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Private Public Places

Photo: Brett Bremer
Behind locked gates at Edwards Air Force Base, there is Los Angeles County's largest freshwater wetlands which is identified as an Audubon Important Bird Area. The ponds are a hybrid of nature and glorious human meddling. The Armagosa Creek runs out of the mountains to the ancient Rosamond Dry Lake and the southern area has always had springs and surface water as a result. In the 1950's, duck hunting clubs made the most of seasonal water by creating dams and dikes to create larger ponds. In the 1990's, reclaimed water from the Lancaster sewage plant was introduced and the wetlands now cover 9600 acres and are home to over 200 species of birds, as well as an estimated 150,000 frogs, kit foxes and 20 reptile species - all under the stewardship of Air Force Base biologists.

Regardless of how you feel about military bases, duck hunting clubs and municipal wastewater treatment, this Important Bird Area wouldn't exist without any one of them. I have emailed the Air Force base biologist Misty Hailstone to request access to the ponds and offered to pickup trash while I am there. I am looking forward to being somewhere with 150,000 frogs.
Through Instagram and geo-tagging, wild and secret spaces are less secret and less wild and I can now look at gatekeeping with a fresh preservationist lens. Perhaps I will start the Secret Society of Secret Places, then I will be yet another gatekeeper as a guide to gatekeepers.

Update: Misty Hailstone got back to me and I am completing the paperwork to visit the 150,000 frogs of Piute Ponds.

Garage Sale Flea Auction Report

KMart Crockery Kettle

As slow cooker season is upon us, I realized that I needed to get a crockpot for the cabin rather than spend another season toting one slow cooker back and forth. I was absolutely delighted to find this new-old-stock garage sale K-Mart Crockery Kettle for $3.

Early crock pots didn't have a removable stoneware insert that could be moved to the refrigerator so that is a key, meaningful feature in slow cooker development.
  • The price was terrific
  • The condition is immaculate
  • The faux stoneware speckle paint enamel paint job is superlative. That is exactly what you want. It screams 'hearty stew for you and yours.'
  • The K-Mart brand

As a kid, K-Mart was really an ideal store. Where I grew up, there were limited retail options and K-Mart was extremely important. If I went in a record or toy store, the staff would follow my every move to be sure I wasn't pocketing a Bee Gees cassette but at K-Mart I had an autonomy that wasn't possible in other stores. It was a city simulacrum for a kid, where you could wander from department to department and no one would hassle you for flipping through magazines, comparing fishing tackle, looking at digital watches, reading books or studying album covers. Sometimes, there would be an elementary school teacher wearing a blazer and tie, moonlighting at the Texas Instruments TI 99/4a personal computer kiosk as a demonstrator. You could talk to him for an hour about computers as he would sneer derisively at the adjacent Vic-20 display.

In 1994, KMart and Wal-Mart banned the Nirvana album In Utero "claiming its back cover — a pinkish photo of fetuses strewn on a field of innards, daisies, and tiger lilies — was unfit for 'the family-oriented customer.'" For the first six months, Geffen didn't capitulate and the album was not carried by major chains. What was a stand against censorship melted away when Nirvana modified the back cover art and changed the song "Rape Me" to "Waif Me" as the band was decried as sell-outs.

From Entertainment Weekly:

"Nirvana, for its part, doesn’t see it that way. Two thirds of the band, Kurt Cobain and Krist Novoselic, grew up in Aberdeen, Wash., 'and the only place they were able to get their music was Wal-Mart and Kmart,' the band’s spokeswoman, Janet Billig, has said. 'They really want to make their music available to kids who don’t have the opportunity to go to mom-and-pop stores. They feel strongly enough to make some alterations.'"

There are a lot of stances we could take on the subject but I believe Kurt and Krist understood what Kmart means to a kid in a small town.
Second Place
Late 19th Century Chinese Temple Statue

I believe this is a Qing Dynasty Guan-Yi temple statue. Wonderfully carved, beautiful patina, has been painted at least three times and has some losses. The right hand is gone and the left hand has been inexpertly glue back on. I am going to bring to Coco's tomorrow if you want to see it. It's wonderful AND LARGE.

30" x 10"
Third Place
Double Sided American Painting of the West

Probably painted in the 1940's or 50's. Unintelligible signature on the forest valley side and rather than a signature, the red canyon side says Zion Park in the lower right corner.

24" x 12"
Christmas Magazines

While grocery shopping this week, the annual Christmas spectaculars from the leading domestic magazines caught my eye from two aisles away and I knew if I got too close they would magnetic black hole me to rashly buy a stack of $13.99 cover price magazines. Fast forward a week and swapmeet Juan had the same magazines for $1 each. Praise! He wanted $3 each for the big thick, printed on pulp word find books. As if!

Not for sale
Malachite 'Nut Dishes'

As longtime listeners know, I am an ardent supporter of the fresh roasted, candied, spiced nut. I recently bought a pair of French malachite nut dishes with brass rims at auction. I was planning to not open the package until the porch light went out on Halloween, the official start of the most magical time of year, but I am a flesh and blood human being with desires like anyone else. As soon as saw them, bam! Dang it!

"Those are soap dishes!"

Man, I tried to eat nuts out of them but all I can picture is a big slimy bar of Dial soap in there! And I can't use them as soap dishes, as whenever I see them, I will know the tale of the nut dish that wasn't a nut dish. If I bought them as soap dishes, I would be thrilled. They are wonderful.

Pair of early 20th century malachite French soap dishes with brass rim
3 3/8" x 4 3/4"


Piute Ponds Information
Friends of the Piute Ponds

To visit the ponds, email Air Force biologist Misty at and you can read about her efforts in the rehabilitation of a desert tortoise hit by a car.

Google Maps Pin

The best photos of the ponds and the animals therein are by Brett Bremer

1994 article on the In Utero ban - Entertainment Weekly
I am going to double check every used copy of In Utero I see in the wild - I really want to own the "Waif Me" version.

Collecting Malachite in the Wilderness - Google Maps Pin
I have found natural malachite, azurite and nice agates in this canyon, but a few years ago there was an elaborate cage/trap to catch coyotes and bobcats. It bummed me out enough that I haven't been back, though I bet the trap is not there now.

Kuan-Yin Transformation in Chinese Buddhism - Link
The wikipedia entry on Kuan-Yi is overwhelming but I really enjoyed this article how kuan-yin/guan-yin has morphed through multiple cultures physical manifestations of Buddhism. I'll admit I was skimming by the lower third of the article but I believe I picked up the salient points.
Chronic's Petrified Wood - Trainspotters may have wondered how I got Chronic's petrified wood to stand upright. Wonder no more. "My boy" in Dispatch #43.


Ann and Gordon Estate Auctions - Link
I have been transfixed by the Christie's auctions of the collections of Ann and Gordon Getty. The breadth and quality is amazing, but how Ann put it together in the home to live with is singularly impressive. 

You know how you come up with scenarios where you are forced to pick your favorite this or your favorite that? Desert Island this or Desert island that? Like, a motorcycle cop pulls up next to you and says, "Hey punk! What is your favorite Mary J. Blige song?"

Flustered, "well, sir, Family Affair is a great song, but I would have to say that the One duet with Bono is my favorite." and then the cop zooms away. But then at the next light, there he is again...

"Yeah, punk, well, what if you are driving across town in a small, rattlebox car that isn’t fast but does exhibit predictable handling and you want to listen to Mary J. Blige in the form of a big, trashy early 2000’s rave mix?"

"That's easy. No More Drama (Thunderpuss Club Anthem Mix)."

A Dealer’s Hand: The Chinese Art World Through The Eyes of Guisseppe Eskenazi -
Expensive books are expensive and that is a problem for the frugal reader, but they redeem themselves in generally having a pretty stable value. You can read it, keep it for a year, flip through it again and then list in on eBay and get all/most/more money out of it at the back end. I am about to sell my copy of The Stone Masters (that isn’t mine.) I absolutely loved it, but I would love the cash more to buy the next expensive book. So few books are truly irreplaceable that I don’t get hung up on feeling I need to have everything on the shelf so having to sell books to buy more books is fine with me. Not being able to buy expensive books would be the agony. 

Hughes and Coco's Auction News

We are currently specifically seeking quality Judiaca, vintage couture fashion, fine jewelry, luxury handbags, folk art and carnival amusements. You can consign to Hughes or if you don't want to wait for the auction, we will buy collections outright. 

The reason we are collecting specifically in these categories is we already have nearly enough lots to have an auction. We would like to augment what we have with some additional heavy hitters to make for an outstanding auction.

That said, we are always looking for all sorts of antiques, collectibles, fine art, decorative art and collections. For example, we were not specifically looking for 78 RPM records but a large single owner collection made for an exceptional 828 lot auction

Let's Chat!

Tomorrow is Saturday, I am at the cabin now, so I will leave from here to hit some garage sales on the way to Coco’s. If there is something compelling sounding in Antelope Valley, I will head that way, pickup some sales on the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley, then depending on time head over the 210 through the foothills or just head to Tacos Villa Corona and a couple Atwater / Silverlake sales - those fools sleep in so you can hit them at 9:30. 

How long did this take to write?

On Sunday, I wrote much of the Piute Ponds section over the course of an hour, but much of that time was spent researching the ponds and emailing Misty.

On Wednesday, between 8:30 and 9:00 I wrote the final paragraph of Piute Ponds and the update from Misty. Also, I started KMart Crockpot.

On Friday, between 10:30 and 11:16, I finished KMart Crockpot.

On Friday from 3:30 until 4:32, I finished the garage sale / flea / auction round up.

On Friday from 4:32 until right this instant that I am pressing the send button, I finished the recommendations, cleaned up the references and added the auction piece. The Piute Ponds got a light edit and the KMart Crockery got a little tune, but the rest was just like a roll of paper through Kerouac’s typewriter. That isn’t a conscious decision to side with the Beat form, that is just me trying to write faster and longer about more than I should and in less time that it deserves. I swear, dear reader, someday soon I will edit one of these and prove it isn’t much better for the effort. Not that the writing is so clean to start with, just that I am poor editor. 

You can always email me direct at 

We sell bikes too, though you'd never know it from the newsletter. Coco's buys, sells, trades and discusses all manner of what-have-you.

Peace be with you. 


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