Saturday, September 19, 2020

Arson - A Mental Twitch


    The seedling of my world view was nourished by a combination of visionary cynicism and abject poverty.  

    My first place away from home was a decrepit mobile home precariously nestled on the edge of a four feet deep drainage ditch that was home to group of anti-social raccoons and muskrats. 

    I subsisted on beans and rice, store brand coffee and hand rolled cigarettes.  There are only so many ways to prepare red beans and rice.  To this day I still can't look at a plate of beans and rice without a feel of revulsion.  Don't even mention Ramen noodles or Rice-a-Roni.

    Oh, and there was port.  Cheap, sweet, dark, wonderful port.  I drank it on ice and told myself it was grape juice.  It never contradicted me.  It kept me warm in the Winter and drunk in the Summer.  At the time I thought we were friends.

     Behind the trailer park there was a wooded area and a field of scrub grass that had once been considered an abandoned lot.  We were all fair game to the field mice that nightly invaded our dubious shelters.  Every morning I would see tiny scratches, claw marks, in the bacon grease that had congealed in the iron skillet on top of the tiny gas stove.     

    For some reason, though I ate poorly myself, I felt I could afford to feed a cat.  I named him Henry (after Henry Miller) and he was a pathetic mouser.  He tried to make friends with them. We have domesticated our cats too much perhaps.  Their natural instincts have been dulled toward anything that doesn't look like a toy.

    And there were cockroaches.  Not your run-of-the-mill standard American cockroaches.  These were the Asian variety.  Huge.  I had heard stories of large roaches in Texas but they paled in comparison.  There was a group of  seven Laotian exchange students that lived in the trailer next to me. I assumed the roaches had clandestinely come over with them.  Perhaps they were looking for a better life, to colonize new territory. I may have been judgmental, but eventually the cockroaches decided they needed more space and moved into my hovel while I was asleep.

    They weren't anything I had ever encountered before.  They were huge, larger than the aforementioned mice. They had wings. Large, functioning wings.  My cat was even afraid of them.  The field mice moved out almost the next day.  Mice, as you may well know, are very non-confrontational.

    This left me with a bit of a dilemma.  I could spray for the roaches and hope for the best.  But then the mice, seeing the coast was clear, might be emboldened to move back in.  I sat on the couch smoking a cigarette, trying to decide what to do.  A cockroach crawled onto my hand and tried to knock the cigarette from between my fingers.  My choice was suddenly clear.

     I put Henry in his crate and placed the crate and as many belongings as I could in the back seat of my car.  I pulled away and parked the car down the street.  I walked back and torched the trailer.  I sat on the hood of the car and watched it burn.  It wasn't long before I heard the sirens.  Nosy neighbors. Didn't they know I was doing them a favor?

    Weeks later I got a letter from my former landlord thanking me for burning the trailer down.  Decrepit as it was, he had it insured to the teeth.  He offered me a new place, another trailer, promising it didn't have cockroaches or mice.  With a discount on the rent, I felt I couldn't refuse.

It was fortunate that Henry enjoyed hunting centipedes...

Saturday, September 12, 2020

A Jazz Appreciation: from Neophyte to Hardcore Listener

I have been a casual jazz listener for years.  When I was attending college, I tried to be a jazz DJ on the student operated radio station.  My career as a radio announcer was a short-lived failure for a variety of reasons. the main one being that I didn't know enough about jazz. 

I don't remember my first exposure to jazz.  It wasn't my parents, who were more easy listening music and vocalist listeners (Sadly, I knew who Peter Nero, Roger Whitaker, and Ray Coniff were at an early age).  I didn't listen to it in high school, it didn't fit into my obsession with Bob Dylan.  So, yes, it must have been college.  I started attending Southern Illinois University in 1981 with a major in Radio and TV.  My advisor, a man named John Holmes, hosted a jazz show on WSIU radio on Friday nights at 10 pm.  Maybe that was it. I will also mention that it was my college years that I discovered Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation.  That had to be a contributing factor.

I still didn't take it seriously.  I was the most casual of listeners.  I didn't buy LPs, didn't research the musicians.  Carbondale IL isn't known for it's hot jazz clubs...since there weren't any to speak of.

Years later I moved to Milwaukee and soon discovered WYMS radio. That opened up a whole new appreciation of jazz.  In particular, I listened to Susan Orr in the afternoon.  I learned more about jazz from her than anyone before.  I learned that a real jazz aficionado paid attention to the personnel of certain recordings.  I was fascinated that a record by someone, say John Coltrane, also had other musicians listed on the personnel, but they weren't known as Coltrane's band.  Most of the musicians on the albums also had their own albums.  It would have been easy, had I had the intellectual curiosity, to fall down a jazz rabbit-hole.  

But I didn't have the intellectual curiosity that would have been required.

Like many people, I like a variety of music and go through phases. I like Classical, Rock, Folk, Blues.  I despise Country, New Age, and "Smooth Jazz."  And recently, I have come back to Jazz.  It plays in the studio most of the time.  It's good work music and good morning coffee music.  And as days go on, thanks to streaming services such as Spotify and Amazon streaming, I have unlimited access to jazz recordings.  UNLIMITED!

So while I am working on art, Miles Davis, Art Blakey, Thelonius Monk, and more are playing.  The album above, Cornbread, featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Herbie Hancock on piano, is a current favorite.  Kind of Blue by Miles Davis?  Definitely!  Moanin' with Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers?  Oh hell yes!  Spyro Gyra?  No.  Never.  It's not allowed on the premises. Jazz, in my opinion, should never be safe.  Smooth Jazz should not be recognized as an art form.

And now I have a reference book to satisfy that intellectual curiosity that I was lacking so many years ago.  The Rough Guide to Jazz by Ian Carr, Digby Fairweather, and Brian Priestly, available of ThriftBooks and Amazon (of course)

Happy Saturday to all!  I am going to make some coffee and listen to...ohh I don't know..maybe some Miles Davis.  Peace to you all.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Catching Up, Moving Forward (A Mental Ramble)


I realized when I woke up this morning that I have been neglecting the blog.  I thought about letting it go, but I don't really want to.  I have been writing and have been working on art, either of which I should just start sharing here instead of direct to social media.  That's something else I have toyed with letting go, but for now, while the pandemic is in full swing, I'm sticking around.  Instagram in particular has been a boon recently for art sales.  You can follow me here.  I post new art and process videos for my printmaking.

Which, after a fairly long hiatus, I have returned to doing.  I took a break because I wasn't sure why I was doing it.  Before the pandemic I decided to take some time off from doing art fairs.  I thought to myself, if I can't sell art why produce art?  Of course, that's not really the point of making art, is it?  I guess that was a mental rut that I found difficult to crawl out of.

But crawl I did.  Although the initial goal, as it were, was not necessarily get back into printmaking.  What led me back was my determination to start a daily sketch practice and a daily journal practice.  Each of these served to clear the clutter and cobwebs in my brain.  Each was a kind of daily meditation.  I have come back to printmaking with a renewed passion and still try to maintain the daily practice of journaling and sketching.

I still am not planning on returning to art fairs.  The pandemic has altered the art fair universe.  I doubt I will go back.

* * * *

And I have started writing poetry again.  Typewriter poetry.  Twenty-five years ago I wrote poetry, aspired to be a poet, read my poetry at Poetry Slam open mikes.  The well dried up pretty fast.  I lost the poetry that may have been inside me.  At the time I guess I blamed (or credited depending on your point of view) that I stopped drinking.  I couldn't get on stage without having a few belts of liquor in me.  

Yet recently I was inspired by a fellow Instagram artist blackadderpress who posts their typewriter poetry (which is amazing) on Instagram along with linocut prints (also amazing).  I started jotting down poems that usually came to me when I was unable to sleep (which is often).  Or I would try to sleep and a seed would be planted.  I have learned from experience you never say "I will write it down later, I will remember it" because you don't. Not ever.

And I bought a vintage typewriter.

I was afraid that I would be viewed as a copycat.  I messaged blackadderpress and let them know that I was inspired.  I was given their blessing.

I have rambled enough for one post.  I will, as always, endeavor to write more often.  This blog is my mental warehouse (or dumping ground for less organized days).  I hope to expand my readership.  I guess that goes without saying.  No one wants to write things that no one reads, right?

Peace and Blessings to you all.


Sunday, June 21, 2020

9 Simple Rules You Don't Have to Follow Every Day

I guess I like making lists.  I take inspiration from artist Wendy MacNaughton, illustrator and list maker extraordinaire.

I made this one for myself as much as everyone else.  I need reminding occasionally that amidst all the chaos and abject ugliness, life can be a wondrous and amazing thing. Please feel free to share this if you want. It will be much appreciated.  I welcome feedback, as always.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Creating a Habit-Daily Sketch Practice

As I mentioned before, I am trying to make sketching a daily habit.  We've all heard the whole "it takes 21 days to make a habit" trope, and apparently that's just what it is.  A trope that isn't necessarily accurate.  According to an article at there are variables.  Basically, if you have done something every day for 3 weeks and it still hasn't become a habit, don't despair.  It might take longer.  Don't give up.

I would venture to guess that things become habits more smoothly if, well, you stop thinking "I'm going to make this a habit if it kills me." or something to that effect.  I'm guilty of this.  It's kind of like looking for happiness, or enlightenment, or some other lofty goal.  Don't overthink. Just remember what late comedian/philosopher Bill Hicks said.

Sorry, I guess I have a habit of going off on tangents...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

(Not So) Daily Sketch Practice-17Jun2020

I am trying to get into the habit of working in the studio as close to every day as possible.  I'm trying to not be so hard on myself.  It's not supposed to be a struggle.  I berate myself for being lazy.  I find I am easily distracted by social media.

Then I tell myself I need to relax.  Despite what many misinformed people want to think, we are in the midst of a pandemic.  It's not something that is going to go away by just ignoring it, try as people might.  

So I am opting to just be grateful that I have food, shelter, the breath in my lungs, and the love of an amazing woman.  Shouldn't that be enough?  Okay, books and coffee.  I'm grateful for those things, too.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Daily Sketch Practice - 13 June 2020

I've said this before but I am determined to have a daily sketch practice, where, no matter how minor or small, I do a sketch of something.  I have succeeded in this 4 out of the last 5 days.  I'm not sure what happened Friday, I guess I was tired.  Anyway, so starting today I will be posting the scanned images from my sketchbook here.  I also post the drawing on my Instagram page.  I will try to go back and scan the previous pages also.

I hope you enjoy these sketches and writings.

If you enjoy my art and writing and would like to support my art habit, you can do so by buying me a virtual coffee at page or by clicking the Ko-fi button on the right side of the page.  Contributors will receive a token of my appreciation like a small drawing, a button, or stickers.