'Tis the night before Christmas and Merlin the Dog,
Is polishing this year’s new Santa Paws blog;
All his dog pals had long gone to their mats,
The photo-shoots done, no more un-comfy hats;
The red Merlin-mobile was parked tucked in its shed,
Dreaming of thrilling new road trips ahead;
Merlin’s collar was hung by the car keys with care,
Secure in the knowledge they’d soon go somewhere;
The dog toys were tidied and stuffed in their crate,
Awaiting the next RSVP play date;
The chauffeurs were snuggled asleep oh so well,
Happy in Merlin’s home dog-friendly hotel.
Deer biscuits sat by the hearth on a plate,
Merlin was sure they must be reindeer bait;
In case he was Scottish, for Santa a dram,
A hearty retort declared, “Aye, that I am!”
Eight tiny deer biscuits were laid in a row,
What if one biscuit were somehow to ‘go’?
NORAD’s on-line Santa Claus sleigh tracking site
revealed that Santa’s due deep in the night;
Will the eight tiny biscuits be fresh when they come?
To be a good host, Merlin sampled just one.
As iTunes played quiet holiday Filk,
Merlin spied by the biscuits, a saucer of milk!
Too much to resist was the smell of full cream,
Merlin’s head slowly turned as if in a dream;
Ever closer and closer his muzzle was drawn,
Until in a twinkling the milk was gone long before dawn!
Merlin raised a keen ear for the chauffeurs at rest,
He could tell by their snoring, it was time for a test;
With a quick focused lick a commotion was heard,
A second biscuit was gone, yum, yum, and a third;
As the biscuit plate made a just bit of a clatter,
Merlin froze in mid-bite willing hush in the matter;
Silence restored, chauffeurs slept on through the night,
Merlin thought, “I’ve had three, it must be all right!”
Four biscuits, five biscuits, six biscuits woofed,
And still no tiny reindeer hoofs prancing the roof.
Now as Merlin concludes his Santa Paws blog,
He confesses to the reindeer he’s been a bad dog.
“I’ve eaten your biscuits, and though they were small,
I’m certain that deer don’t eat biscuits at all;
“And I drank Santa’s milk but it wasn’t my fault,
‘Cause I know for a fact he prefers single malt.”
Outside Christmas solar-powered lights go dark,
And Merlin signs off with a holiday bark:
As the last tiny biscuit now passes from sight,
“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a Great Night!”
Dec 24, 2009
Dec 13, 2009
Artists welcome every excuse to have a party, and December is a busy month for open studios, art receptions, and holiday gallery events. Merlin gleefully volunteers to greet art appreciators to the studio, and oversee the snacks. He’s particularly attentive to art reception cheese and invites visitors to participate in the long running performance art piece, Toss the Cheese to Merlin. The cheese never has a chance.
This week is the thirteenth annual Art Works Downtown Holiday Open Studios. Forty artists open their studios to the public with good cheer and great art. Merlin’s back-up chauffeur entertains in the AWD Gallery all weekend with original compositions on keyboards. Sporting his Santa Paws hat, Merlin plays gracious host, pointing the way to the Christmas cookies and herding kids around the card making tables. Guest snacks appear throughout the art spaces. Merlin stalks the art cheese. He’s trained a few artists to perform cheese tricks. Anne Wolfe serves Merlin cheese on a silver platter in her painting studio. Painter of masks and myths, she creates fantastical goddess/ alien /spirit art.
On the lower level, Jason Sheldrick assembles, disassembles, and illustrates found materials. Jason's trick is Cheese Chunk Kiss, an improvised cheese performance variation. Painter and illustrator Ann Langston creates delightful images from her travels, and invites Merlin to her dinner parties.
Janelle Schneider is a mixed media digital artist of astonishing internal landscapes, and an official follower of Merlin’s Road Trip blog. Merlin is looking forward to her Marin Arts Council exhibit reception at the Marin Community Foundation later this month. The AWD Marin Jewelers Guild always has elegant, tasteful displays and tasty snacks.
After checking on the music in the Gallery, Merlin returns to greet visitors to the Pavlinac Photography studio, his home base when he’s not on the road. Settled amongst phenomenal photos of places of presence, Merlin plots his next road trip to trot fresh labyrinths and sniff pristine destinations. The journey continues, fueled by art, dreams, and cheese.
Nov 30, 2009
We’ve a lunch date in Ft. Bragg, lured by the promise of great beer at the North Coast Brewery. Merlin rides for the fries. Our pal, Frankenstein author Mary Shelley author Molly Dwyer, invited us to address her local writers' group. Molly was inspired by her visit to the Marin Branch of the California Writers Club to charter a new, more conveniently located, branch. So three CWC officers, Linda McCabe and Kate Farrell of Redwood Writers, and Merlin's chauffeur from Marin, trekked the three hours north to Mendocino County. Instigator Molly was still in Paris so we toasted her with fabulous microbrew and birthday cake. Merlin gathered us for a photo snap in the rain beside Hwy 1.
California State Route Number One is Merlin’s favorite road trip road. Designated an All-American Road, the infamous Highway One hugs the western edge of America along some of the most specular coastline in the world. Many of Merlin’s favorite destinations are on Highway One: Muir Beach, Point Reyes, the Golden Gate Bridge. The artist colony and resort town of Mendocino is an obvious addition to the Highway One catalog, and Merlin managed to parlay the writers lunch into a three day getaway. The first big storm of the season arrived just ahead of us; it rained the entire sojourn. Merlin trotted across raging storm drains, splashing into the center of puddles, soaking through his clean towel pile at the first stop. Happy wet Merlin streamed up the car windows. We drove towards the ocean and slid to a muddy stop on the cliffs above the roiling surf. Stepping out into biting wind and salty rain, Merlin squinted from the leeward side of the Merlin mobile. No whale sightings today.
Merlin suggests we find some of those famous Mendocino redwoods. Turning inland from Van Damme State Park beach, we enter a primordial forest. Gliding through soggy tree tunnels, Merlin inhales wet pine. Mendocino has some of the tallest living trees in the world, and some of the smallest. A Pygmy Forest hides in the poor soil of coastal terraces between Fort Bragg and Anchor Bay. Cypress trees over 100 years old are only a foot high: Merlin-size! We disembark with umbrellas, towering over the tiny trees. A ginormous Merlin sniffs their tippy tops from the raised walkway protecting the delicate Lilliputian forest from disruptive visitor feet. Here we are Brobdingnagian, strolling respectfully among century old toothpicks. We slosh back through thick drizzle to our warm coastal cabin fireplace and hot tub.
Mendocino Getaway: 333 miles
Oct 27, 2009
When we embarked on Merlin's Road Trip blog two years ago, we were driving across America to a wedding in Michigan. The daughter of my college suite-mate was getting married, and it was going to be quite a reunion. Merlin wanted to attend. So, Road Trip!
Allowing two weeks seemed plenty of time. We expected deserts, salt lakes, petroglyphs, dinosaurs, labyrinths, Lincoln Highway, Pony Express, and more labyrinths. Our journey surprised us with snow flurries, ice storms, Jesse James, and a harrowing near death drive.
Arriving with a day to spare, we did get to the church on time. The wedding was wonderful, the couple splendid, the dress gorgeous, the reception legendary. We ate, toasted, laughed, and danced like it was 1979. Merlin particularly relished the M & M wedding table favors, while the British side of the family doted over him.
Merlin and his chauffeurs stayed a few extra days to enjoy the fabulous company, and to stretch all our legs before the 3,000 mile drive back west. Merlin frolicked in sunlit autumn Maple leaves, and discovered Midwestern black squirrels.
Sian and Aaron!
on your road trip of life.
Come visit Merlin some time.
Oct 15, 2009
Sep 24, 2009
Merlin adores his bright red MerlinMobile, always eager to hop into his traveling dog clubhouse. Having a wizardly namesake, Merlin has a nose for legend. Mention a flying doghouse and he sniffs out the renowned Snoopy, and Red Baron dogfights. Snoopy’s home is Santa Rosa, California where Charles Sparky Schulz drew the Peanuts Gang comic strip for 50 years. The Schulz Museum hosts a cute outdoor garden Snoopy Labyrinth, built by our pal Lea Goode-Harris.
Snoopy was also a fledgling writer, tapping his typewriter on his doghouse roof. Unlike Snoopy, some of our writer friends finished their novels. They brought them to the Sonoma County Book Festival. We went to see, loading the MerlinMobile for an autumn romp and writer rendezvous.
En route through the town of Sonoma for the Valley of the Moon, we espied a labyrinth-suspicious garden beyond a church parking lot. With a quick u-turn at the Vallejo Home Sonoma State Historic Park, we did indeed discover a new labyrinth. The First Congregational Church of Sonoma was founded in 1871, and the labyrinth is a recent addition to their Memorial Garden.
Sneaking the back road way into Santa Rosa, we arrived at Old Courthouse Square and hopped out to find our authors. Merlin immediately located one of his favorite writers, Kate Farrell, author of Girl in the Mirror. He had helped with her cover photography and website artwork, which features his favorite model, Karen Tomczak. After a quick photo op with Kate and Teresa LeYung Ryan, author of Love Made of Heart, Merlin spotted the Redwood Writers table. He was enthusiastically greeted by Ana Manwaring, Susan Littlefield, and Susan Bono. Searching for two of his loyal blog followers, Linda McCabe and Ann Wilkes, he interrupted lunch for Guy Biederman, a former fellow Art Works Downtown resident artist. We couldn’t find Molly Dwyer, because she’s in Paris! Great excuse.
Lurking on the edge of the fest was Jo Cool, Surfer Snoopy, one of the 95 statues painted by local artists. Merlin was astonished that Snoopy was so huge, wondering about the size of his flying doghouse, and his biscuits. We sniffed Joe Cools along 4th Street, looking for his typewriter.
Merlin likes writers. They’re always eating. He likes helping out at writer events, especially those of the Marin Branch of the California Writers Club. They have meetings at Book Passage in Corte Madera and gala holiday parties. He earned a guest badge for their Writers Way Conference in the Marin Headlands, by attending more planning meetings than some of the two legged committee members. Whatever the event, Merlin makes sure all the snacks are tidied.
Writers go to interesting places for inspiration. Wild, untamed places. Road trip places.
Write on! Ride on!
Santa Rosa romp: 84 miles
Sep 2, 2009
Motto of the Robert Ferguson Observatory
Merlin goes camping! Best dog friend, Norma Jean, invited Merlin and entourage to a star party birthday sleepover at Sugarloaf Ridge State Park in the Sonoma Valley. Her people booked the group campground and arranged for the Valley of the Moon Observatory Association astronomer docents to open the Robert Ferguson Observatory just for us! They have three telescopes: a 24" reflector for deep space, a classic 8" refractor for solar system objects, and a 14" CCD for photographing faint objects direct to digital, displayed on a huge room monitor. Thrilling!
Our small group had the telescopes all to ourselves. Here's some snapshots from the CCD. Not as spectacular as Hubble, but pretty thrilling for a California State Park in Sonoma. Messier 51a is the cannibal Whirlpool Galaxy. NGC 891 is an edge-on spiral galaxy in Andromeda, 30 million light years away. Sirius, the Dog Star, would appear an hour before dawn. Merlin lasted until midnight. We had our eye on Jupiter all night through the refractor in the dome. It's at opposition, and is the closest, biggest, and brightest so far this century. The brilliant planet revealed four moons through the telescope. Over the night, two bright moon dots sidled up to Jupiter from either side. By 1:30 am all the sissies were asleep. Only Merlin's people were up with the docents to witness Callisto disappear behind Jupiter as Io disappeared in front. Io’s inky black shadow crept across radiant Jupiter for two hours. Orbital dynamics, live, through a telescope near you. Just like Galileo, except without the Inquisition.
Galileo Galilei was the first to observe Jupiter's moons in 1610, through his telescope invention. Science challenged Church and Galileo lost, spending the last decade of his life under house arrest. Merlin hides out in the arts whenever he has a subversive urge.
In the morning we walked to Mars. Pluto was too far on a distant ridge. Astronomy mingles science and mystery, empirical observation with awe and wonder. Plus, we get to stay up all night. Anyone with a pair of decent binoculars can look up into the night sky and see Jupiter's moons for themselves. Tonight, Callisto and Io will slip behind Jupiter as Europe and Ganymede pass in front. All four Galilean moons of Jupiter will disappear, an event which occurs only a few times each century. We’ll be outside, looking up, pup tent near by. Ad astra!
Sugarloaf: 80 miles
Pluto: 2.66 billion miles
Andromeda Galaxy: 2.5 million light years
Edge of Universe: 46.5 billion light years
Aug 14, 2009
School’s out and interns are clamoring to work with Merlin. We hosted Ryan and Matt this summer at our art/ photography studio. Merlin insisted on modeling, sharing his secrets for achieving great portraits (blueberry doggie crunchy attention enhancers).
Our interns earn credit through the Marin County School to Career internship program, which requires multimedia presentations and blogs about their work experience. Ryan goes to Drake and Matt is at Redwood where they’ll be seniors in the fall. Visit their blogs, Ryan’s and Matt’s and post an encouraging yip.
After a month, Merlin suggested the interns might like to work with someone taller than him, so we contacted our favorite human model, Karen Tomczak. We arranged a location shoot and packed our bag of tricks with metallic cloths, sheer fabrics, shiny streamers, and reflective fans from Chinatown. Everyone rendezvoused at our local labyrinth in Terra Linda. Merlin trotted the path, had a drink from the fountain, and frolicked in the nearby park. The interns were amazed to work with a professional model and both marked the experience as the highlight of their summer internship. We shot over 800 digital photos between the three of us. Karen reveled in the photographic Circle of Confusion, melting our camera with her unwavering intensity and playfulness. She’s our super model!
Pavlinac Photography has been a popular Marin internship since the mid-90’s. We’ve gotten our tripods wet at Muir Beach, waited for the full moon to rise over the Golden Gate Bridge, made multiple time exposures in the Headland tunnels, got kicked out of Fort Point for not having a movie permit, walked the labyrinth at Grace Cathedral, noted botanical captions in Latin, balanced road cones on our heads, and documented artwork and jewelry in the studio. Merlin handles the canine modeling arrangements, inviting interns’ dogs to come along and try their paw at being professionally photographed. And catch frisbees for dog park action shots. Our interns have gone on to top photo schools, won awards at the Mill Valley Film Festival, worked with Stan Lee, are congressional aids and photojournalists, and splashed in Hollywood.
We welcome aspiring artists and students of photography to drop by our studio in Art Works Downtown for conversation, questions, portfolio sharing, and mutual inspiration. Merlin is often resident in the studio, especially for gallery receptions and open studios events. He volunteers for clean up duty and is adept at tidying extra Art Cheese.
Bark by. Bring blueberry biscuits.
Cindy, 17 years hosting interns
Merlin, 9 years delighting and training interns
Jul 26, 2009
Merlin likes bikes. They go fast. Almost as fast as a sprinting Merlin across the park. Merlin also enjoys the Tour de France three week TV couch potato encampment. After weeks of virtual cyclists, we took a stretch break to cheer a real bike race, the annual San Rafael Criterium.
The Saturday event draws 700 cyclists for a series of races around a downtown loop. Merlin enjoys a front curb view. His ears blow back as the race accelerates. Marin mountain biked cops smile over their radar guns as the front cyclists break the posted speed limit. Merlin approves of supporters who dispense promotional treats to the crowd. The best sponsor is a dog company who’s paw print logo encourages a women’s team with a pat on their rumps. He’s not too sure about the cowbell mania. He prefers cowbells on cows, or cats.
The 1K Criterium course circles three city blocks. The first hay baled turn is from Fourth Street uphill onto D (as in Dog), right in front of Merlin’s chauffeur’s studio in Art Works Downtown. Our summer intern, Ryan Derham, joined us to learn sports photography. Fast shutter speeds freeze the action and slow shutter speeds create artistic blur. Photo opportunities whiz past every few minutes as the racers flash by our spot. Ryan posted some photos on her internship blog. Go see!
There’s a break before the final pro races for the thrilling Kids Course Ride. Under-5's pedal, crawl, and are pushed two blocks, before the most serious racers of the day step up- the 5-12 year olds. Excitable parents are barred from the street as the kids stare down the first lap. They erupt from the starting gate and never look back. Merlin’s favorites are the pink girls with pink bikes, pink helmets, pink shoes, and flying pink ribbons, and the lone batman. They blur past Art Works Downtown, marshaled by pro riders on their own speed machines. All required fast shutter speeds as they zipped around the course. Official results on USA Cycling.
Last February, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, and the Astana Team rode in the 2009 Amgen Tour of California cycling right by Merlin in Marin and across the Golden Gate Bridge. Phil and Paul commentated as spring rain pelted the racers. For the third year, Levi was first. Everyone won.
Of course, big name cyclists missed San Rafael this month for Paris. But next spring the Tour will return to California and Merlin will be there to bark them through Marin and onto the Golden Gate Bridge.
Cyclists, Tour de France: 2,174 miles
Cyclists, Tour of California 2009: 781 miles
Cyclists, San Rafael Criterium: 225 miles
Merlin, 8 mile loop