April 19, 2012

Robert Miles Parker

Robert Miles Parker, 1974.

After my divorce from Paul, I moved to the Front and Fir neighborhood downtown. A cluster of my old college friends had moved into the old building on the North corner, and I moved into a cottage next door.

I was terribly fragmented, and I turned to drugs and alcohol to blur myself from this great sorrow. What I didn’t know through my alcoholic haze was that I had fallen into this hot bed of action and preservation. Yes, my friends four-plex was a turn of the century, built for the great Panama-California Exposition of 1915-1916. The other structures on the block were a truly varied bunch. A fifties apartment house sits next to a clump of Victoriana that were moved on before the freeway cut through the neighborhood. Two mansions rested, gently collapsing, and above them were a row of Edwardian charmers.

I moved away to my own Victorian. Then after it burned, thanks to my friend Harry Evans, I moved as caretaker into the very tired Victorian at the corner of Front and Fir. Next door was party and art center for many of the denizens of the city. We partied; they partied. One night staggering down the street, I met up with a clump of them locked out of their Victorian.

I was brave...or dumb. I climbed up the side of the house. By opening the door, I met my neighbor Robert Miles Parker. He stirred the consciousness of the city to saving some of their heritage. He hung a sign on the Sherman Gilbert house. “Save me,” it said with Mile’s phone number. There were thousands of calls. Millions, Miles said. The city began to save those buildings that were at the core. Miles had parties, and the city loved him. The politicos didn’t, but the rest of us did.

He not only saved history here, but he traveled the country with his sketchbook documenting the Victorian beauties that are scattered across the land. He published books, he gave parties, he talked, and he drew. He was my friend, and he gave me my first one person show in his downtown gallery. His gallery director stole all the money from the show, and we parted ways for a few years.

His brilliancy became iconoclastic, and after he fell down the cliffs at Black’s Beach and completely smashed his face we talked again. He moved to New York and kept on drawing tho Parkinson’s made his sketches almost abstract in their quality. Miles died Wednesday in New York. His partner was with him.

Miles in 1980 with his new face.


  1. Interesting story. I can see where your love of old structures enters the story. I love old structures too. That's why we live in the city...such as it is.

    I have a question. You travel a lot. So, do you use Expedia, Travelocity or one of those companies that help you find a flight? Also, any thoughts on airlines? I haven't traveled by air in a few years and haven't kept up with the airline quality. Dianne

  2. You're quite a sketcher yourself. Sorry for your old friend's passing.

  3. What an interesting life you have lead! Amazing to have crossed paths with icons of their times.

  4. I did what I always do and booked through American Express. I am flying out United Air Lines, so if you know bad things, don't tell me, please. My dates are Oct 4-7. Hope to see you Friday Oct 6 for lunch? Checking with my DIL for transport to meet you. Dianne

  5. What a great story including the illustrations. You certainly have lived a varied and unusual life....and have even more adventures coming.

  6. Wow!!! I really love old houses and I live in one. It's not as pretty as the ones here but it's home until further notice,

    And I'm really impressed with your mentor!!!! You have been blessed!

  7. This was a very interesting story. I really enjoyed reading it.

  8. Sometimes I find your stories almost unbearably poignant. I send you hugs I would like to give you in person.

  9. Drugs and alcohol couldn't have been a good mixture. Glad you are still here. Your friend was quite a character. He reminds me of my brother, an artist and musician, who died of Hepatitis C in 2003...

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