America, play music in front of large audiences, stay in places most people only read about, write books, speak in front of large groups, have a great family, buy and sell art. Nothing in my life is unpleasant (other then occasionally having to argue with rustic furniture builders) (but that goes with the territory). But the thing I enjoy most in my life is a good conversation. To really connect with someone else, to learn something new or to have someone else really understand me is light years above anything else. In truth, this doesn’t happen often. Being a good conversationalist is not easy. Neither is being a good listener. Just because you’re talking with someone doesn’t mean you’re having a conversation.

Good friends are important. We can’t get along without them. Kind words and actively listening to others is far more important then we realize. Many of us, as the old expression goes, live in quiet desperation. I know this from experience. Sometimes just a pleasant word from someone helps get us through the day. Take care and keep in touch, Ralph

PS, The Adirondack Living Show, a really great place to see all things Adirondack, will be held in Brewster, NY, this November 5-7. Call Jeff Frazer at 518 371 6363. This is a really great show and well worth the price of admission. Stop on by my booth please. We’ll swap stories and have a bit of conversation!

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Life is a funny thing. Just when you think you’ve got a grip on things you get slapped in the face.

Being in a band is a fairly cool thing. It’s not like winning a Nobel Prize but it does have its perks and admirers. A few weeks ago I was playing with a band in a bar in Northville, NY. About a hundred or so people were there. We started playing at around ten or so. Shortly I noticed with pleasure that a number of people were watching me. I have a few solos in a few songs and the audience applauded wildly at my efforts. This is very cool, I kept saying to myself….and it was! So I played harder and threw in a few rock and roll moves and a few contorted facial looks just to let everyone know I was working hard and really into the music. A few songs later the audience grew larger and the shouts of encouragement became much louder. I was really hoping that the women in the audience would rush the stage and throw their underwear at me!

In time I turned to adjust my amplifier and I noticed a large screen TV directly over my head. On the screen was a baseball game with the sound turned off to accommodate the music from the band. During a change in innings the audience dissipated and wandered back to the bar or other points in the tavern. Much to my disappointment it was not me they were cheering for. It was the New York Yankees. Sometimes life is very cruel.

So much for the music scene. A few weeks ago I retired from being in a permanent band. The pay was terrible, the playing until two in the morning exhausting, the personality conflicts discouraging and the creativity was nonexistent. Besides…. being gone three and four nights a week plays havoc with ones marriage and profoundly interferes with my prime responsibility of raising my five year old daughter. Further, I now don’t have to put up with the rantings of right wing fanatical musicians. I’m happier now that it’s over.

My wife and I, along with my sister-in-law Tina and my daughter Lindsey spent the past ten days in Montana photographing homes for a book titled WESTERN RUSTIC HOMES (or something like that). I have to have the book done in sixteen months and it will hopefully be on the market in the fall of 2006. Traveling with ones in-laws can be interesting. Tina is the only person I know who carries more luggage then the Queen of England. Further, everything she brings weights a ton. And at each new hotel she has to bring all of her luggage into the room (which is usually on the second or third floor.) Not just an overnight bag, mind you, but everything including hair driers, make-up bags, several changes of clothes, fifteen pairs of shoes, etc., has to go into the room. For fear of being ostracized by the family I dare not mention her snoring but I will comment on the fact that she also takes her time about getting ready in the morning. Regardless, she does take excellent care of my daughter when I’m working and she is (when she’s not disagreeing with me or telling me how to run my business) an excellent conversationalist and does enjoy an adventure or two!

So off we went to the airport to begin our trip to the west. As a fly fisherman I often bring a fly rod with me on the airplane as carry-on luggage. I’ve done this for years and no one has ever expressed any concern whatsoever. I guess now the cash-strapped airlines are looking to raise funds however then can. They told me I could no longer carry on a fly rod and proceeded to charge me $80 for the additional luggage. Fortunately, after considerable conversation with the supervisor I received an apology and free transportation for my two foot long fishing pole case.

I also carry camera gear and film with me. I don’t like to put the film through the x-ray machine because it may fog the film. So I politely asked the guard to hand examine the box. “No problem”, he said politely. With that he proceeded to open the sealed box, unwrap the packets of film, rip open the individual film box and then tear open the sealed aluminum covering of the roll of film. This took about thirty seconds for one roll of film. To my chagrin he felt the profound need to open each of the one hundred and forty rolls of film I had with me. And so there I stood there for nearly an hour patiently watching him do his job. I didn’t say anything and I didn’t argue with him. I behaved myself. Secretly, however, I wished he would fall down the elevator and break both his legs.

And so for the next ten days it rained each and every day in the Bozeman, Montana area where we were staying. The houses we photographed were all stunning. One house, certainly architecturally extraordinary, was perched on a mountainside with views that could envy the gods! Tragically, a professional interior decorator decided to experiment with the clients money and decorated the house as a gay, Manhattan, fifties brothel. Honest to god…it was horrible. Both the architect and I wanted to throw up when we saw the furnishings. For some reason gaudy red fifties wing chairs, French rolled arm chairs and other fifties stuff don’t go in rustic mountain structures. I could go on and on about this but sometimes it’s necessary to use common sense (and a respected interior designer) when decorating a ten million dollar house.

Just to help out anyone who is struggling with this problem the wonderful folks here at the famous Ralph Kylloe Gallery will be more then happy to offer suggestions or completely design and decorate your home for you. Or, if you want another individual here’s a list of my favorite decorators from different parts of the country, including:

1. Dianna Beattie Interiors. Dianna is the queen of rustic design. I’ve featured her homes and several of her clients homes in many of my books. NY 212-722 6226 or MT 406 682 5700.

2. Larry Pearson Architect/Interior Design. Larry is the king of rustic architecture. The interior design department of his company can create extraordinary interiors when no one else can! MT 406 587 1997

3. Hilary Heminway Interiors. Hilary has a significant background and experience in the field of rustic interiors. I love her work. CT. 860 535 3110

4. Barbara Collum. Barbara has decorated more high-end Adirondack homes then anyone I can think of. I’ve known her for going on twenty five years and spent many happy hours with her in her glorious Adirondack Great Camp. NY 315 446 4739

5. Heidi Weiskopf Interior Design. Heidi is a very talented woman who can create warm magic in any household. I’ve featured her homes in my books and will do so again in the future. AZ. 480 515 9180

During this recent trip I did find many amusing things that brought a chuckle and sense of wonderment to my heart. I did fish (even though it rained everyday) in the Gallatin River quite often. Along the river are several recreational parking areas where people with huge RV’s can park their rigs and live like pioneers and mountain men for a few days. One couple had pulled in and set up camp in their sparkling clean trailer. Day after day they ran their generator and watched soap box operas on their TV in the comfort of their RV. I know this because I parked near them for several days and walked right past them to access the river that was just a few feet outside their metal door. This went on all week. On the last day I had to chuckle to myself as I noticed that they were watching, on their flat screen TV, “fly fishing the Gallatin River”. Sometimes I really wonder about sanity of all humanity.

This past weekend was the Rustic Furniture Fair at the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain Lake, NY. About 60 exhibitors showed their creations. I did two book signings and partially furnished the Designer Show House with some high end furniture. The Fair is a juried show. As expected Barney Bellinger and Randy Holden showed extraordinary furniture. Randy won “Best of Show” and the “People’s Choice” award. Barney had won the “Best of Show” award the previous year.

Barney showed up with a stunning cabinet that sold immediately. The piece will appear in my book, “Adirondack Design”, that will be out a year from now. His pieces show the talent of arguably the most advanced and influential builder ever. Randy is in the same league. His work will also appear in my upcoming book. Randy and I had diner the night before the show and talked art over a bottle of whisky until late at night. Both Randy and Barney recognize that their talents are a gift and that they are “blessed” to be able to do what they do.

Needless to say that both of them have influenced any number of rustic furniture builders across the country. Showing the true personalities of artistic geniuses they are flattered to see their efforts influencing the works of others. Interestingly enough, they are often asked how they feel about others “knocking off” their work. Rather then raising a fuss, filing lawsuits (as others have done) or creating a commotion within the arena of rustic furniture both of them have calmly stated that imitators (that’s my word) raise the bar of creativity for them. Rather then rest on their “laurels” both of them “push the envelope” of design and strive for more innovations in the field. And they succeed!

Frankly, both Randy and Barney are the leaders in the field and their works are destined for museums. On top of all their talent both of them are genuinely great people. And frankly, its one of the thrills of my life to personally know them and their families. (I just wish I could afford their work)!

The show was blessed with great weather! After months of constant rain and cool weather the clouds rolled back and blessed the exhibitors with the warm and bright rays of light.

Some interesting things are occurring within the rustic arena here in the East. Although a significant and affluent crowd showed up at the show, sales, according to many of the exhibitors, were off. Many exhibitors had hoped to sell more. In truth, many of the rustic builders are placing themselves out of the market. Many of them see the prices that the advanced guys are getting for furniture and feel they should get the same. Sadly, many of the “less accomplished” builders feel that their products are worth significantly more that what the public seems willing to pay for them. Unfortunately, some of them stand fast on their prices and hold out for “long money”. And then they complain about all sorts of things when their products don’t sell. And then tragically, they show up at the next show with the same furniture and again fail to sell their pieces. This becomes a vicious descending cycle. It’s far better to reduce the price, send it down the road, pay ones bills and then create a better piece for the next show. That’s how businesses grow. And that's how artists get better at their craft. So many of the builders show up at the shows with the same stuff and they wonder why things aren’t selling. Most builders don’t realize that most of the same retail crowd shows up at the Rustic Furniture Fair, The Adirondack Antique Show and all three of the Adirondack Living shows. Exhibitors must grow or their wives will divorce them and they’ll go bankrupt. I am sorry to say that I really don’t think that mediocre sofa tables, log beds and stump based dining tables are worth six thousand dollars. I also don’t think many of the pieces of furniture I saw at the show were worth the prices their owners were asking. And apparently neither did the consuming public.

Further, along this same line, so many of the builders have not grown with their art. Some builders have shown up with the same style chairs, cabinets, beds, and mirrors for years and years. Frankly, they’ve become so predictable its boring. People have to grow with their art or else they’ll be left behind and forgotten. At the same time, I’m visually tired of the same style sofa tables, bedside tables, dining tables, mirrors, shelves and other designs. A great artist pushes his craft. One cannot stay stagnant. Art is about creativity. Its not art unless something is created. Doing the same old stuff is nothing but repetition. It does not distinguish ones self.

And so enough of that. I just hope someone gets the message.

On the 22nd of this glorious month of September the Western Design Conference will open its doors. Located in Cody, Wyoming, the show is one of my favorite events of the year. Including a stunning fashion show, eight great one hour presentations on all things rustic, the conference includes a truly great exhibit from the best rustic furniture builders in the West. This year several of the builders from the East will also be showing their works. Professionally run and juried the exhibits are stunning. Further, the people who attend the show are worthy of admiration in themselves. There are more architects, interior designers, decorators, writers, builders, artists and just plain extraordinary folks then one can hope for under one roof.

Wednesday night is the Fashion show and Thursday night is the awards dinner. I’ll be giving out the first annual Ralph Kylloe Award for Excellence in Design at this show. The prize will include a framed certificate, cash (not a lot) and a feature of their works in my next book on Western Rustic stuff! I am looking forward to seeing the show and handing out the award!

On another note I had a surprising experience over this past weekend. I met someone at the Rustic Fair who commented that he was afraid to approach me because I’m always with my “clique” of heavy hitters. I really hope I don’t convey that image. I have my friends but I am always open to meeting new people. I shook hands with a few hundred people over the weekend, autographed a hundred or so books, and talked with a hundred or so people who acted like I should know them. In truth, I’m a lonely sort of guy who needs all the friends I can get! And I love compliments to boot! So if there are any shy people out there who want to chart with me for a few minutes let’s have a drink and tell a few stories! And you can also show me all the photos you want of the new rustic furniture you just built, your new rustic home and grandkids as well! In truth, I don’t have leprosy and I don’t have plutonium in my pockets! So speak up would you please.

And so tonight I’ll be going fishing on a small pond with my chatty friend Tom Welsh. We’ll have a great conversation…..he’ll talk for an hour, I’ll utter one sentence and then he’ll talk for another hour or so! So be it. It could be worse. I could be fighting a war in Iraq. God bless those guys over there. I bet every one of them would prefer to be home with their families. And frankly I wish they were home and we would get out of the Mid East. That region has a five thousand year history of violence and chaos. I sincerely doubt if we’ll be able to solve their problems. We have enough problems here and for some reason I wish we could have better schools, health insurance, etc. here in America. But, until the first week in November it looks like we’re stuck. Please don’t forget to vote.

Just think gang, we are now 7.1 trillion dollars in debt again. And almost all of that debt has occurred in the past three and a half years. And we can’t eat fish from more the 2/3 of the rivers in America because of mercury, lead and a zillion other industrial pollutants. If you don’t think that’s a big deal just for a second think of the fact the kids aren’t supposed to get leukemia, women aren’t supposed to get breast cancer and men aren’t supposed to die of all sorts of other environmentally related diseases.

Well, Florida is about to get socked with another hurricane. Maybe we should try to save some money to help Americans who have paid taxes all their lives. Let’s hope that sooner or later the arrogant attitudes of those who are running this country realize that the citizens of this great country come first.

Monday morning. I just got back from having my eyes examined and just maybe I should have had my head examined as well. I stopped in the local drug store that advertised a full pharmacy and all kinds of health aids. It does not seem unreasonable to me to think that the store does its best to keep people healthy. As I was about to pay the check-out person for my purchases I noticed with interest that they were also selling cigarettes. Am I out of my mind or should a store that sells health products and prescription drugs be selling something that will make you terribly sick and die? So I asked the clerk about it. She called the manager and he said “look Bozo……we’ll sell what ever the public wants and we can make a profit on”. I left without paying for the items I wanted. Maybe I think too much and maybe I should just mind my own damn business. But if we all just went about and not paid any attention to anything the world, I’m certain, would quickly become a horrible place. Vigilance is the price we pay for a just, honest society.

So on the 29th of this month a group of seven of us will be heading off to Alaska for fall fly fishing on the Kenai River. The rainbow trout are huge at that time of the year. I’m thrilled to be going. I promise I’ll look out for bears.

On Tuesday, November 9, I’ll be the key note speaker at the annual Adirondack Tourism Conference in Lake Placid. I feel strongly that “presentation is everything” and that the Adirondacks has something special to offer. I’ll be encouraging conference participants to recognize our Adirondack heritage and to incorporate that heritage into our business efforts.

Well folks, that’s about all I can think of for the time being. I hope everyone out there is married to an interesting person and if not then its necessary to be interesting yourself. And don’t forget that effort defines ones life. We’ll be remembered for what we do and that real honor comes from trying. Keep in touch, be good to your self and others and don’t forget to compliment those who deserve it. And just remember that it’s OK to toot your own horn once in a while. If you don’t no one else will. My best to all of you, Ralph

Saturday, August 14, 2004

It takes a full year for me to do a book. The photos take up to eight months for me to complete. Then I have to write captions for all 350 photos. After that, I write the text, sidebars and all the other stuff. It’s incredibly time consuming. One house took me over a week to photograph. The light was incredibly low and I had to use lengthy time exposures. I took the photos to the lab everyday and was disappointed to find that the photos weren’t “right”. Eventually I was satisfied and used the photos in my book RUSTIC STYLE. Right now I’m working on five new books. I have to have them all completed in two years. Each will have new photos, new text and new captions. I also have a five hundred page novel with my agent and am beginning to work on another.

I also have a band. We do all originals. We practice every Wednesday night and play both nights every weekend. I get home at around four in the morning after each gig. This week we are going back into the studio to work on our third CD of original material. I also have two galleries and a dozen people I have to work with everyday. I’m also the very proud parent of a gorgeous five year old daughter.

After much encouragement from numerous of my associates we are now taking a new direction in the ever evolving saga of rustic design. We have entered into agreement to purchase land here in the Adirondacks. On this tract we will be designing and constructing high quality homes that I’m developing with architect Larry Pearson. We will also be designing and furnishing the homes with the finest rustic furniture available. Bedrooms will be complete with birch tree beds. Kitchen and bathroom counters will have old world wooden slab tops. Living areas will be complete with comfortable leather chairs, oriental carpets, antler chandeliers and extraordinary Adirondack furnishings. Staircases will be complete with organic railings and kitchens will look great with rustic cupboards. Fireplaces will be constructed with dry stacked stones. Frankly, I’m thrilled to be heading in a new direction. It’s a new challenge for me.

I’ll also be traveling a lot this fall. The last two week in August we’ll be in the Bozeman, Montana area working on a few other projects. Early September sees the Adirondack Antiques Show and the Rustic Furniture Fair. September 20-27 I’ll be at the Western Design Conference in Cody, Wyoming. There I will present the first annual RALPH KYLLOE AWARD for excellence in design to one of more then a hundred of the finest rustic furniture makers in the country. This will be a very prestigious award and the winner, along with a cash award and a great looking framed certificate, will be featured in one of my up coming books! The first two weeks of October, I and a group of friends will be in Alaska fishing for huge rainbow trout (we still have room for two more individuals). November 5-7 is the Adirondack Living Show in Brewster, NY. Later that month I’ll be in upstate Michigan working on another project and then in early December I’ll be fishing for steelhead on Vancouver Island. Christmas will see the Kylloe family in Chicago for a traditional celebration with our families. And that’s just my schedule for the rest of this year! The coming spring seems almost more chaotic!

In truth, I see myself as busy but I really love everything I do. I don’t want to stop doing anything of the things I’m involved in. I consider myself retired. Actually, I retired almost thirty years ago when I started my “rustic stuff” business. In all honesty, and this applies to me only……we all have our own lives to lead and we follow our own inner voices, but I can’t stand just sitting around. I don’t watch much TV and I don’t consider myself a spectator. Life is not about “one hit wonders”. One victory in life is not enough. It’s what you do for an encore that makes th