Grandpa The Rolling Stone

It’s a funny thing when an object so insignificant becomes of great importance.

Every time my parents and I would go to the grocery store I would beg them for a quarter, and sometimes fifty cents to put into the gum-ball machines at Consumers our local grocery store. On one such occasion, out popped a rainbow-colored necklace made of jelly rings. Someone who was born a generation after myself may not know what I mean when I say, “Jelly rings”. Basically anything jelly was a cheap fad made of plastic in the 80’s, accessible to just about everyone, quickly fading away in the early 90’s.

Somehow overtime, this jelly necklace came apart, probably within the first few days of my getting it because I wanted to see how it was made. One of these rings somehow followed me from Ozark, Missouri, to St. Charles and back to St. Louis where it was tossed around my apartment with art supplies and shoved aside with bills. My official last week in St. Louis, I was sorting through art supplies and found this jelly ring. Something made me decide to put it on.

Little did I know, this whim would have a lasting impact. This week I would be visiting my Grandpa on my day off, the same week I found the ring.

My final week I had a hard time saying good-bye to co-workers and didn’t even have a chance to tell family. You see, those last eight to nine months I was battling depression. This isn’t a type of depression that can be cured with a pill, but only with time. However, through this depression, I feel and have felt it has harmed some of my friendships and relationships, and was worried it may have harmed anything I had with my Grandpa. I had turned into a recluse, and had gone from a vivacious fun-loving woman into a semi-hermit lifestyle except when at work when I had to turn on the charm for customers. Most of my co-workers knew what was going on, and some of the causes for this and therefore understood why I chose to lead my life this way.

Many nights I stayed up crying. Many nights I spent wondering where I went. Why wasn’t I the same person? As one best friend said in a brief moment of anger from me not having spent time with her, “You have everything going for you.” She didn’t understand my reclusiveness until l a long explanation followed her outburst.

In the final week of my time in St. Louis, anxiety started to build up in the days leading to seeing my Grandpa. Maybe it was because I knew it might be the last time I would see him? Maybe it was because I was afraid of being a huge disappointment as a Grandchild and didn’t want to let him down? Maybe because I felt like my behavior this last year, the depression, the withdrawing from socialization from the family and from friends would have made him ashamed.

Even I was puzzled by my anxiety. These last months I had anxiety trying to socialize with anyone. As a kid I welcomed company. In fact, I didn’t just welcome it, I celebrated it. Especially when my Grandparents or anyone from the family, or friends of my parents came down who are family to us.

When my Grandparents came, I knew a fun time was going to be had. One time, as soon as they came through the garage door I led them down the hallway to my bedroom to show it off to them, to show how I decorated, or rather plastered it with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and New Kids on the Block posters. When they turned around toward the door where I was, I asked them to pose for a picture where I snapped a Polaroid of them. It is still one of my favorite pictures of them today.

I anticipated the nights we would play Balderdash, the smell of coffee being brewed in the morning, and the sight of seeing both Grandpa and Grandma at the rickety dining room table playing a game they made up a long time ago.

Usually when they would visit, I would wake up to Grandpa making a funnel with his hand, walking down the hall yelling, “WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WAKE UP!” Much like a bugle call. I would wake up, usually wearing a night-gown featuring the cover of an Archie comic or Sylvester the cat. Waking up groggy I would make my way down the hall and into the dining room where I would see my Grandparents pouring over a list of words on a notebook. This was their morning tradition. They would pick up a dictionary, find a word at random, always more than five letters long, and then they would see how many words they could come up with out of that one word. Usually they would let me play, and they would make exceptions for me allowing me to use three-letter words, instead of their rule they used with each other of four or more letters.

Usually after these mornings, Grandpa would work on a project with my Dad or we would all do something together. However, the thing I looked forward to the most were the nights we would play Balderdash.

Let the squealing begin!

This usually consisted of us gathering around that rickety 70’s style laminated table. The chairs were comfortable but usually accentuated my short stature, but in some ways it was perfect because I could easily rest my arms without leaning down on the table because it was the same height as my armpits. There I would sit across from my Grandparents, with my Parents; one sitting at each end of the table.

Grandpa would often tell me in reminiscing about these nights how he would remember me squealing with laughter. Strangely I don’t remember the squealing, but maybe it sounded like squealing to him because my voice was at a higher register then when I laughed?

The game Balderdash usually begins with one person who reads off a word on the lead card from a box of multiple cards like it. Then everyone writes this word on their piece of paper. After the word has been read out, everyone is to make up a definition; no matter how ludicrous it sounds. We would each hand in our card to the lead reader. After playing a few rounds, we could figure out usually whose definition was whose. The point of the game was either to guess the correct definition; earning you two points or bluffing guessing your own and getting everyone to guess your own; sometimes resulting in more than two points. Grandpa however, was so good at making up definitions, it was hard to distinguish his from the actual definition. Actually, now with age and wisdom, I know it was due to his love of words and language and the daily word game he would play with Grandma that he actually knew what most of these words meant.

We would get close to the end of the rounds when both my Mom and Grandma would get frustrated and soon write anything down on that tiny piece of paper erasing it numerous times. It was usually when they gave up that hilarity would ensue. When it was Dad’s turn to read the lead cards, he would usually pre-read my Grandma’s definition and immediately start laughing welling up tears in his eyes. He would then read the definitions, often cracking up more and more with every one read with anticipation of Grandma’s definition thus blowing any cover she had for concealing that her’s was the true definition. This would in turn cause the rest of us to laugh, including Grandpa.

Grandpa would rarely do a belly laugh, but one thing is for certain, usually the one thing that could cause him to laugh heartily was something funny Grandma did or said. It was this laughter that made me sad to say goodbye to them on every visit but welcome them with anticipation, hugs and kisses every time they came to visit.

One time they came to visit over Christmas break when I was 10 years old. It was the worst Christmas break and the most embarrassing break of all time. Dad and Mom had originally set out with the intent to see family over Christmas vacation in St. Louis. It was these trips I looked forward to the most. Seeing extended family was something I always looked forward to. This particular year we were out running errands before the trip, and I started to feel very ill and quite possibly was running a fever. However, I wasn’t about to show it. I wanted to see my Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and Cousins desperately. My Parents and I were in the middle of JC Penney when suddenly I had an accident, forcing my parents to buy me new underwear there in the store. It was embarrassing but I was too ill to care.

Upon hearing of my illness my Grandparents decided to come visit. When they did, my Grandpa only thought I was mildly sick. Upon their arrival, both Grandma and Grandpa saw the severity of the situation. I was retching up everything that I sipped or swallowed and was severely dehydrated. If it wasn’t the night of their arrival it was the night after they came with my parents and I to the hospital. I had the unfortunate experience of being admitted to the emergency room, where my Dad sat with me in the room while I dry heaved into the white plastic bowl we usually reserved for coffee grounds and eggshells to compost later. Because the room only had a curtain, it couldn’t muffle the sounds of my heaving. Apparently the heaving sounded odd because the Doctors and Nurses were trying to stifle their laughter outside the curtain, as well as my Dad. It was so bad my Mom and Grandparents heard it out in the lobby.

After this visit to the hospital and a first round of antibiotics, my Grandpa took my Mom to the store, and loaded the cart with as many juices as he could find while Grandma and Dad stayed home with me. He would ask, “Would she like this? What about this one? What do you think?” He was obviously alarmed at what had happened. When they came back the refrigerator was filled with fruit juice and Gatorade to the max. It was due to his generosity, and the patience and care of both my Grandparents and my Parents that I was able to get back to health. Within a few days I was back to myself wearing a Tiara made out of a gold pipe cleaner, bouncing on an old brown ratty ottoman from the 1970’s. Even Grandpa took note saying, “Looks like she’s feeling better!”

One of the next visits with Grandma and Grandpa, Grandpa taught me how to shoot a BB gun with my cousin, and then spent some quality time with me showing me how to throw pottery.

You see, my Grandpa was a bit of a genius. He was never tested, it was never confirmed, but he knew how to take parts from other machines and put them together to make a new contraption. This is how he made toys for my Aunts and Mom, and how he put together this potter’s wheel.

I think it was due to his childhood growing up at the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and having to make due with what you had that he learned how to make new things out of old things.

One time he took apart one of those old exercise machines that people used to use in the 40’s and 50’s; you know the kind, the kind that have the wide belt that go around your rear and then it jiggles every ounce of skin or fat on your body off. At least that was the machine’s intent. He took it apart, used the motor from the machine, and made a conveyor belt from that wide strip people would place around their rears, and hooked it up to a sewing machine pedal. He created a toy for my youngest Aunt that was like the conveyor belts you see at the grocery store.

Like the conveyor belt toy, this is how he put together the potter’s wheel that he and I used that summer. Even though by nature I am very artistic, I didn’t know how to throw a pot to save my life. He taught me, and later taught my cousins how to, and it was one of the most fun experiences I had. He had built a kiln in the basement to support this hobby. He would throw the pottery and Grandma would glaze it. Together they had come up with some amazing pieces of artwork.

This is how they operated, this is how they did things; why buy something when you can make it yourself?

My Grandparents loved to interact with all of us cousins, and even some of our friends. When they would come to visit, not only would I anticipate their visits, but so would one of my best friends who lived around the corner from me. One day I remember she came over and we had been playing in my Parents’ basement. In the next part over is my Dad’s workshop where he makes beautiful benches, furniture and anything under the sun from scratch. It was one of those days Dad and Grandpa had been working on a project while my friend and I had been playing with a doll-house in the basement. My friend and I would hide in the far back room on a musty old bunk bed that used to be my Dad’s when he was our age. We would quietly stand up, make some sort of noise toward the workshop, giggle and hide on that bunk bed, knowing my Grandpa would retaliate with some sort of noise. To our surprise, he made his hand into a funnel, and made a duck noise. We squealed. This is when I personally remember squealing. No matter how hard we would try, my friend and I just couldn’t make our hands into that same funnel shape, and quack back. Instead it came out more like weak flatulence.

This is something I remember about my Grandpa, his humor. This is something where I think we were kindred spirits in a way.

Even when I was a toddler, he nicknamed me the nut, and then I would call back, “Grandpa is a nut!”. One time for his birthday when I was very young, I tried to draw a bunch of peanuts in varied colors of crayons on a piece of black construction paper with scraggly arms and legs. This was probably just after he taught me how to blow the wrapper off a straw in a restaurant; something I got in trouble for with my parents by doing this act solo at Hardees after he and Grandma went back home to St. Louis. On that note, he taught me other things that were innocent trouble-making things to do. Mostly noisy things, like how to pop fallen rose petals using your hands, something I’ve taught to others in my life. When you pop the petal perfectly it lives a small hole in the middle and results in a satisfying bottle rocket noise.

We shared a lot of things. We both shared stubbornness, tenacity, a thirst for knowledge and the curiosity for how things worked and trying to put them together, which reminds me of the jelly necklace I took apart all those years ago.

The day before visiting Grandpa in the nursing home, I prepared for the visit by purchasing the version of Doritos the grocery store that I worked for manufactured and some lemon bars which had been some of Grandpa’s favorite foods. Due to his ailments he was on a very limited diet and was only allowed a few indulgences once in a while. Even when allowed to indulge, he only did so when he felt like it. I was hoping he might indulge with me to prevent me from eating all the lemon bars. Like my cousin said in her blog, he didn’t like people doing anything for him, and loved doing things for others. Anytime any of us did anything for him we had to make it look like the very thing we intended to do for him was something we were doing anyway and any benefit he received of our doing said act-of-kindness was an accident or bi-product so he didn’t feel as if we were doing things for him.

My day off had arrived and I dressed to see my Grandpa. I wanted to look nice, so I wore a blue and green striped wool sweater I received from my Parents at Christmas and some ill-fitting brown dress pants that were too large for me, and some shoddy brown loafer flats. It was all I had at the moment.

I left on the blue jelly ring and wore my bracelets. One bracelet is an orange friendship bracelet from the Art Show I was a part of in October that my boyfriend and I each put on the other’s wrist. The other bracelet is one I picked up with one of my St. Louis besties before my depression set in, made of a green stone called Labradorite. I chose to leave the watch off I typically wear. I wanted to have all the time in the world for Grandpa.

I was nervous. I knew he knew most of what had been going on because Mom would call me with reports of how he had been doing and in turn when she would talk to him she would tell him how I had been doing. He knew I had a new job in Ozark and it came as a surprise to him, which made him claim that I was slick and wile.

Upon my arrival at the nursing home, I walked to his room to not find him there. I quietly walked to the nearest nurses’ station to ask the nurses if they knew where he was. I told the nurse I was his Grand-daughter. That is when the nurse exclaimed, “You’re the second one to see him today!” This made me glad. It made me glad that despite being a horrible Grand-daughter with depression that someone in my absence was visiting and keeping an eye on him.

The nurse said he was visiting a friend down the hall. I quickly said I didn’t want to interrupt if he was busy. He said it was alright and a fellow nurse went to grab him. She wheeled him down the hallway backwards and then swirled him around in a semi-circle to surprise him. He was genuinely surprised to see me. I asked him if he would like for me to wheel him to his room and he replied, “No, it’s O.K. I got it.” Now I know where I get my inability to accept help from. He used his legs to peddle himself down the hallway and we made our way into his room.

As we sat there, he asked how I had been doing and what was new. I burst into tears. I honestly don’t remember everything I said in that moment, but I wanted him to know how bad I felt, and how I knew I was a horrible Grandchild for not having the guts to shake this stupid depression and come see him. He peddled a few steps with his feet towards his bed where I was sitting and gently picked up my hand and held it; the one with the formerly insignificant blue jelly ring. I remember looking at his hazel eyes with my own tears welling and dripping from my eyes. He reassured me saying everything was O.K. It was then that I saw he wasn’t upset, he wasn’t mad or ashamed. What I saw, was that he understood. He knew I had to do what I had to do in the plight of self-preservation. He softly spoke, “Don’t cry, these aren’t sad tears, they are happy tears.” He then said I was going home and, “You’ll be with your best buddies, your Mom and Dad.” I kept trying to shove the tears off my face. I hate being weak, and hate crying in front of people, even those who love and know me.

It was then he told me what he had told Mom. He said, “Wow, you fooled us all!” He told me that me finding the job seemed to come out of nowhere. He exclaimed in his own way how proud he was of me and then while sitting there with his big hazel eyes he said something I will never forget, “You’re a rolling stone! You don’t let moss grow under YOUR feet!” Strangely every time I hear Mick Jagger I think of Grandpa now, even though he didn’t mean it in that sort of way.

My tears quickly dried and we began talking about the new job, what it meant and what I would be doing. He still couldn’t believe how I inquired on a whim the day after Christmas at the law firm in Ozark and how fast I got the job as a Legal Secretary.

While we sat and chatted he claimed he could only have a few of the faux Doritos I brought and wound up eating more. He refused the Lemon Bars so I ate two and refused to eat the rest. Pretty soon it was getting dark and we said our good byes. I told him I loved him and that I wanted to bring in my boyfriend to meet him in a couple of weekends when I would be back up to move. Due to a cold, that never happened. Then the following weekend he passed away while my parents and I were en route to see him upon the news of his failing health.

Like my cousin who wrote a blog herself about Grandpa, I am having a hard time writing this because it is causing me to tear and well up.

I hope that wherever he and Grandma are, they are looking and seeing how well we are all doing and that we are making them proud. This is for Grandpa, the instigator of fun trouble, the gardener, the giver, the engineer, the nut…the rolling stone himself. I love you.

Say an unconditional yes: an odyssey

In times of distress I believe that is when a higher power steps in and delivers an angel to you. In some circumstances, if you are really lost you are sent several angels. Early last summer after my divorce, I was having a hard time finding my way. As you know, I felt lost, like I was suspended in space; like that astronaut in Superman 3 or Wile Coyote; without ground to stand on.

During one of many conversations via text with one of my best friends back home, I explained to her how I never felt “home” anywhere here in St. Louis. Yes I have family, friends, and many friends I consider family in St. Louis, but something was amiss. Just as things would appear to be falling in place, a rug would be yanked out from underneath me; causing things to be unsettled, and keep me on guard. My friend told me to give it some time because I had just moved, so things would feel off. I explained to her the apartment I resided in felt the most like a home since leaving Ozark in June of 2005.

Her response, “Come home then!”

This is the first angel in this story and the first seed planted in my brain of the answer I had been looking for, but it was going to take a while before acknowledging it.

Later one of my St. Louis besties invited me over to her apartment 5 minutes away. We had been for a walk discussing life. (This was in May just before she and I would make our first visit back home since the divorce.) We were sitting in her room crafting jewelry when she pulled out a ribbon from her closet. Whatever reason she chose this particular ribbon, it set in motion the chain of events that led to a huge life decision.

On the ribbon was the phrase, “Say an unconditional yes.”

Enter angel two in this story.

She said the ribbon was part of an installation at an art show she went to. She said the show had a wall full of these ribbons and each one said something different. She took a bunch of them and decided to hand them out to her friends. The idea of the ribbon is you tie it on with knots and make a wish for each knot. Once each knot is broken, or when the ribbon falls off, the wishes come true. I made a wish not just for myself, but for other people in my life as well. After tying the knots, she then said it took hers 3 (and then some) years to fall off. Thus begins part two of the life journey.

This made me think about what I could and would say yes to. At first it started with a tattoo idea, with these words paying homage to the scenic Ozark Mill and bridge. It was an idea; an idea I never went through with. Then I truly started to think about what it meant, but thinking of it in the form of a tattoo made me realize what is and will be permanent in my life; what is important and unchanging. What can I unconditionally acknowledge and say yes to? What was important to me? What was I lacking?

Home.

The Ozark Mill and bridge

Still thinking and not knowing what would happen this year it seemed as if tying that ribbon on solidified the first seed of thought of coming home.

Enter angel number 3.

Early one morning at work, a co-worker heard me say how I hadn’t been home for Thanksgiving or Christmas in 6 years. She then reported this to one of my bosses (unbeknownst to me at the time) and said, “Can we get her home for the holidays?”

She helped me get home for the holidays and have the first Thanksgiving and Christmas THERE with my family since 2004. It was the best feeling in the world. Not only that, but if she hadn’t talked to my boss to help me out, I never would have coincidentally walked into the establishment the day after Christmas…that now employs me.

By the time you are done reading this dear readers; because of these angels, I will be en route back home and starting my new job in the Ozarks next week and starting the next chapter in my life.

Yes, there were other angels along the way, most of whom were written about on this blog, helping me with stress, everyday woes, helping guide me to the right path (whether they knew it or not) and weighing life decisions after some plans were set into motion. Angels, to all of you; those discussed in this entry and other blog entries, I owe you so much and say a BIG thank you. Know my heart, ears and couch are all open to you.

Flowers from Rose...

Cake and cookies from the Trader Joe's crew (presented by Rachelle, with Champagne from Kim) on the last day of work...(Kitty claims the pink ones were from her!) Sean took our picture together, and we all toasted to "New Beginnings"!

What have you said unconditionally yes to?

15 minutes of fame

When I was a kid, MEAD came out with a line of notebooks featuring what they saw as useful information in the back. Most of the information was how to convert numbers from the imperial to the metric system, how to measure things, and for some strange reason, famous quotes.

As I feasted my eyes on my new notebook, I turned to the back to see what this new thing was. There in print, “In the future everybody will be world famous for 15 minutes.”-Andy Warhol.

Paranoia set in.

Who was this Warhol guy? Yeah you’re probably thinking, “But you’re an artist! You should know!” Yes, I declared myself as an artist at a young age but I didn’t really study other artists except for the ones that were taught to us in school. In other words, I had no clue who this guy was. All I knew is what he said, and if it was in print in a MEAD notebook, I should heed the advice and take it seriously.

Ever since the age of 8 years old I had my heart officially set on being a world famous cartoonist. The only problem was, since 3rd grade my class had been featured in the local newspaper at least once a year. Had I eaten up some of my 15 minutes? Or worse, my ENTIRE 15 minutes?

In 3rd grade my class was featured for “Hillbilly Days” by the local paper. My school would occasionally have fun days where the kids could dress up as a collective. I guess that year my class had the most kids dressed up, so our picture was taken as part of a local interest section.  During 4th grade my class was featured again for having the most students dressed up as characters in our favorite book we had read that year. In 5th grade along with other fellow students in middle school, I was in the paper for winning 2nd place in the Science fair in my grade. 6th grade a lot of us were in the paper for medaling at the local music competition in Aurora.

You can imagine, me at 11 to 12 years of age, holding this stupid notebook trying to calculate if I had officially used up my 15 minutes yet. I figured at least a minute for everyone to read the column and the names, so that would calculate 1 second for every person who glazed over my name to get to the kid they knew.

Then panic set in.

The paper was in wide circulation, we were a small town, but then you figure a lot of families had more than just two or three people. Then my brain short circuited from all the math and tucked that information away in a deep dark corner.

MEAD in addition to the imperial to metric conversion, should have also printed a “15 minutes of fame calculation chart.”

What silly quotations did you believe to be true as a kid? What theories or philosophies made you think when you were younger?

Nice Hat

My outfit looked like this, minus the glamour and brains Hedy Lamarr had.

After my girlfriends left it was yet again time to wash the sheets and get the place ready for my next friend to stop by the coming weekend. We had decided over the phone this would be the time we would go on our second first date.

You see, we met in high school. We had 6th hour English class together and I already sat toward the back because I was in the same classroom during 5th hour. He was running late and was thus forced to sit next to me due to seating issues. This was the beginning of our friendship. Later, I found out he had a crush on me through a mutual friend but at that time I was not ready after having just been in a relationship. So almost a full year later, after graduation, he FINALLY asked me on a date.

Needless to say, the date was awkward. We didn’t know how to act around each other, it wasn’t like we hadn’t been on a date before, we just hadn’t been on a date with each other, and we were at that time having trouble seeing each other in a light other than a friend and a kindred spirit. We wanted to, but maybe the timing for us just wasn’t right. We wound up spending the date like we spent most nights, laughing about random things, and talking like we usually did. I wanted to see him as more than a friend, and I think he wanted to see me as more than a friend but we were both too nervous, too shy and too scared.

Fast forward to late July of this year. We had already discussed doing some local St. Louis things, (weather permitting) and knowing if the date didn’t work out we would just go back to being friends.

Again I had just gotten off work, and he had text me to let me know he was already at my apartment waiting for me. I was nervous, and was hoping to have had more time to get ready before he saw me, you know; and maybe put on a little more concealer. That whole month I was nervous and had worked myself up so much my skin broke out. It was rather embarrassing.

Upon arrival at my apartment, I found my buddy hanging around the car, and hugged him hello. Little did we know this would be our last hug as just friends.

I helped him with his luggage and we made our way into the apartment. It was awkward at first. Knowing we were going to go on a date the next day it was hard to act like everything was cool and like we were old pals. So we wound up watching IT Crowd on Netflix.

The next day was date day. Desperately I wanted to impress my friend; even after 16 years. I wore a strapless top and a black pencil skirt with my favorite black summer time hat…and the red rose in my hair that got him thinking of me in a different light in the first place. He in turn dressed completely in white. It didn’t don on me until we left the apartment how funny we might look. We looked like “Spy vs. Spy” from Mad Magazine. He held out his arm for me to grab onto and we made our way to Delmar Boulevard.

As you know readers, I’ve blogged about Delmar before. I used to have problems with this Boulevard, but since the change in my life and my outlook…Delmar became different. It used to be that I would almost get run over on the street, and have to have awkward interactions with people and say loudly, “I’m walkin’ here!”

This time was different. We walked down the street when a random stranger complimented me on my hat. As they walked by, they smiled and said, “Nice hat!”

“Thank you”, I replied and my buddy and I continued down the street, both of us beaming. We kept encountering more people who kept saying, “Nice hat!”

After about the third person complimenting the hat, I turned to my buddy and said, “Funny, I wore this hat before with your sister and nobody said anything.” He replied, “I don’t think its the hat” and smiled.

We made our way to the restaurant “Pie”. As we made our way in, I received 3 more compliments on the hat. Then after taking the hat off, an older gentleman made his way over where my buddy and I were sitting and said, “I always said when a beautiful woman entered the room I had to tell her.” (Surely somewhere there is an obvious Groucho Marx joke in there.) The only thing I could say was “Thank you” and it made me more nervous seeing as the whole reason for being there was to be on a date. My buddy just continued to look at me and smile.

We ordered what we decided was one of the best pizzas ever and nearly “face planted” it. Luckily my buddy had seen me eat before so I wasn’t nervous about having sauce on my face and neither was he.

We made our way out of the restaurant stuffed and decided it was too hot to do anything else and started walking toward the car where again, a couple of teen agers walked by and said, “Nice hat”.

This was an experience for me all the way around, FINALLY I was able to see my buddy in a different light and able to look people in the eye on Delmar Boulevard without them wanting to run me over.

Life as I know it was beginning to look up, which is why it was so hard to say good bye to my now boyfriend. The only thing that could make me smile after this weekend was this picture we took. Unfortunately my camera broke during the weekend so this is the only surviving picture. It kind of sums everything up.

What recently has made you see your life differently?  What changed your outlook?  What makes you smile when you reflect on it?

Three friends, two days, one city…

Even though I was sad at the end of my Ozark visit to go away from everyone, I was excited because some of the folks were coming up here. The first two weeks of July my parents were up visiting, which was fun. After they left I had four days to get the apartment ready again, sheets washed and ready for the next set of folks to come in…one of my best friends (the chef) and another one of our best friends. This particular best friend, is also the twin of my buddy who I had been texting and staying up late to talk to on the phone. I desperately wanted to tell her what was going on, but my buddy and I still had to keep everything under wraps, after all my buddy and I hadn’t even gone on a date yet…or rather our second “first” date.

My girlfriends came up and from the start, it was like old times. The night of their arrival we stayed up late talking, eating popcorn, drinking coffee and shooting the breeze. Before we knew it, we should have been in bed hours ago in order to prepare for the next day’s adventure; The City Museum.

This is a place that was shown to me by some local St. Louis buddies in 2004 for my birthday and since then I’ve made it my duty to show anyone else from out of town the wonder of this museum created from an artist’s mind. The chef friend had been there on a couple of occassions, the other friend had never been. One of the great things about this place, even if you’ve been, you’re always going to find something new, mainly because they keep building new additions and there is so much to look at you’ve surely missed something the first time.

The newest attraction to myself and the other girlfriend; the roof. I’d never been and neither had they. We made this our mission. It was here we found rope swings, a gigantic Praying Mantis…

and slides that made me scream like a little girl every time we went down one…

oh yeah and a giant ferris wheel…

We didn’t care the weather was so hot, we had to explore every ounce of that roof to say we did it.

We even wound up going back toward the end of the night. However before going back on the roof, we had to make a quick stop at Beatnik Bob’s located in the middle of the museum…

Unfortunately Beatnik Bob’s didn’t have cotton candy so I went to another vendor, purchased some and came back to where my friends were to share…

Needless to say after my friend laughed so hard she pulled cotton candy out of her nose we knew it was time to quit sharing.

We were at the museum for several hours making sure we got our money’s worth, even Benjamin Franklin would have been proud.

The next day I had to work but was meeting up with the girls afterwards to go to the art museum. For the Creatively Put readers out there, here is a little background information on the art museum. The building itself was originally built in 1904 as part of the World’s Fair and they tore down everything from it except one part. They built the rest of the museum to match. However, we weren’t going to see the architectural splendor, we were going to see some mummies. The chef friend had never seen a mummy before, had always wanted to and so the three of us turned this trip into another adventure.

We went into the art museum and headed downstairs to the exhibit before the museum closed. As we turned down one hallway my chef friend and I started to get a creepy feeling. We didn’t know what it was. We were so spooked by the time the three of us saw the mummy we had convinced ourselves we had felt a presence of some sort and that someone was tapping the glass from the inside of one of the exhibits.

After seeing the mummy exhibit, the one friend quickly got distracted and started talking to one of the guards there and asking questions. Come to find out, we weren’t the only ones who got a creepy feeling in the hallway. Some of the guards who man the building at night would also experience a feeling, so much to the extent they would feel threatened and wouldn’t continue down the hallway.

As the guard told us, they didn’t believe it was the spirit of the mummy haunting the hallways, but felt it was something to do with the shrunken head in one of the displays further down the hallway,…which is where I originally got the creepy feeling.

We went back in search of the shrunken head passing up the many Mayan exhibits, Native American Exhibits to get to this exhibit from Papau New Guinea. Either way, we found something unsettling, whether it was the visual of a shrunken human head with its eyes sewn shut or the extra natural artifacts added to it, something about it creeped us out.

The museum was coming to a close so we had to make our way out but first stopped to see the Asian Arts exhibit.

After seeing a shrunken head and getting the creeps there is always something calming about seeing Buddhas and Foo Dogs.

We paused for a moment to take some glamorous pictures on the bridge outside of Art Hill…

where we talked on the way to the car. My friend said she felt sorry for me when I had to come back home to visit them because there was nothing to do there. What she forgot was, when we hung out together in the Ozarks, we relied on ourselves and created our own fun because we enjoyed each others’ company. We didn’t need anything to entertain us, we were our own entertainment. After the other girlfriend and I convinced her of this, we suddenly realized how hungry we were.

We then stopped at a well known restaurant on Grand street and realized there was no way we were going to make it through the wait before our stomachs ate themselves. Instead we went back down the street to a little Thai restaurant.

After ordering, my chef friend started in about how she could create her own curry at home and why she didn’t know why she ordered curry if she could make it herself. Then the waiter brought out a huge bowl of soup to the other table. She immediately looked at the bowl and said, “Oooh, I should have ordered that.” I reminded her that the curry made at this place was going to be different than anything she could make, and besides that, when you cook something yourself, its not nearly as good as when someone else cooks it for you. (It’s a rule I came up with.)

The waiter brought our food to the table. We had expelled so much energy over the last couple of days we devoured our plates in no time. (O.K. I devoured my plate in no time.)

My chef friend was taking her time making yummy noises and savoring every last drop of her food and exclaiming, “O.K. this is waaaay better than anything I could have made at home.” We left the restaurant pleased knowing we had made a wonderful meal decision and decided to bum around town some more. Unfortunately we don’t have any pictures from this time because it was mostly spent just shopping.

We then found ourselves hungry again and decided we should make plans for another dinner. My chef friend wanted more curry but wanted to try a different restaurant.

Curry twice in one day you ask dear readers? Yes. Yes we did.

There is a restaurant near my apartment that has a great buffet but we went during dinner hours and ordered yet again, curry. This time however we ordered some wonderful Naan bread to go with it. We again cleaned our plates while we watched excerpts from Bollywood movies. After we paid our bill we sat outside while the girls had a smoke. My chef friend wanted to stay an extra day, she was contemplating calling out sick to work to stay since I had the next day off. She didn’t want to go, I didn’t want them to go. Before we knew it, we had to head back to the apartment to get their luggage and send them home.

Before they went home, my friend had to check some things on the internet, and we’ll put it this way, the curry had done a number on all of us, but mostly me. While she was checking something on the computer, something happened. I’ll spare you the details, but it involved me  running out of the room, slamming the bathroom door screaming, “NO! NO! NOOOOOOooo!” Thus the new term coined by one of my girlfriends, “Currying yourself”.

How much fun can you cram into a weekend?  What have you done recently that was a whirlwind?

As always readers…

Next up, “Nice Hat”.

The close encounter with “The Whistler”

Between the visit back home to the Ozarks and the first visit with family and friends from the Ozarks, I had my first official encounter with “The Whistler”. If you remember I posted a blog where I talked about my interesting and fascinating neighbors. All I can say is this, be careful of your own thoughts and letting your imagination get away with itself when peering into the lives of others.

I found out the upstairs neighbor wasn’t a superhero, and definitely wasn’t “The Flash” to my disappointment.   He was actually two grown men and two children who have grown increasingly louder as they’ve been practicing their MMA skills and performing WWF wrestling in their living room; which has been drawing large crowds and camera crews. (Not really, but they are pretty noisy.)

The married couple across the sidewalk who have a VanGogh hanging in their dining room caught me one happy evening where I hadn’t been to the gym and decided I was going to dance to Beyonce.  Lets just say, one of them looked over toward my direction and quickly turned away. Maybe it was the green tank top I was wearing?

Then came the encounter with “The Whistler”. As you know from the past blog, I started seeing one of my guy friends in a different light. Since the visit in June we had been texting more frequently, flirting through text and eventually wound up talking on the phone most nights. We hadn’t really confirmed we were dating, which made things uncomfortable for me when the upcoming situation happened.

The scene starts when I pull into my parking spot at the apartment complex. I saw my neighbor going into his apartment building. After turning my car off I started walking up the sidewalk to my complex. Halfway up the sidewalk I hear, “HEY!” I turn around to see my neighbor. “Hey.” I said loudly back then turned around to walk in my complex. Next thing I know he’s walking up to me on the sidewalk when I kind of panic and continue walking. “HEY!” he said, “HEY! YOU’RE CUTE!” I turned around again, “Thank you.” I said and continued to walk.

“HEY!”

“Hi…”

“You’re cute”

All I could think was, “Really? You’re going to say that again?” Again I said, “Thank you.” He observed my shirt had The Beatles on it. After his keene observation skills kicked in he said, “Why The Beatles? Why not The Who? I like The Who! Don’t you like The Who?”

My brain was saying, “SLOW DOWN!” However, what I said instead was, “I like The Who, they’re cool too but I like The Beatles…” and before I could get anything else out…

“Hey you’re cute…”

“Thanks”

“Why are you backing up? Do I smell or something?”

“No, but I probably do, I just got back from the gym.”

Then he quickly put out his hand…SIDEWAYS with his head tilted to the same side and proudly told me his name. I shook his hand and gave him an unimpressed or unamused look. Then without skipping a beat…

“I live right over there” (At this time he then points to the only place he could possibly live…again master of obvious.)

“Yeah I know.”

“You’re cute…what’s the matter? You gotta boyfriend or something?”

“Uuuuuuh…uh… sort of…” I stammered.

You see, I have this problem with lying. It’s very hard for me to lie, even when it’s something of this nature.

“Oh…O.K….well,” he said as he began to back away. I then told him it was something that happened recently. He then looked directly at me as he was finally heading back to his apartment, “I’ll ask again in a month or so.” I then uncomfortably told him it was nice to meet him and quickly made my way into my apartment to call my guy friend.

“Hello?” my friend said.

“Yeah…something weird just kind of happened and I kind of fibbed and told someone I had a boyfriend so I really hope you don’t mind that I said we were dating…”

“It’s O.K.”

At this point I was surprised he hadn’t hung up and started running down the street.

“You’re not running?”

“No…in fact something similar happened to me tonight!”

My guy friend had a similar run in with a neighbor girl. As it turns out he almost had to tell her he had a girlfriend so she would leave him alone!

To this day, neither of our neighbors have bothered to venture out to find us and ask us out again.

What awkward situations have you been stuck in where you had to tell a fib? Was it to protect yourself or someone else?

My life as a Betty

     The same work bestie who asked me to kick box with her also invited me out with some other work besties to see the movie “Bridesmaids”. Being newly single I desperately needed some girl time and to be around people who loved having fun. We went to the theater and I wasn’t prepared for what we were about to watch. I thought I was going in to see an all out comedy with some girlfriends, but as it turned out, it was like holding a mirror up to my life. The movie strangely reflected my own reality.

There was one thing though that I walked out of the movie wanting. I wanted Kristen Wiig’s cop boyfriend. The type that will be there for you even at your most embarrassing and goofy moments, one who embraces the fact that you will go out of your way to embarrass yourself to get their attention because; well, you’re in love with them.

The only difference between Wiig’s character and myself is, she’s a baker and I’m an artist and amature writer. One of my favorite lines in the movie is where her new cop boyfriend says, “There’s just something about you that sticks.” I wanted to be on somebody’s brain. I wanted to be the girl of someone’s dreams. I was tired of being the Betty and wanted to be the Veronica; just once.

After watching the movie it kind of gave me an idea of what I wanted in a man, however the timing wasn’t quite right yet. One of my girlfriends and true blue best friends called and we had a conversation about the power of positivity and putting out “there” what you want. If you are constantly thinking of what you don’t want, in turn that type of person will come to you. If you start concentrating on what you do what in a person, then that type of person will inevitably come to you. It sounded weird but it was worth a shot.

She suggested to help in this process to keep a list and start listing the things I want in a man. The list was started before my first trip back to Ozark. This list I kept a secret from everyone except for the friend who I had the conversation with, and my parents. The list was going to turn into a blog but on the advice of both parents it was probably best not to post it.

After writing the list, my bestie in St. Louis and I went to Ozark for the first time in a year and since my divorce. The first night we stayed up chatting with my parents and playing a game of “Fact or Crap” which cracks us up every time. We stayed up til‘ about 2 in the morning; because my parents are party animals like that.

The next day was the day we were going to hang out and bum around town with friends. We wound up going to a flea market where I found old jelly jars from 1972 and 1973 featuring the main “Archie” characters. Buying all of the jars, I wanted to give them to everyone who made it out to the barbeque later as a gift and a thank you. Seeing they’ve been friends with me as long as all the Archie characters have been friends, it was appropriate.

Everyone showed up, one friend brought me a new set of guitar strings and in exchange I gave him a 4 pack of root beer which sent him into a sugar coma. Another friend brought her son who I hadn’t seen since he was in her tummy, it was a real treat to see her sweet little boy. Another friend tiredly made it out after her long shift as a nurse which was greatly appreciated. Then my friend who knew about “the list” came over. My dad instantly put her to work asking her to help grill up some of the meat (she’s a professional chef) and she grilled up some tofu for my vegetarian bestie. Shortly after her arrival, her twin brother came over. Everyone was sitting at the table and my parents were still preparing food when Dad told me it was time to put the corn on the grill, which was my job.

As the smoke circulated through the air, I nervously kept turning the corn over because I was afraid it would get burned. Eventually I had to step away from the heat and smoke and went up to the window just outside where the dining table was. Looking in trying to get my chef friend’s attention her brother was sitting just to her side in front of her. I started doing the hand gesture from “Meet the parents” where I point at my eyes and then point at her trying to tell her I was watching her, but her brother (and my friend) thought it was directed at him.

After many rounds of “I’m watching you…” he shot up out of his chair. Knowing he is extremely playful and strong I immediately got nervous and didn’t know what to do. Bare in mind, he is six feet and three inches tall, a Marine and could probably lift a car if prompted. I’d only had two kickboxing/boxing classes under my belt and was only armed with a pair of tongs. Not knowing what he was going to do I was at least mentally prepared in case he tried to pick me up; after all we’ve known each other 16 years, so I kind of knew what to expect.

Come to find out, he only came outside to briefly say hi privately and smoke his E-cigarette.  This is not what I expected and he didn’t do what I thought he might do. Instead we had a conversation about how he was trying to quit smoking and he offered to bring in the corn. He kept trying to help even though I wouldn’t let him. Basically I playfully told him, “When you cook it, you can bring it in.” Giving him the small plate of corn to take in, I brought in the huge wok full of corn ears…just in case there was any question of who grilled them.

We all sat, conversed, dined and my friends stayed until the wee hours of the morning. It was so much fun seeing everyone and I just remember looking over at my buddy in the living room as he talked to my dad; wondering what he was thinking. This was the usual for us. We met in high school because he was running late for class and sat next to me at the back. He often would act like he was talking about me to his best friend and then they would look over giggling which made me nervous and blush. However, this night in particular the look was a little different. Apparently I looked a little different too. The look was so obvious my friend from St. Louis noticed but didn’t think anything of it…at first.

As people were beginning to leave, I ran into the other room where the Archie jelly jars were. Since I had already given a couple away to other friends I still had SOME duplicates left. There were two jars in particular featuring Archie and Veronica sharing a milkshake with a comic sans script at the top reading, “Friends are for sharing”. If you looked into the jar, at the bottom there was an imprint of an Archie character. These two jars in particular featured “Hot Dog” and “Betty”. My buddy was getting ready to leave and I panicked. I could choose another jar but something compelled me to give him the jar with this design and I didn’t know why. Once I decided on this jar, which character on the bottom was I supposed to choose? Hot Dog or Betty? Panic, panic, panic…Betty. I’ve always in my heart been a Betty. I wanted him to know I was a Betty. Why at that particular moment I wanted him to know I didn’t know, it just seemed important at the time. I wanted him to know I was a good person, and fun, and interesting…which is strange because he already knows those things; otherwise we wouldn’t have been best friends and he wouldn’t have been at the barbeque in the first place; right? Why was I feeling this way? Why should he absolutely know I was a fun loving Betty Cooper? As he left he gave me a big hug and went on his way.

After everyone had left, my chef best friend stayed along with my St. Louis bestie.  She stayed because she wanted to help me finally cross something off my bucket list…which is what true blue best friends do.  She brought over Graham crackers, Hershey’s chocolate bars and marshmallows.  We were going to have S’mores.  Suddenly making S’mores turned into a very fun game of “Chubby Bunny”.  We’ll just put it this way, we all tried it while my parents broke out the camera.  It involved my friends trying not to look like a freshly squeezed tube of toothpaste and me doing a horrible Marlon Brando impersonation.  It was an all out gross-a-thon at it’s best and the hardest I’d laughed since seeing the movie “Bridesmaids”.

The next day was another day with the parents and the St. Louis bestie running around to find more treasure at flea markets. I found myself distracted texting to my buddy and his sister. We were roaming around the flea market and it seemed as if every three steps I was getting a text from one of them. (I think its a twin thing.) Next thing I knew I was having to catch up to my mom and bestie several times due to texting. Suddenly feelings of sadness came knowing the weekend was coming to a close. I knew I would have to say goodbye to my family, best friends and leave knowing I was coming back to the hectic lifestyle I have up here in St. Louis.

Pretty soon the bestie and I had to leave and hit the road. Halfway through the trip, I took the wrong exit heading toward an unknown destination, probably because I couldn’t quit thinking of home. I couldn’t quit thinking of how wonderful the visit went with friends, no matter how brief it was with some of them and suddenly a face kept running through my mind. It took everything in me to keep from crying and thinking about this face didn’t help. My friend and I started talking about the visit and she started talking about my buddy. She said she liked my buddy, thought he had “good vibes” and…“sweet eyes.” These were the words she used to describe the look she and I had noticed the night of the barbeque. It was those eyes and that look running through my head that made me sad to say good bye to Ozark that night.

That night I realized some things but was too afraid to admit it.

What experience in your life has led you to something you were afraid to admit? What made you afraid to admit what you needed/wanted to admit?

Next up, “The month of July” or “Half the Ozark Mafia comes to St. Louis”

Violent Zen

This is the story of how I went from this…

To this…

In April a girlfriend of mine from work invited me to come with her to a boxing/kickboxing gym. Strangely as things played out; this was something I had always wanted to do. I had heard the advertisements for the gym on the radio, it sounded like fun, I just didn’t know where the gym was. The friend had tried it once, and asked if she could come back another time with one of her girlfriends, the instructor said yes. When a co-worker found out we were going, she said, “Do it now while you can still get your legs up ladies!”

All kidding aside, since writing this blog entry, I started thinking about moments involving boxing that kept popping up in my life. When I was a kid my parents and I used to visit a store called “Service Merchandise”. While Mom was shopping, Dad would hold my hand and walk me to the athletic department where he would hold me up while I practiced hitting the Speed Bag to entertain ourselves. Rocky was even one of my favorite movies as a kid. Later in life, I took an interest in boxing when NBC aired a show called “The Contender”. The show captivated my interest because it showed how much heart these athletes had. No matter what, they were always putting someone in their life first before themselves. This summer over my birthday weekend at my parents house, one of my best friends was going through some of my old artwork where she found a master study I had done of a fallen boxer. She held it up and asked, “Are you sure this isn’t something you’ve always been in to?” The answer to that; maybe. Maybe I’ve had a strong interest this whole time and its taken me this long to realize I’m being called to do it?

When my work bestie and I arrived at the gym, it was exciting because I didn’t know what to expect, and the gym is only five minutes from my new place. I had been working out at the apartment gym trying to get back into shape. At the beginning of the year I weighed in at about 170 pounds. After moving I started losing weight, and after transferring from being an artist to the floor at work, that helped kick-start my weight transformation. The apartment gym facilities are nice, but I never really could break a sweat just using weights. Something was missing, something was needed to get my aggression out.

Upon entering this particular gym my eyes rested on the many Muay Thai bags and my ears were pumped full of music which is used to get fellow athletes revved up for the session. Something told me, this was the beginning of something new. My friend and I stayed to the right and middle of the class. The instructor turned up the music which had a slight samba beat to it. Looking over to my right, my friend, with her boxing gloves on, was doing a salsa…by herself. Yes, we were having fun, and it was much deserved on both our parts. (Needless to say this bestie is always fun to hang out with because there will be some sort of laughter involved.) About halfway through the class a realization set in; I was sweating in places I’ve never sweat before. Strangely I started feeling better and knew, this is where I needed to be; then again it also could have been the massive amount of endorphins kicking in from the work out. Next thing we knew, I was signing up for classes.

Since having gone with my bestie, I’ve been many times since. There have been times where life has gotten to be too much to handle. There have been times where problems have made themselves present when they weren’t before. There have been times where I’ve been so angry I realized I just needed to get the anger out. In response to those times, I go to the gym. The gym has been one of my saving graces this summer. One time I went, I was so angry my muscles were tensing up in my back and despite having taken ibuprofen which hadn’t kicked in for some reason.

Upon going to class, one of my favorite instructors put on some positive music, and got the class going. In some way, I think she is gifted in that she can sense if something is wrong with one of her students. Once the music started, she came over and started goofing around with me, yelling at me that I could accomplish the exercise we were doing. Other times she’s come over and held the bag for me and told me, “I know you can get lower than that! I’ve seen you come in here dancing before class has even started!” Maybe its just nice knowing someone is paying attention to your efforts of trying to better yourself. Who knows? Other times I’ve been complimented by an instructor who also boxes for a living. He said, “Where did you learn to do that? That’s an advanced move there!” In all honesty, I didn’t know, I just did what came naturally.

Boxing feels natural. Boxing feels right. Boxing is a way for me to cope with what life brings when I can no longer get out frustrations with my artwork or writing. It’s as if the bag feels nothing and I feel everything. The bag and I are polar opposites. When my gloved fist hits the bag, it’s as if the bag is absorbing everything I’ve ever felt; anger, sadness, despair, torment. Then with a release, those feelings get turned into a sense of accomplishment, happiness, elation, gratitude, and thankfulness. It absorbs all of life’s bad energy and turns it into a positive.

It was because of my friend’s suggestion that I found something else in life I’m passionate about, so much to the fact I am considering taking it up professionally.  She helped introduce me (or rather helped me rediscover) a passion, which in turn helped me to lose about 40 pounds, the compression socks and the tension.  Not only does this bestie help make life better, she helped me to get better and encourages me to be better; in everything…to her I say, “THANK YOU!”

What sports have helped you cope with life’s problems? What in life currently makes you feel alive?

Next up, “The first visit with the Ozark Mafia”

Thanks Picasso for that kick in the pants…

Tonight I was watching “Paris the Luminous Years” on PBS World. It made me want to kick myself. It made me wonder why I co-paid for cable all those years when there was such interesting programming on for free. It made me wonder why I was busy watching those cable channels when I too could have been realizing my full artistic potential like the artists who found themselves at some point in their lives at Montmartre.

Those of you who don’t know, Montmartre was a place for those who didn’t quite belong. It was a place for the misfits, a safe haven for those who thought differently and saw the world through different eyes. One of the buildings there was home to over 70 artists and poets at one time. Can you imagine? Can you imagine the likes of being a poet or writer crossing paths with Van Gogh or Picasso? In fact, there was a gang, a veritable “Entourauge” of its time; if you will, called, “The Picasso gang”. It would be enough to make Jeremy Piven jealous. The gang was composed of poets, and one Pablo Picasso.

Thinking about Montmartre and its burgeoning creative scene of artists, writers, dancers and musicians has started me thinking about my life and who I’ve crossed paths with. Through my previous relationship, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of St. Louis’s finest actors, directors and screenplay writers, but since then I’ve been meeting more and more people who are more in line with my creative realm…art and writing. It made me feel lucky that coincidentally I work in a place that attracts creative people who love to write, make art or do both. My work has somewhat become my own Montmartre.

In the documentary they explained these artists primarily felt and expressed what they couldn’t write through painting and sculpture. Then the narrator went on to say how the cross-pollination of the poet and artist relationship helped explain what the artist was trying to convey for those who could not understand a visual language.

These artists, started out much like I did in college. You go to a college with passion for what you do. Its something instinctual, something you’re born with. Then you have it senselessly beaten out of you with a precariously arranged still life and a hurtful critique. The artists in the documentary were critiqued when they went to art school because they wanted to do something different. They didn’t want to do the standard of “beautiful” art. They wanted to paint what was real to them and as one artist put it, the school was for those who wanted a career. The artist exclaimed his torment and went on to say how the 6 months he spent in school were a waste and was so angered over his waste of time he was still going on about it at age 80. At first glance to most he would look like an angry curmudgeon complaining about something in a foreign language, but thankfully the subtitles helped clear everything up.

I too was angered for a short time. At the ripe age of 18 in my second semester of college I started a drawing 1 class. I was so frustrated under the professor’s instruction because he made us draw gray cones and cubes. I was taught how to draw cones and cubes from my imagination in a surreal manner in 7th grade art, why would I need to go back to that? Let alone why should I have to draw what’s in front of me? Then I came home and went on a tirade to my mother who was nursing a migraine (bless her heart) about how I was frustrated and how the teacher thought he was God and the audacity he had for not letting us draw “real” things. Then halfway through the semester I kind of “got it”. You have to learn basics, structure and how things work, before you can create Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

Les Demoiuselles d'Avignon

However, something tells me the aforementioned 80-year-old artist already knew how to draw forms and objects in different planes, he looked like the genius type; if you know what I mean.

Then I started to get jealous. These are people who went out and did what they did because they loved doing it. They slept in terrible conditions, they froze, they overheated, they painted on their shirts and bed sheets due to lack of money and canvases and it makes me wonder, have I ever been this passionate? Have I ever been so passionate to the point that I would be willing to eat, sleep and breathe art just to make it? Would I be willing to rip off my own shirt and draw on it to have someone like Gertrude Stein say it was worth contemplation but not buying? Would I be willing to do something so silly to win over my peers and start an artistic revolution? Would I ever create something so masterful it would inspire Steve Martin to write a comedy play where my character meets Einstein by circumstance?

Ehhhh…

Here lies the problem, I like being warm in the winter and cool in the summer. I like being able to afford food so my stomach doesn’t growl and light to see what I’m writing and drawing. This is what sometimes makes me think I’m too practical to be a fine artist, or at least an artist who does something besides pop art for a living. The part-time job is a means to my ends and a key to meeting other like-minded people and a way to get the supplies I need in an economy unwilling to pay for fine art. This doesn’t leave much time to do the type of paintings and drawings I did in college, therefore I use pop art as a veritable means to convey a point. It doesn’t necessarily mean I’m impassionate, it just means I have to wait to live in a better time where I don’t have to live off beans and soup stock made from an old leather shoe. (Cue old time silent movie music.)

Maybe the reason the drawings and paintings of Picasso and these other artists look so raw and uninhibited, but have normal subject matter of portraits and figure drawing is because they lived in the conditions they did. If they didn’t have to search their imagination for subject matter, then that was one less thing to think about. All they had to do was change how people “saw” the subject matter. Maybe I’m wrong?

Maybe living in comfortable conditions like I do allows me to talk about uncomfortable subject matter rather than looking at something and breaking up the visual planes like he did? Maybe living comfortably allows me to express something about a particular subject metaphorically through symbolism because I don’t have to worry about painting something before there isn’t any feeling left in my fingers from the cold? Because I don’t have to rely on my art to financially survive, maybe I can say the things visually that most people couldn’t?

This isn’t to say these artists never went on to create art that said something most people couldn’t; thats not it at all. I’m strictly talking about the works they created while in Montmartre, and while on the verge of starting a style of art that ended in an “-ism”.

You know, maybe I’m not so jealous after all. A part-time job equals art supplies without having to sell a tiny piece of your soul to get them. It means a place to live, eat, sleep and breathe comfortably while affording to support my companion and muse Gizmo.

Picasso felt the times where he was a true artist were the times he spent in Montmartre struggling. However I don’t feel you have to struggle to be a true artist. What do you think? Does struggling in this world make you a great artist? Does struggling necessarily make you a free artist?

I know I promised a different blog this time but you’ll have to wait…I’m working on the artwork to go with it. ;)  Next to come “Violent Zen”

The beginning

In a place called vertigo

As you know readers, this summer I didn’t get to ride an upside down roller coaster, visit a hindu temple or go camping but I did go through a lot and do a lot.

This summer started out what I thought would be smooth sailing and moved in fresh to my apartment. Basically my life was just work and then coming home. Then the feelings started sinking in of isolation and being alone. This was it, rock bottom. Even though I believe no one is ever truly alone, when you are coming out of a tumultuous situation you wind up feeling like no one around you will understand your pain or what you’re going through. Then, unexpectedly like that, you make a new friend; or in my case, several new friends and rediscover old ones.

I used to be in a small room at work and never really had a chance to get to know people outside of the little art room bubble. The closest example to what it’s like in those small quarters is in an episode of the first season of ‘Madmen’. In the episode someone drops off a work request in the art office and all the guys look up dying for some interaction with someone from the outside world. Being an artist, when you’re isolated for too long without social interaction, you tend to do and say some weird things that don’t make sense to the rest of the world; lucky for me I had a friend/co-worker every other day so she at least understood. It was partially due to this lack of socialization that I moved to the sales floor. It was probably one of the best things I ever did.

Once news started to spread of the upheaval in my life, two women from work invited me to come hang out with them for the evening not far from my new place; and guess what? They’re artists too in their life outside of work. We had a fun evening just chit chatting at the one woman’s house and we all got the idea to put bright colors in our hair. Secretly, unbeknownst to the ladies, this is something I had always wanted to do. I’ve put temporary color in my hair but was too scared to show my true colors “permanently” so to speak. Now, with two new girlfriends, I had solidarity and didn’t need to be scared of what my hair might look like and what others might think. We were in this together. We all sat there with our hair in foil, each of us taking turns doing the other person’s hair and swapping stories. It was getting late after we had washed out our hair and it was time to go home. One of the girls rode back home with me and decided it was too late for her to drive back home from my place where she left her car. She was the first official person to hang out at my new digs and stay the night.

That night resulted in a lasting friendship with some amazing strong women. Later one of them invited myself, the other woman and a couple of gal pals from work to come and dance the night away. We had an interesting evening of dancing. It was a real shot in the arm for me because I was running low on self esteem, so it was fun to dance with friends and catch a few peoples’ eyes as they walked past the window outside the ledge where we were dancing. Granted, I was smacking the window as they walked by and waving at them, but I felt safe because I was inside, and well, they were outside.

After the place closed we all headed back to our cars, and my friend walked to the passenger side where I heard her quietly say an expletive. Walking around to the other side my eyes rested on something large, dark, sparkly and crackled laying on the ground. Without my glasses on, at first glance we both thought it was my bumper. Then after the alarming feeling wore off a little bit, I picked up what I thought was my bumper and realized it was the passenger side window. The dark film that was over it had helped keep everything in tact even though it was shattered. I immediately opened my trunk and threw the window in there, there was no point in leaving it there for someone else to deal with. My friend and I opened the car doors to realize the car had been torn through, but strangely nothing was stolen. Apparently the thieves didn’t see worth in a bunch of nutri-grain wrappers, a pair of sandals, a black velvet Edwardian jacket…or a Spongebob air freshener.

Strangely looking back, I see a parallel between the car and myself. The window being a representation of my problems, and the trunk being my brain and wanting to lock away issues and ignore them. I’ve since learned you have to get everything out and deal with what’s been handed to you; thanks to my new found friends that night. What does one do when they are having problems and they are too far in over their head? They call for help. Which is what we did.

I called the police, informed them some other people were either missing cars or had their vehicles broken into as well, and they sent an officer over. Upon first glance, the officer looked like a hipster nerd, and then his sleeve slightly pulled up and caught my friend’s attention; he had his biceps sleeved in tattoos. After he filled out the paperwork, I shook his hand and my friend ran up and gave him a hug, it truly was a funny moment.

After leaving the parking lot, my friend came back home with me because I was still a little “weirded” out by what had happened to my car. We came home to the silent apartment, stomped around to scare anybody out and had a laugh.  The only thing we found was my puzzled calico cat Gizmo.

The next day I found a lasting impression from that night, a white handprint on the driver’s side door where the thief braced themself while rifling through my armrest and two front seats. The print still won’t come off and strangely when I look at it everyday it reminds me of my girlfriends…and I smile, knowing I’m not alone.

Well dear readers, I would write more, but looking at the clock; I have to make it to the gym in time for boxing class! Until next time…please write and tell me about your experiences this summer!

Next up, “Violent Zen” or “Why I box” The story of the first introduction to it through another “work bestie”, and how and why this became an important part of my life this summer.