It was "Late in the Evening"*

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* to be “read” to the tune, “Late In The Evening,” by Paul Simon

 

First thing I remember

I woke up in my bed

It couldn’t have been more

Than one or two

 

I remember a small suitcase

Sitting at the gate next door

At first I didn’t know

Who it belonged to

 

It was owned by Paul Simon

No, this dream is far from through

 

The next thing I remember

I am walking down the concourse

I’m feeling all right,

I’m with my boy,

I’ve got to move, yeah

 

And down along the concourse

Passengers were on the move

And I heard the sound of Mr. Simon’s croon, yeah

Singing there in the airport

So I headed toward his stool, yeah

 

I said “I love your latest tune”

And fumbled for another line

He stepped right up to bail me out in kind

He shared “The album’s not in stores

And here’s the tragic reason why

It doesn’t have a cover, no artist has come through”

 

It was late in the evening

Paul Simon blew my mind away

 

Next thing I remember

I was telling him my craft

I said “I’m gonna do that piece

No matter what I do”

 

Well I guess I made him confident

 And once or twice I looked toward the floor

But I never had a dream

Like this come true

And it was late in the evening

And my dream is finally through.

 

Yes, I dreamt I met Paul Simon in an airport and discussed illustrating his new album cover. I can often interpret my dreams at least at some level, but no luck with this one. I did have fun trying to put the story into the framework of one of my favorite of his tunes.

I hope a few of you sang along!

PHRASE COINERS

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Did coin phrasers of old live long enough to witness the spreading of their catchy limericks? With the internet, I can imagine modern phrases reaching the corners of the globe in short order (I realize the earth doesn’t have corners, but I’m hoping my blogs can capture the conspiracy theorist audience).

As a child I remember picking up some dandies from television and from my grandfather the fruit farmer.

The Beverly Hillbillies introduced me to “a hoot and a holler,” while Grandpa was fond of saying, “You bet your hoopin.” I still have no clue as to what a “hoopin” is, but its surely something of great value, or it wouldn’t symbolize a risky wager.

“A hoot and a holler” is sheer brilliance. It saddens me to think the author of the phrase might never have received his/her due for this phrase. Can you imagine using a “hoot” as a measure of distance? And then to think that act would not be enough on its own to reach the destination, so a “holler” was added to take the baton at the point where the hoot’s sound waves expired. At that juncture the holler would “run” the final span. I guess the holler gets the glory for crossing the finish line, but where would it have been without the hoot’s contribution?

I choose to think the holler would step to the podium and publicly thank, in loud bellowing words, the fact there’s no “I” in team, but there most certainly IS a “holler.” Stay tuned for the future dissection and analysis of additional phrases, both ancient and contemporary.

Later Tater

Lasting Lasts

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I probably spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about lasts. I divide them into two basic categories: those I know are lasts as they occur, and those I discover as such at some later date. The above photo is of what I’m certain will be the last ripe berry my raspberry bushes will produce this year. To get full value from the last berry, I made a pie.

It's possible my “first last” of recognition occurred when my grandmother died. I was in the 7th grade, and she was the first person I was close to that I ever lost. As expected, it was painful and confusing. I naturally spent some time remembering the last time I saw her, as well as the last thing she said to me.

As a school teacher, I probably overemphasized “last days” of the school years. I remember wanting to impart some final words of wisdom to my students, before dismissing them from my classroom for the last time. This is similar to when I dropped my own kids off for their first year of college.

I think my fascination with “lasts” began to take root when I became a father. I was fully aware of the last autumns that each of my kids would spend at home. I remember the first time my first born met my grandfather. It was also the last time. I remember the last time she used a pacifier as she collected them all and put them into the garbage. I don’t remember the last time I sang her to sleep, or pushed her on the swing; on second thought, I think I remember the last time on the swing.

I remember the last time my son trick-or-treated on his birthday, which he shares with Halloween. I remember his last baseball game. I don’t remember the last time he followed me with his Little Tikes toy mower as I cut the grass in our yard. Nor do I remember the last time he put my towel, shaver and deodorant out for me before I showered in the morning.

I guess, if pressed, I’d have to say I prefer to not know when a last is a last. I don’t let go well. It's much easier for me to purchase than it is to sell, to receive than to give, and I prefer “hellos” to “goodbyes.”

My parents are aging. Their memories are failing and bodies breaking down. I consider “lasts” each time I leave them. I choose my words and actions carefully and I gaze at them a little more intensely, as I close the door behind me, hoping it’s not for the last time.

OH, WHAT A DIFFERENCE A MONTH CAN MAKE, AND AN IRON TOO

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It’s been said, “A picture paints a thousand words.” Believing that can sometimes be true, I had my technical crew obtain this photo to add impact to today’s highly-anticipated blog.

Since I know many of my readers log in to my entries for the expressed purpose of gleaning technological insights, I’ll divulge the secrets to the processing of this capture.

1. Professional photographer snaps a series of pictures. This shows great foresight on the photographer’s part. Somehow he knows it usually takes between 35 and 50 shots to get one of the guy in the plaid shirt to turn out.

2. Photo is included in an article describing the exhibit the manila-folder-holding artists contributed to.

3. A thoughtful fellow color pencil artist sees the article and passes the link on to me.

4. Since the photo doesn’t show up on my phone, we open my laptop and viewed it there.

5. Seeing as how I can’t remember how my daughter taught me to take a screen shot

on my computer, and my staff is on an extended lunch break, I enlarge the image on my laptop screen and take a photo with my iphone. This creates an unintended bonus. My pants now have a bit of a corduroy look, just in time for autumn.

6. Next comes the transfer from phone to laptop, so I can drag the picture onto my blog page. A little white cord makes this fairly simple.

Feel free to make a print of these instructions for your own use. You may be finding yourself giving inservices on technology one day.

So, why the photo? I wanted to follow up on the life of my latest drawing, “Lepidopteraphobic Rhinoceros.” In our last episode, the composition shook off the disappointment of not being accepted into an exhibit, and entered and was accepted into another.

Not only was the piece accepted, but it received the “Best Of Show” award. I was obviously honored, humbled and grateful. If you doubt this, look at my wardrobe.

The slacks (fancy word for “pants”) not only don’t have holes, but they aren’t even jeans!

My shoes, which aren’t pictured, aren’t tennis shoes. They were still comfortable, but not tennis shoes. Be impressed.

Speaking of “press,” PLEASE appreciate the fact that my shirt has buttons AND was pressed! It’s true. I located my iron, plugged it in, waited for it to heat up, laid out my shirt and proceeded to try and remove more wrinkles than I created.

Not wanting my seatbelt to mar my handiwork while making the trek across my great state of Michigan, I went the extra mile and placed my shirt carefully on a hanger. Did you know automobiles have a little hooky thing that holds hangers? Mine is in “like new” condition. Check your owner’s manual under “Little hooky things” for instructions on proper and safe usage of this little bell and whistle.

As you can imagine, this was an exhausting event for me. It provided an emotional and inspiring lift to me as an artist. I wish I didn’t need that. It also gave me an opportunity to deliver a short speech on the topic of my work. Speeches force me to delve into a little introspection regarding why I invest time and energy into creating.

The most difficult aspect of this adventure was having to place my still fairly wrinkle-free shirt into the laundry basket. Thankfully, I have the photo evidence to sustain me.


Just as I was completing this blog, I received an email with the actual photo captured by the  photographer. Better? A bit, but the corduroy effect is completely lost.

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POPS IN A HEARTBEAT

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A year ago, I became a father in law. It is an honor to be sure. 356 days later my daughter provided me with yet another title. As with the wedding, I had many months to prepare, this time, to be a grandfather.

Perhaps I’ve been groomed for this all my life. I had two of the finest grandfathers one could ask for. One was a quiet, kind, hardworking fruit farmer with a gentle smile. The other, a humorous, articulate, outgoing pastor in the Catskill Mountains. They each, in their own way, made me feel significant and loved, and gave me characteristics to aspire to.

Years later, I watched my father assume the grandfather role. It was an amazing thing seeing the way he held my children for the first time when they were babies. It was as if there was no one else in the room as he studied their tiny faces.

Fast forward to Sept. 3, 2017, and it's my turn to hold my first grandchild. I had a ten hour drive to further prepare myself for the moment. I could not wait to meet MY baby’s baby. The occasion did not disappoint. My heart grew three sizes that day as I studied every detail of her precious little face.

I’m grateful my daughter and son in law remember to photograph key moments. The above photo is one I’ll continue to cherish for the rest of my days. From “Dad” to “Pops” in a heartbeat. I’ll never be the same.

Her name is Lorraine, and when she can speak mine will become Pops. Until then I’ll do the talking, most of the staring, and I’ll pretty much be goo. Wondering how Lorraine looks through the hole of a doughnut? Wonder no more.

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THE BIRTH OF A LEPIDOPTEROPHOBIC RHINOCEROS

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I began this drawing in February. It was to be the fourth work in my series of phobically themed compositions that have spanned over a decade. Pteronophobic Turtle was the first in the series. The original was proudly displayed in Michigan’s governor’s mansion for a year and a half. Globophobic Porcupine was next. This piece won the CPSA award for Exceptional Achievement in 2008, the Alden B. Dow Museum Merit award and Solo Exhibition award in 2009, the Youngman Graphic Arts award in the Muskegon Museum of Art’s Regional art show, and Best Of Show in the Lowell West Michigan Art Regional Competition. Hydrophobic Otter earned the CPSA award for Exceptional Achievement, the Martin Maddox Prize for Imaginative Realism in the Kalamazoo Institute of Art 2010 West Michigan show, and Best of Show in the Lowell West Michigan Regional Competition. Entering competitions such as those listed above can be very motivating, or disappointing. An artist has to have thick skin.

I began placing the creation of my own art work into a place of higher priority approximately 13 years ago. Besides carving large chunks of time out of my schedule, I’ve also invested money, energy and space in my home into the endeavor. My first goal was to produce a couple of drawings reflecting the ideas that were coming to mind. I accomplished this over the course of a summer. Next, I wanted to have some work presented in a gallery or two, and found them in Saugatuck and Harbor Springs, MI. The final step to feeling “official” was to enhance my rather limited resume. A colleague suggested a few competitions, and I decided to enter. I was surprised how well my work was usually received, which gave me confidence and some much needed financial return to help defray the cost of entering. The process of “acceptance” or “denial” served as a reminder as to how my students felt when their artwork was or was not placed in showcases or art shows. Funny how life events can provide positive or negative consequences.

I completed “The Lepidopterophobic Rhinoceros” just in time to enter into the Muskegon Museum of Art’s highly prestigious state wide competition. I devoted over 350 hours of the most intense drawing I’ve ever attempted to meet the deadline. When the “declined” notification arrived in the mail it was a sock to the gut. Good thing I have a well insulated 6 pack of abs to absorb the blow. Actually, it was felt acutely. So much so, that I couldn’t even look at the drawing for days. How childish of me to suddenly feel like a failure. Eventually, it was time to put on my big boy American Eagle cargo shorts, my tennis shoes and favorite tee shirt, take a swig of Mountain Dew, buy myself an ice cream cone, and take another look at the drawing I invested most of my summer to. I loved it! I saw it with new, honest eyes and was proud of my accomplishment.

I decided to “get back on the bike” and submit the piece to another competition. The Lepidopterophobic Rhinoceros has been accepted into the 25th Annual Canton Fine Arts Exhibition! The piece will be delivered next week and the show will run from October 6 through November 4.

Limited edition giclee prints of the piece will soon be available online at a discounted price for a limited in time if you are interested. It will be offered in two sizes.

Thanks for reading, and please forgive me for my childishness and pride.... Not very becoming.

A FULL YEAR?!?!?

I think anniversaries can be a good thing, I just find it hard to believe what seems like a couple of months ago, was actually a year. Yes, 365 days ago I did something most men, I’d guess, anticipate and dread at the same time. I “gave” my daughter away.
I put a lot of thought into this moment. I’d known for some time that I’d be walking her down the same aisle I’ve walked hundreds of times, as the wedding occurred in the church my father pastored when I was a child, and is my home church today. Same pews, same lights... just left-right-left-right... I can do this. The only difference is that I’ll be making the trek in a penguin costume AND with one of my two treasured children on my arm.

Knowing this can be an emotional moment for a father was a concern. I wanted to reflect the joyous occasion with a smile of confidence and to allow the focus to be on the beautiful bride, not on her blubbering father. Imagine my glee when she informed me of the song she wanted to proceed with, “Gone, Gone, Gone” by Phillip Phillips! An unusual selection, but it has a lot of drum references in its lyrics, and a pretty cool beat. I was relieved when my daughter gave me permission to play an African djembe as I escorted her to the front of the church. My son liked the idea as well, and suggested a bowtie on the drum was needed. Nice touch.

The wedding was beautiful and thanks to the drum, dad was able to keep his emotions in check.

Congrats to Zoe and Brian on a glorious first year of marriage, with many more to follow! I love you both.

 

SURVIVING THE SOLAR ECLIPSE OF 2017

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I’m pretty certain this is a picture I took of the eclipse. It might just be an old picture I took of the moon, however. It's difficult to tell the difference. I didn’t drive ten hours to have a more complete experience. I believe West Michigan got cheated by 30 something percent. So enjoy this photo of the 65% Michigan eclipse. I’ll give you awhile to enjoy it...

Some may be wondering why I’m so late in capturing this event in print. The truth is, I had to give my retinae some time to heal. That’s plural for retina, as far as I know. While the local, regional and national news was dominated with advice regarding the safest ways to protect your eyes during eclipse viewing, I went with my own strategy. Please assess my game plan and feel free to give it an evaluation.

I didn’t trust the silly little glasses many wore. I wasn’t going to place my stellar vision in the hands of a product that looks like it could come from the bottom of a Cracker Jacks box. Instead, I retrieved the stylish 3-D glasses I FORGOT to return to a local theater while departing the studio. This saved me money, looked great on me, AND gave me a 3-D view of this natural wonder! Next, I took an 8-ply hefty bag with drawstrings, cut a breathing hole and a hearing hole (I’m deaf in my right ear, so a single hole is all that’s necessary. It was a time saver. Ear hole? Mandatory if one is to hear the eclipse clearly). With my glasses and hefty bag in place, it was nearing eclipse time, 2:00 EST. I unzipped the entrance flap to my pup tent and climbed in. With the flap rezipped so no light could penetrate the enclosure, it was now safe to look at the eclipse. I checked my watch: 2:11. Nine minutes until eclipse prime time. Just enough time for a handful of Jalepen~o (I don’t know how to get the squiggly thing above the “n”) Fritos and a healthy swig of Moontain Dew. Get it?

It was at this exact moment I had a BRILLIANT idea that no media outlet identified. The well intended warnings all made reference to the obvious damage looking into the sun can cause. DUH! It was at that moment, 2:19 EST, I decided I’d not look at the sun. I’d only look at the moon! BRILLIANT!!!!!! So confident was I, I even took a peak through my hefty ear hole and unzipped the pup tent, just a smidgeon.

My apologies for not devising this brilliant strategy in time to share with others. I hear this “once in a lifetime” experience will occur again in 2028? I didn’t research this prediction, but if true, you’re welcome to use my eclipse viewing techniques free of charge. Just one more reason to continue your subscription to the day6art blogs.

HOW CRUNCHY, IS TOO CRUNCHY?

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I love peanut butter sandwiches. My father taught me the art of making one properly, and I like to think I’ve advanced the art over the years. I’ve taken great care in passing on these time-tested secrets to my kids, so that they can “spread” the word.

I like my peanut butter crunchy, not EXTRA crunchy. This is an option JIF fails to offer. You can buy smooth, or extra crunchy. My highly intelligent mind JUST figured out why! Perhaps the reason I continue writing blogs is for my own benefit, not for the handful of readers that continue checking in.

JIF can blame the lack of a “Crunchy” option on KFC. Chicken options are limited to “Original recipe,” or “EXTRA Crispy.” No “Crispy.” I’ll sleep better from now on. Instinctively, I can sense right now, the beautiful flow to this blog. The thesis is obvious, grammar stellar, transition statements offered with clarity, illustrations riveting and thought provoking, sentences resisting the temptation to run too long, humor SO subtle as to almost be difficult to locate... I’m good.

So, back to the peanut butter issue, because identifying blame isn’t enough. I love peanut butter and needed a solution, and please don’t suggest alternative brands. Organic, all natural...... I’ve tried them and nearly lost my love for this delicacy for life.

My solution is a bit labor intensive, costly at the outset, but simply brilliant, tasty and worth the investment. I purchase two jars of peanut butter. One that is extra crunchy and one that is smooth. Then, when it's time to have company over for a delicious peanut butter sandwich feast, I simply open both jars, take a swipe of smooth and a swipe of extra crunch for each sandwich. Of COURSE I spread a layer of REAL butter on one of the slices as well, because peanut “butter,” while delicious, is “butter” by name only. It is still the chef’s responsibility to apply actual butter to the bread if a quality sandwich is desired.

After merging the peanut butter and butter slices of bread in a ceremonial celebration of sandwich matrimony, a trademark is administered to the top of the sandwich. Cleaning both sides of the knife off on the top of the treat, forming an “X.”

I’ve yet to come up with a successful solution for KFC. I’m finding it difficult getting original and extra crispy chickens to mate. Photos not included.

Butterfly "Affect"

Busted. Yes, I hired out for this capture. Even my technological skills are not adequate for doing such highly advanced, time lapse photography.

Those of you with botanical knowledge may recognize the subject of these pictures is the increasingly popular “Butterfly Bush.” I’ll explain, briefly, as is my custom, the purpose for having these beautiful images as the heading for today’s blog.

I’ve become increasingly aware of the limited appreciation by the viewers of my artwork, for the amount of time and effort each piece requires. If I could’ve afforded it, I’d have had a time lapse video made of the making of my most recent piece. From start to finish, it took over 300 hours to complete. Wouldn’t that be exciting footage? I’d probably have my frequent trips to the kitchen edited out. Because I have a LITTLE bit of pride left. I’d most likely also not include my “no handed popcorn eating” performance in the film. I WOULD, however, include the pencil SHARPENING footage to give an element of high energy to the movie. In the bloopers that would accompany the credits, I’d share some of my more intriguing erasing moments as a bonus.

You’re wondering about the butterfly bushes, so I’m on it. A drawing such as my most recent piece can necessitate LOTS of advance planning. Sensing I’d one day need photo sources of a variety of butterflies, I planted a couple of butterfly bushes in my backyard several years ago. Carefully cultivating this temperamental foliage became a labor of love for me. After years of nurture, the plant was ready to live up to its nickname. My heart skipped a beat as I witnessed the multicolored monarch meandering toward the meticulously manicured bush. So excited was I, that I almost forgot to capture my fluttering friend with my camera.

I’ll soon be unveiling my most recent, butterfly-infested piece through a variety of channels. Stay tuned! 

ORIGINAL, HIGHLY SECRETIVE RECIPE!

I’m so tickled and humbled by the rapid growth of the number of people reading my blogs that I just HAD to show my appreciation. I decided to open my vault and reveal the recipe I’ve crafted over the past 12 years to my readership. This is a time sensitive revelation, as it requires the acquisition of wild blackcap raspberries while in season. So don’t delay.

Step #1. Be sure to have a substantial amount of 2% white milk on hand. Refrigeration required. Do NOT use if lumpy.

Step #2. Purchase two boxes of Rice Chex. Off brands not acceptable, but Corn Chex are an appropriate substitution.

Step #3. Inspect ceramic cereal bowls and spoons for cleanliness.

Step #4 is even trickier than #1-3, and involves a uniform.

-Find those blue jeans you’ve tucked away until autumn and put them on AFTER pulling a pair of socks over your feet. Socks should be the type that reach beyond your calves to increase protective value. A long sleeve tee shirt and the shoes you wear for lawn mowing will complete your ensemble. You’ll no doubt want to pause to take a selfie at this point.

Step #5. Take a small pail and venture into the great outdoors seeking wild, blackcap raspberries. If you’re fortunate enough to have these growing on your own property, your job will become easier, and will reduce the odds of a brush with the law.

It's now time to begin picking. Large, dark berries are those that are ready to harvest. Lightly pinch each berry before removing from the bush. If the berry puts up a fight, let go, as it's politely telling you to “Come back tomorrow.”

Many of the best berries will require climbing into the foliage. This is where your uniform becomes significant. Your sleeves will protect you from plants of the poisonous variety AND reduce the depth into your flesh that the raspberry prickers will invade. Should you become entangled in the prickers, do NOT panic. Simply turn your body in the opposite direction the tangling produced. If skin is perforated as a result, simply smile, and remind yourself of the upcoming reward for your efforts.

Once your bucket is filled, it is time to return to your abode.

Step #6. Rinse all berries, remove stems and any bugs that came along for the ride.

Step #7. Cover the bottom of your cereal bowl with berries, followed by a layer of Rice Chex. Next, a dense layer of berries should conceal the Chex, followed by a second cereal layer and finally a pile of berries to top it off.

If you’re confident you’ll not be interrupted by family members, a dog that needs to be let outside, or a Fedex delivery, you may now add your non-chunky milk. I like to pour just enough milk into the bowl to moisten (lovely word) the cereal, but not submerge the top layer of berries.

Step #8. Wait until you’re done smiling, and carefully slide your spoon into the bowl. Dip deep enough to obtain at least a couple of cereal bits, so as to add the intoxicating crunch to your first bite. Repeat until bowl is empty.

Please do not try this recipe without adult supervision and ENJOY!

ANT TRAINING

Yes, I have many skills. I am able to get an extra week or two out of a tube of toothpaste my kids deemed empty. I know how to fold a fitted sheet, though I choose not to. I’m also very adept at sharpening color pencils with both powered and manual hand held sharpeners. I can practically hear your “firework reactions” already. “Oooooh. Ahhhhh. WOOOOAH!”

This summer I decided to take up a new hobby. I’m now an official “Ant trainer.” This is not to be confused with “Aunt trainer,” which I was a master of at a young age. I learned very quickly how to deter some of my wonderful aunts’ desires to pinch my youthful chubby cheeks. Typically, my great speed of foot was all that was necessary, as long as I detected the pinch in advance. In the event I was distracted by a heavily frosted cake, a baseball, or a developing game of Capture the Flag with cousins, and didn’t notice a stalking aunt in time, I’d refer to my fine acting skills. Simply pretending to be nauseous and bending at the waist always did the trick. Unfortunately, it also removed my eligibility status for partaking of cake for a time.

No, this type of training, the training of insects, requires more than just acting skills. It requires patience, a plot of grass, and a brain at least twice the size of an ant. Two out of three is sufficient.

A careful eye will see a finely manicured path leading through my lawn. Like north and south going sneetches (Dr. Seuss reference), you’ll also notice ants following the path in either direction with near flawless obedience. The positive implications for this form of training should be obvious.

At this point in my training, the ants are merely transferring items that are beneficial to their own lives. Tiny edible crumbs and small fragments of dried grass for nesting are most common. Soon, a subtle transition will occur. I’ll gradually increase the size of their cargo, so as not to alert them to my grand design. If all goes as planned, these unsuspecting ants will be moving and stacking firewood for me by autumn.

As to be expected, every group seems to have a bad apple. This is the little guy that thought the path was an “optional” route across my lawn. He’s spending a brief time in isolation until his attitude is adjusted. Defiant little creature.

More than marshmallows

Yep, I love this man more than marshmallows. Toasted, roasted, dipped in dark chocolate or straight out of the bag.

This man’s presence has changed in recent years. You won’t know it, however, when he prays, jokes, or when his eyes tell you he loves you. He’s told me using words that he loves me twice in my lifetime. Funny what we remember. He’s told me with his eyes and his actions more times than I can count. If I had a choice, I’d choose actions over words, though I hold dear the memory of him telling me.

My dad has dementia. Its not ideal. I’d love to share experiences in the same way we used to. I miss recapping Tiger games with him. I’d also love to hear him preach again. I could make a list of what I know I’ll never have with him again, but realize how fortunate I am to have him at all.

I’m sure some of you know exactly how it feels to have your parents age, and have some of the roles in your relationship reversed. Others would give anything to have the chance. This doesn’t escape me. I’m lucky.

Father’s Day was wonderful. We had a feast with both my parents and many of my dad’s kids and their kids in attendance. Few things give my dad joy these days, but watching his family laugh still does the trick. Pie does too.

Perhaps my readership is wondering if this blog entry is being written by a ghost writer due to its serious tone. No apologies. I’m writing what’s on my heart in a heavy way.

To honor my dad I will share two stories with you that will give you a snapshot of his sense of humor and his competitive spirit.

As an elementary student in the Catskill Mountains, my dad found an interesting game to play with his classmates. A bees’ nest would be found and placed inside a circle drawn in the dirt. Competing students would see who could remain in the circle longest after poking the nest with a stick. My dad always won.

In college, my dad felt convicted to bring one of the guys in his dorm “out of his shell.” I’ll change the classmate’s name to protect the innocent and refer to him as “John Smith.” After making a call to the funeral home (quite certain this wouldn’t work today), a knock was heard at “John’s” door. When John answered the door, the gentleman dressed in a black suit and possessing a long cart, stated in a reverent tone, “We’ve come for the body of John Smith.”

I love this man.

Riveting Retirement

“So, how’s retirement going, Paul?” A nickel. Just one nickel for every time I’ve been asked this question. That’s all I’d need to pay off my mortgage. Don’t misunderstand. The question is asked with the kindest of intentions. People are generally happy for me, with the exception of my former colleagues who secretly wish they were in my place.

My answer is typically cordial, and informative. Who is surprised by this? It also is a bit on the lengthy side, if time allows and I have the inquisitive one trapped. Retirement can be lonely, so we retirees seek out conversation with anyone, even if they have their arms filled with bags of groceries. I actually prefer that audience because they rarely ask follow up questions.

My answer to the “How’s retirement?” question is this. “I’m not retired from the work force, just retired from teaching, at least in its previous form. I may very well choose to teach private lessons, or night classes, at some point in the future. I’m VERY happy in my ability to focus more on my art business, and am also enjoying house painting during normal hours, rather than the after school shift. I miss working with kids big time. I miss making them laugh (sometimes on purpose), watching in awe at the things they’d create, and yelling at them when they run in the hall. I do NOT miss witnessing projectile vomit, nose picking, butt scratching, and tattling.”

As a visual artist, I adhere STRONGLY to the “A picture paints a thousand words” doctrine. Since I’m quite the techie, I often step it up and employ the “Moving pictures paint MORE than a thousand words” philosophy. “Moving Pictures” also happens to be Rush’s best album. That’s not open to debate, though your comments of agreement are welcome. Speaking of “comments,” since it relates to what I was writing about, and I’m a stickler for staying on point, they ARE welcome and even encouraged, especially if they’re glowing in nature.

The number of readers addicted to my ingenious and thoughtful blogs has been growing at an alarming rate. The number of comments, however, is not. My manager just told me I’m starting to run on a little long with my sentences and am coming DANGEROUSLY close to veering off point. Personally, I think she’s just a little grumpy this morning. She also requests I not use “all caps” so often. It uses more ink, and money is a little tight in the day6art account. In the words of Steve Martin, “WELL EXCUUUUUUUUSE ME!!!!!!!” I feel better now.

Please enjoy the video. The sci fi clip from my previous blog was such a hit I decided I’d try and capture the electricity of my “retirement” experience thus far in a short film. It’s a bit more “family friendly” than the previous footage, so feel free to gather the kids around your laptop for an evening of enjoyment. Don’t forget the popcorn!

HIGH TECH, SFX, SCI FI THRILLER. WARNING! VIDEO MAY NOT BE SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

You never know when the opportunity may arise to capture a moment of intense drama. I found myself in the parking lot of my local Speedway, where I had just procured a healthy snack. When approaching my vehicle I noticed this imposing neon green creature. Thankfully I, like most people over the age of four on our fine planet, now have a fairly high quality digital camera on my person at all times. Were I NOT to have the ability to film this event, who would have believed me?

You’ve undoubtedly viewed this gripping short film multiple times by this point. Let me put your mind at ease. The risk of severe bodily harm to my person was kept to a minimum, thanks to the fact I happened to be wearing a shirt made with material bearing the pattern of a brick wall, which PERFECTLY matched the exterior wall of Speedway. Yes, it's an attractive shirt, brings out the color of my eyes, doesn’t make me look fat, and is NOT available in stores. More importantly, in this instance, it may have been a lifesaver. I was able to stand motionless against the gas station wall so as not to be seen by the massive creature.

I also want to assure you that at no time was any animal mistreated or injured in the making of this film. More importantly, the green beast was unable to obtain the 20 oz. bottle of heaven's sweetest nectar nestled in the cup holder of my automobile.

Needless to say, I’m grateful for my iphone, my local Speedway and my brick patterned shirt.

Be safe, people.

Whys, Hows, and Other Lofty Considerations That Can Distract

If you’ve invested any time in looking at my artwork in any analytical manner, you’ve no doubt drawn a few conclusions, or possibly formulated a few questions. When having the privilege of speaking about my work to an audience, I’ve come to expect certain questions. “How do you come up with the concepts for your work?” “Are these really drawn using color pencil?” “Will you accept more than your asking price?” “Do you now, or have you ever used drugs?” “Were you dropped as a child?” It is possible one of these questions has yet to be asked, but I can dream.

One of the most-asked questions regards the time it takes to create my drawings. The answer is, “a LOT of time.” My drawing titled, “A Game Of Cat And Mouse,” for instance, took 350 hours. Patience, a love of the process, a good drawing table with a comfortable stool, and a complete disregard for a social life are all requirements for being a color pencil artist.

I’ve noticed how easily I can become distracted when trying to get my pencils in motion. Often deep questions will occupy my mind. This time of year, I spend a great deal of time considering the lilac. Not very masculine of me, I know. Don’t judge. My question, which I’ll ask God in person one day, is “Why does it only bloom once a year, and keep so poorly in a vase?” I LOVE the smell of these beauties. They even make mowing enjoyable. If anyone has advice as to how I can get this scent more readily available I welcome your assistance.

I also wonder “If hens can produce such colorful eggs as these, why do we let the white egg producing hens still have work?”

Or, “How did this natural wonder occur, and how hard would I have to push the upper half to make it fall.... and would I regret doing so if I decided to find out?”

Sometimes, I recall memories from my teaching career. Like the time I was working in my classroom and had my door to the outside open for fresh air, or for my son to deliver a Mountain Dew. Suddenly, I noticed I had a little visitor come see if I was working.

Instead of drawing, I might wonder how my little friend is doing today? I still find it disappointing that I was unable to lure the rodent into the hallway, where he could have added a bit of excitement to the school day.

Time to draw...

 

The most wonderful time of the year -- day or night

Before pontificating on the merits of spring, let’s take a moment to absorb the beauty of my landscaping masterpiece.

Because this picture is taken at night, one can enjoy the rich, deep shades of gray provided by my skillfully sealed black top. You can hardly tell I used a cheap product from Menard’s. Or, that I didn’t mix together ALL of the 5-gallon cans to provide for a consistent hue, OR that it rained soon after the sealant was applied. The forecast contained no mention of any precipitation, for the record; yet there I was, mere minutes after completing the application, standing in centerfield, ready to spring in any direction to run down a softball for the benefit of my team, when I felt a drop or two. As luck would have it, the occasional drip crescendoed into a lovely downpour. I live just 3 miles from the softball field, so I was fairly certain the effort and expense I put in to protecting my lengthy driveway were in vain. Thus, the benefit of taking this photo at night.

A 5” concrete border separates the rich blacktop from the carefully placed (by a professional, not the current homeowner) brick mosaic that leads to my front door. But let’s not jump so hastily to the front door. Beautifully and lovingly positioned around the perimeter of the foliage is a rectangular shape made up of field stones of various shapes, sizes and colors. I made it look easy.

Nestled inside, and occasionally creeping over the fieldstones, is a bed of myrtle. Fun fact, myrtle is my favorite ground cover. I’m guessing many guys don’t have a favorite. Myrtle is fairly forgiving, doesn’t climb siding or trees, produces bright little purple flowers in the spring, and multiplies for FREE!

Of course, the fieldstone is merely the frame, and the myrtle a matte, for the 8’ Weeping Cherry tree. Like the myrtle, the weeper is crying for attention this time of year. If I were intending to place my house on the market, I’d use photos of my house during this short-lived explosion of color. It seems like the window of opportunity is about an hour and a half. Either a heatwave melts the blossoms to the ground, or heavy winds and torrential rains wash them away.

Lucky for all of us, I took the delightful picture above at JUST the right time. You’re very welcome.

It IS the most wonderful time of the year. No disrespect to winter, but seriously, it’s amazing. Color everywhere. Less layers of clothing required when outdoors. And mowing beats snow blowing EVERY day of the week, and only needs to be done once a week.

IT’S THE MOST WONDERFUL TIME OF THE YEAR (DAY OR NIGHT)

Spring has sprung!!!