Notes on Days and Nights with Motor Vehicles

I remember riding my motorcycle on a summer day, and getting caught in a downpour.
I had been rain-soaked to the bone a number of times before, but this day was singularly unique; the rain drops hit my chest so hard they seemed to pass right through me.
If I had it to do all over again I would have to since I could not have had any idea it was going to rain. Not that day. Not that hard anyway.

I’ve forgotten the day I was born. But I remember a scoutmaster that used to hypnotize us.
He told us that, while under, it was possible to rewatch a movie we’d seen before in a matter of seconds.
I wanted to see “Grand Prix” again, starring James Garner.
My scoutmaster was right, I saw the entire film in vivid technicolor while under his spell.
In hindsight, that was a horrible activity for a scoutmaster to do with his troop.

I once had a car that, to get into reverse, I had to crawl underneath it and move a shift linkage lever on the transmission.
That didn’t seem like too much of an inconvenience to me until the day I needed to back out of a parking spot covered in 4″ of wintery slush.
I had an ongoing love/hate relationship with that car — always searching for a parking spot where I could pull straight through.

There is nothing to help you forget a less than memorable day than a really memorable night.
As a teenager, I had the brilliant idea to sneak into the drive-in theater. I made my way around the side of the theater and through the lot of the local Pontiac dealership. I was distracted by an open window in the back of the garage. I didn’t want to go through that window or anything, I just was curious to take a peek.
Unfortunately, earlier that week I had found a curious piece of broken glass and had slipped it into my jacket pocket.
When the police suddenly showed up and I was taken with my accomplices to the station for questioning and to be fingerprinted. I was as surprised as the cop when I removed my fidgeting fingers from my pocket, covered in blood.

Some days are such a relief. For the better part of 1975 I drove a ’70 Pontiac Grand Safari station wagon.
The state roads in southeastern Arizona are long and straight. Just the sort of roads that turn a young man’s heart from his best girl to how fast his car could go.
Soon the needle on the speedometer was, as we used to say, buried. For the first and only time the line from the song “Hot Rod Lincoln” by Commander Cody, “telephone poles looked like a picket fence,” made sense to me.
With the little town of Safford just around the bend and no clear indication of how fast I was going except that it was over 120 mph, I took my foot off the gas.
Just past the city limit sign, flashing lights appeared in my rear view mirror. Something told me this long-haired kid was going to jail.
I never smiled so widely at a state trooper as when this one told me I was going to have to follow him to the station to pay the ticket for “going 75 in a 55.”

Fast or slow, wet or dry, it all comes out in the wash as long as you sort properly.

Take Your Coat Off and Stay Awhile

I think about process a lot — the way that as artists we build on an idea and move it through multiple stages of whatever it takes to turn it into a fully matured concept. This processing work is fascinating to me because of the ingenuity that is encapsulated. Order, combined with a very personal way of thinking, is what gets us from the beginning to the end of any one single piece of art.

I have been thinking about how artists become who they are, how they develop their own style and combine it with what they really want to say. It may be no more complex than the way any one individual painting is born, but instead happens over a lifetime. The arc of this process might come in smaller increments, and may even be interrupted throughout the course of a career by all the other things of life.

The other night I dreamt that I was taking off one coat or jacket after another for the length of the entire dream. I only had one coat on at a time, but I kept peeling them off, laying them over chairs or on the ground, without stopping.

They were all kinds of coats: a wool camel hair coat, a yellow rain slicker, a blue denim jacket, a sport coat, a ski coat, a leather jacket, a trench coat.

I wondered what such a dream could mean. For now I am going to associate it with this recent curiosity about the course we take during our lives as artists.

As we go in search of our artistic voice, we end up trying on a lot of different jackets and coats so to speak. We explore mediums and techniques, some of those coats are wool and others are polyester. We try different subjects or motifs which might end up being a sporty ski jacket or a fly-fishing vest. Over the years we outgrow our coats so we get new ones. When falling leaves turn to falling snow and we put away one and reacquaint ourselves with more appropriate apparel from the closet.

Then seasons change our palettes, and our current environment shifts our subject matter. When we work through enough of these transitions, we eventually come across something that fits just right and no matter what comes our way we will refuse to change…until it starts snowing again.

Happy New Year

Grocery store checkout lines are filled with publications featuring ‘year in review’ and endless ‘best of’ lists, all part of the turnover from one year to the next, I guess. The 1st of one year is never much different than the 31st of the proceeding one, much as we might hope it will be different. What if we had a clean slate to work with? Maybe we do.

I’m no longer a maker of resolutions— I’m so over feeling like a failure within the first few weeks of a fresh new year. But I do like the notion of giving ourselves a clean slate.

I don’t think having a slate that is wiped clean means we’ve erased everything that went before. If that were the case, we would be likely to make the same mistakes all over again. But I do believe we can fill that vision of what our new year can be with things that are important to us.

When considering how we approach what it is that we want to accomplish, the old adage, “If it is to be, it is up to me.” And as Andrew Simonet states in his book, Making Your Life as an Artist, “No one is coming.”  
We just need to take things into our own hands.

Without conjuring up some elaborate program of resolutions, I am looking at this brand new year with the attitude: now is the time to just go for it.

Let’s give ourselves permission.

Something Sweet

Lemon Posset
Makes 6 servings

2 cups heavy cream
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of 2 lemons
6 T lemon juice
Raspberries for garnish, about 24

Add cream, sugar and lemon zest to a sauce pan. Cook on medium heat, stirring often.  Continue to stir as you bring the mixture to a low simmering boil. Continue boiling until you have reduced to 2 cups.

Check how much the mixture is reduced by pouring into a heat tolerant measuring cup. If it is over 2 cups, pour back into sauce pan and cook more. If it is not reduced to 2 cups your posset may not set up as well.

When reduced to 2 cups, remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Strain the mixture to remove the lemon zest.

Pour into 6 serving cups or ramekins. Chill in fridge. When the posset is set (2 or 3 hours), garnish with raspberries and serve.