Peter Max’s painting of Donald’s father, Don Rubbo

Several years ago we heard that Peter Max would be signing copies of his new book of paintings at a Borders store in San Jose. I insisted to Donald that we go to the book signing.

We drove down to the Borders store and purchased a copy of the book, and then stood in a long line. One of the employees announced that if you wanted Peter Max to sign the book to a particular person, to write the name of that person on a slip of paper.

We wrote down ‘Don Rubbo’ on a piece of paper. We know that Peter Max hadn’t seen that name in many, many years.

In 1962, Peter Max, Tom Daly and their mentor Don Rubbo started a small Manhattan arts studio together, the Daly & Max Studio. Although his name wasn’t listed, Don Rubbo joked that he was the ampersand in Daly & Max Studio.  In 1963, Daly, Max and Rubbo did the illustration, design and color for Helga Sandburg’s (the daughter of poet Carl Sandburg) children’s book Joel and the Wild Goose. (

At the book signing, we waited patiently for our turn, inching slowly up to the table where Peter Max sat hunched over the books as he was signing them. He rarely looked up, only glancing over at the slips of paper and writing a quick inscription.  Finally we reached the table, slid our book to him and placed the piece of paper with ‘Don Rubbo’ on top of the book.

He stared at the piece of paper for a few moments, and then looked up at Donald with a big smile. He leaped over the table and grabbed Donald in a bear hug, exclaiming, “Your father taught us all!”

As the long line of people watched, Peter and Donald were engaged in a lengthy conversation, and finally Peter said to Donald, “Send me a photo of your dad, and I will make a painting of him for you!”

Several years passed, and recently I emailed him again, gently reminding him of his offer, and saying how much it would mean to Donald to receive the painting. I sent again a photo, one that Don Rubbo had taken of himself sitting with his sons, with Donald just behind his shoulder.

Peter’s assistant called me, and said she thought the photo was so exquisite, and that Peter would be creating a painting for Donald and that it would be shipped soon. We were beyond excited, so thrilled and honored, and looking forward to seeing the painting.

It finally arrived, and it is truly a magnificent piece of art. We are deeply grateful to Peter, and as Donald examined the painting, he could feel the energy and love that Peter put into every brush stroke.

Thank you, Peter!

Please help us imagine a world where women are safe, respected, honored and loved.

We want to send our love and gratitude out to all the mothers in the world, for Mother’s Day.

Although we will be traveling that day, we will hold in our hearts our own mothers and sending them our eternal love.

We got an important email from, about a conversation Oscar-winning actor Javier Bardem had with John Prendergast, the co-f0under of Enough, about the mothers of eastern Congo, and how the illicit trade in Congo’s conflict minerals is fueling the ongoing conflict. They are urging Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to step up efforts to resolve this terrible situation and end the violence in the region.

This prompted me to write on our Facebook page: “Imagine yourself creating peace for the women and children of Congo for Mother’s Day. Encourage Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a loving mother, to help resolve this crisis NOW! As many of you know, this issue is a burning desire of mine, I feel deeply the pain, sorrow and unnecessary suffering of these women.”

Here is the link to sign the petition to Hillary:

Please help us imagine a world where women are safe, respected, honored and loved. Thank you.

This story is coming together, like magic! Like Rock Soup, actually!

Carrots from the Farmer's Market

‘My Father’s Magic Rock Soup’ is the story of how Donald was taught to cook with an artist’s sensibilitilies by his father, with love and an appreciation for the magical, alchemical process of cooking. His dad was an influential artist, the godfather of Pop Art, and a mentor to and business partner of Peter Max. He had many students, and so many of them honor him in their artwork to this day.

We are honoring his memory by writing this story within a story, how Donald’s father sent him out to find a rock (in the middle of the Bronx!), and told him the inspiring story of Rock Soup – a popular fable of cooperation amidst scarcity –and then step-by-step showing him how to make the rock soup in the kitchen of their apartment. 

Our vision for this story is to inspire children to learn about history, and cooperation, and encourage the desire to cook food, and to ‘know’ vegetables: what they look like, how wonderful they smell, how many different hues of all colors are in nature and in the food we eat, what they taste like raw and cooked, and how they blend together to make something beautiful and delicious.

For adults we want to remind people what is is like to have a sense of community, what it’s like to work together, despite differences, to create something greater from small individual offerings, that nourishes everyone.   

We have several phases of ‘My Father’s Magic Rock Soup’, an inspirational story within a story:
 first a children’s book
 after market products
 the opening chapter of our cookbook
 and an animated movie

We are blessed to have the help of good friends and family to edit and polish the story. This project, ‘My Father’s Magic Rock Soup’ has become a kind of Rock Soup itself, with every edit and/or suggestion the story gets better and better! 

Our heartfelt thanks to Sharon Shafran, KayAnne Solem, and Peter Coyote, you read all (so far) 5000 words, grokked it and gave superb suggestions! 

We are shopping for a literary agent, and hope to finish up the book soon!

My Father’s Magic Rock Soup – story continues…………..

 And so began my father’s tale of Magic Rock Soup:

As all good stories began in the past with ‘Once Upon a Time,’ so does this one. Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there had been a great war, a war that seemed to have lasted for an eternity.  

Epic battles had been fought, countless villages had been sacked, thousands of acres of crops had been burned and great swaths of land made barren. There was little to eat, for both peasants and soldiers, and resources were scarce.

The war had finally ended and the soldiers were wearily journeying through the scarred land back to their homes. One soldier, in particular, was trudging homeward and had scant provisions for the long trip to his own village. Although he was in his late twenties, he seemed older, his tired eyes reflecting the trials and tribulations of the extended war. The Soldier had wavy dark brown, almost black, hair that was pulled back into a ponytail, and a short, curly, light brown beard that covered his lower face. His uniform, the white linen of the southern Italian regiment of the French Army, was shabby and had been patched in many places.  His gaiters were torn and muddy and the soles of his shoes had been repaired many times. He carried his goatskin knapsack over his shoulder.

The Soldier had been Cook in his regiment, and his knapsack was stuffed with the tools of his trade: a large wooden spoon, a sharp knife, a tinderbox, and a battered pot that had belonged to his best friend Brieuse that The Soldier took with him when he left his regiment to remind him of the men for whom he had prepared food for so many years. Hearing the clanking coming from his knapsack as he walked along, he recalled something his friend had told him, “I’ve heard it said, on good authority, that army cooks can affect the mood and actions of the soldiers and thus influence history through their spoons.”


My Father’s Magic Rock Soup – How I Learned to Cook with Chi & Love

My Father's Magic Rock Soup

By Donald Rubbo, with Cheryl Lynne Rubbo

When I was nine years old, my father decided that it was time I learned how to cook. 

I lived with my mother and brothers and sister in the Bronx, on 161st Street and Walton Avenue, near Yankee Stadium. My father wasn’t around that much so when he did visit us we all took great delight in his presence.

I had already been experimenting with baking, in the little kitchen in our apartment, making cakes and pastries, cream puffs and éclairs, and pies.  During one of his visits, my father watched me baking and told me that if I went out and brought home a rock he would tell me the story of Rock Soup, and teach me how to cook with this story.

So, out into the neighborhood I went searching for a rock. The Bronx, in the mid-sixties, was a gritty, hardscrabble urban borough, and although there were plenty of rocks to be found they didn’t seem really suitable to bring home to my dad. As I ran around playing with my friends in the streets, I was on the lookout for rocks. Late in the afternoon I spotted a very unusual looking rock, it was out of place among the debris on the street, as if the universe had placed it there for me to find. It was pure white in color, and its shape was almost a perfect sphere.   It was half again the size of a golf ball, and to me it was quite beautiful and special. Excitedly, I scooped it up, put it in my pocket and ran home to show the rock to my father.

I rushed into the apartment and pulled the rock out of my pocket, holding it up proudly. My father was utterly amazed, and said, “When I sent you out to find a rock here in the Bronx, I had no idea that you would find such a precious gem! Sit down, and I’ll tell you the story of Rock Soup.”

My father, who was proudly Sicilian-American and an incredible cook, was a great story-teller. As he would say, to anyone in earshot, he had the gift of gab. His stories always inspired me and stirred my imagination, his words awakened all my senses: I could hear pleasing sounds, smell delightful odors, taste sublime flavors and see images in bright, vivid colors.

And so began my father’s tale of Magic Rock Soup:

As all good stories began in the past with ‘Once Upon a Time,’ so does this one. Once upon a time, in a faraway country, there had been a great war, a war that seemed to have lasted for an eternity.  


What do the Five Elements have to do with Tai Chi Chuan and Qigong?

In Taoism and in traditional Chinese medical theory, the system of the Five Elements describes the interactions and relationships between phenomena.  All of nature and the universe can be defined by the elements and all aspects of nature contain the principles of the five elements.

Tai Chi Ch’uan, all forms and all styles, is based on the Thirteen Movements, and the practitioner, over time and with the right teacher, learns to incorporate the limitless qualities of all of nature within every set, and by practicing your Tai Chi Chuan sets this way, you become one with the limitless characteristics of all of nature in every thing you do, whether it’s cooking, walking, working, interacting with others, and especially being an activist for positive change in our world.

The Thirteen Movements are the Eight Directions and the Five Elements. The Eight Directions are the four cardinal directions, East, South, West and North, and the intercardinal directions, Southeast, Northeast, Southwest and Northwest. 

The Five Elements correspond to the Eight Directions: East, wood, green, springtime. South, fire, red, summer. West, metal, white, autumn. North, water, blue, winter. The diagonal, or intercardinal directions, Southeast, Northeast, Southwest and Northwest correspond to earth, yellow, the later stage of the four seasons.    

Five Element Star

When we were writing our Primordial Qigong book we designed a directional star to illustrate our understanding of the five elements and the eight directions. You’ll notice that the Five Element Star is different from the Western compass, as East (green, wood) is represented at the top of the star. East represents the beginning of all things, the sun rises in the East and the day begins. We recommend to our students to begin their Tai Chi Chuan sets facing East, and in Primordial Qigong  the form always begins with the practitioner facing East.

While we were in Europe this past summer, Donald taught his inner-door students the deeper meaning of this design.

In fact, Donald and I have taken the essence of the martial, internal, healing and meditation arts that we have been studying for almost forty years (we started as young teenagers in the late ’60’s and early ’70’s, a time when the martial and internal arts were relatively unknown to most Americans) and have been teaching our close students how to achieve a deeper connection to the mystical, spiritual and limitless potentials of universal energies, going beyond the limitations of physical form itself.

We decided the time is right for the public to learn ‘Secrets to Mastering the Five Elements.’  We are opening it up to practitioners of every style and form, as we believe this vital information is not limited to any one style and should be shared for the benefit of many.  In this unique day-long workshop we will be revealing how to develop a felt sensation of all of the Five Elements and deepen one’s understanding of Taoist principles, in nature, and within ourselves. 

  • The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao.The name that can be named is not the eternal name. The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth. The named is the mother of ten thousand things.  Tao Te Ching

This workshop will inform and empower practitioners of Tai Chi Ch’uan (regardless of style or form), Qigong, Hsing Yi, Bagua, Traditional Chinese Medicine, acupuncture, acupressure, tuina, and all other internal martial and healing arts, and take you to higher levels of accomplishment.

We are a microcosm of the universe, not separate from nature, and all the elements and their corresponding qualities are deep within us, in our DNA. We want you to learn how to embody the Five Elements to deepen your connection to nature, enhance your practice and positively influence these exquisite universal energies.

We believe that anyone can integrate and express the Five Elements within themselves to bring about lasting inner and outer harmony through the Five Forms, the Five Tastes, the Five Colors, the Five Sounds, the Five Seasons, the Five Directions, the Five Expressions, the Five Yin and the Five Yang Organs and the Five Remedies to the Negative Emotions.

Check out our webpage, and if you’d like to learn the Secrets to Mastering the Five Elements, on November 14, 2010, please feel free to register!

If you act soon, the first 11 people who refer five others who pay will attend the workshop for free. Have your friends register and pay, and tell them they must mention your name when they pay. They can register online here, or call 415.459.9098 to pay with a credit card.

One of the first independently-produced rock posters – from 1973


Allman Brothers Band at Watkins Glen 1973

This is one of the first indendently produced rock posters, almost all of the posters designed and printed for rock concerts and events had been produced by the promoters. I was 16 at the time, and I was inspired by my love for the Allman Brothers music, and my entreprenurial spirit, to do this poster to sell at their concert at Watkins Glen. 

I photographed the Allman Brothers Band, with my Nikon FTN and Tri-X 400 film, Leica, during their concert at Madison Square Garden on Friday, July 20, 1973. 

I went home to our artist’s loft at 365 Canal Street, and told my dad, Don Rubbo, Sr, about my idea and he immediately offered to do the lettering for the poster. I developed the photos in my darkroom, and we put together the design for a 23″x29″ poster.

My dad asked a family friend who owned a print shop to help, and I supervised the printing of 20,000 posters (although he reversed the plates and the photo is printed reversed, it didn’t detract from the beauty of the image!)

I went up to Watkins Glen on Friday, July 27, with some friends, and on Saturday, July 28, we went through the crowd and sold almost the entire stack of posters for one dollar each!

I recently found a few of the originals of this rare Allman Bros. poster, that I’ve had in storage. They are in excellent condition, and I may be persuaded to part with a couple of them, to the right people for the right price. They are collector’s items, rare and with great historical value.