White, Color, and Liquin

I had done paintings on three small canvases. They were my experiments in color. I coated each canvas in a different color -- red, yellow, purple -- the ones I use most often. And I gridded them into twenty one-inch squares starting with four different solid colors in the middle -- yellow, red, blue, purple. In one direction I added white to the colors, and in the other I added liquin (a substance to thin the paint). (When Bud saw my Altoid tin of liquin he asked me why I was saving my loogies like that.)

I showed them to the art group and told them about what I did. Liquin, you know, is mildly toxic, and it reeks. I've read about life-long painters who suffer major health issues, lung and brain cancers, because of it. My apartment is not ventilated and sometimes I think the fumes are going to give me a bloody nose.

Judy, Pauline's daughter, said, "Oh, I love liquin because when you're done the room smells wonderful.

"Nothing brings me back to my childhood like the smell of coffee and Turpentine."


If Banksy and O'Connor are at the top, Mr. Brainwash and I are at the bottom.

Amy and I decided that one of these days we need to flesh out the purpose of our blog.

In the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Banksy made a comment towards the end of the film that in the past he believed all people were artists and should create art. After his experience with an extremely interesting character of a person, Thierry Guetta, Banksy completely changed his mind and would no longer offer such encouragement.

My point: My hope is that by the end of my life I could write something that Flannery O'Connor wouldn't despise. She wouldn't have to like it, really, but I wouldn't want her to hate it. For now I'm still at the annoyingly generic "Mr. Brainwash" section of this journey, (or a disorganized version of Radiohead's Pablo Honey stage) so please be patient.

I am going to think about the things I hear and experience in my life and share them with you right now. O'Connor encourages writers of fiction to stare. I'd like to figure out how to write my experience of staring. For now, I'm afraid I'm one of those writers who contemplates ideas and tries to put them into words.

Hopefully I'll become more interesting soon.


Are you a member of the Turtle Club?

The last line to yesterday's post is a bit of a lie. I do know a bit of how to avoid a prescribed life, but I have lost confidence that these changes against the norm can be accomplished.

1: Get a job you like. -- The relentless grind of working at the same thing for even twenty hours a week leaves it hard to imagine that some occupation will be tolerable in thirty years. And yet I feel like society's expectation is just to do it anyway... you're in debt, after all, so buck it up and live for two days of the week.
This very summer, I asked the novelist William Styron in a Chinese restaurant how many people on the whole planet had what we had, which was lives worth living. Between the two of us, we came up with seventeen percent. - Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Timequake

2: Even more, do something you're passionate about. -- My idealogical diet in middle school was a steady stream of "Dream big" and "You can do anything you put your mind to." Since then I have had rounds of experiences telling me what I cannot do -- internships I have not gotten, job applications I've submitted with no responses, boys who have not liked me (Crazy, right? What the hell.), an emotional stability that turns out was mostly circumstantial, you get the idea. So getting passionate about anything, and moreover, trying to act on that passion seems like a short road to more disappointment.

But I have people in my life that are more durable than me. Rachel wants to (and does) write and submit scripts. For her senior project she co-wrote and acted in a full-length play. Tyson plans on starting a pub ministry that caters to folks who'd rather hang out in bars than in church. Lindsay has worked her ass off to get into the PeaceCorps and has these crazy ideas about volunteering. Also, her brother (her own brother!) said she was the most genuinely loving person he's ever met. Jay is going to grad school next year for classical guitar. Stu is working night shift for an animation studio. The folks in the Squalrus Art Collective are pulling together to support each others' endeavors in music, art, and writing. John is studying to become a Pastor in a denomination he actually cares about. Christa works with kids (is lead teaching!). Mitch is working at an alternative high school that's working to help juniors and seniors graduate. The staff works education around relationship -- the theory being you only learn from someone you care about. And Mitch cares about trying to buck the cycle of poverty.

As jaded as I am about the motivational-poster version of "doing something you're passionate about," there is nothing cheap or flighty about the efforts made by these folks.

3: Live in community: My Dad told me on the phone the other day that I'd probably lose contact with people from college. We all grew up in different places, and we don't have any place of commonality except for Whitworth, from which we are dispersing. Normal adult American behavior is to move where there are jobs or family. It's to live in the suburbs in a house with a mortgage. Eventually, your circle is made up of your children's friends' parents. Standard procedure is to have pleasant acquaintances from whom you can keep your flaws, struggles, and general personal details. The people you spend time with mirror your social station -- marital status, children's age group, occupation, political beliefs, income.

It would be different to not lose touch. To live with friends even once you're married, in an apartment complex, in a commune. To have relationships like the women have with each other on Sex and the City: being transparent and real and occasionally assholes together even when your circumstances or opinions differ.

Get close to people in ways that are not already sketched out and named for you: spouse, co-worker, parent, friend, affair.

There was a little old man at the Y who was telling me about his daughter. She was sailing down the whole coast of North and South America! This man knew several language and had traveled all over the world. I was thoroughly bored listening to him.

Because even if you do the most awesome things in your life, the people you tell stories to, unless they experienced it with you, won't care.

(And also I'm hoping that this post will encourage you to have this different kind of community with me.)


Fit to be Packed by the Gross

For in the multitude of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats, there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross, is hardly ever told even in their consciousness. -George Eliot, Middlemarch

I watched a lot of the TV show, Battlestar Galactica, yesterday. John, Christa, Mitch, and I cruised through the second half of season two on Netflix. Lots of couch time and Christa was mostly napping. The premise of the show is one which should hardly lend itself towards wish fulfillment. It's set sometime in the future with just under 50,000 humans left in existence. They have escaped the destruction of their home worlds by automatons called Cylons that seek to wipe out humanity. The remaining humans live furtively on a colony of spaceships.

The Galactica is the military ship with them, and the show follows the members of its crew. A small crew of "Viper" pilots are the fleet's defense against Cylon raiders. They constantly face death, hardly sleep, have lost most of the people they know, and don't believe in the legendary planet, Earth, that the president is searching for. And in addition to their military troubles, the people in the fleet still have civilian conflicts: lack of supplies, political unrest, dealings with the black market. Even though so few humans are left, people still occasionally shoot each other.

It shouldn't be a scenario I would want for my life, and yet sometime in the five-ish hours I watched it yesterday I got a little jealous. These characters got to be heroes. The Viper pilots live together and drink together and get pissed at each other and know each other. And then they go out and die or live in the service of saving humanity.

And what do we, American college graduates entering adulthood, have to look forward to? As far as I've seen, the giant norm is to work about 40 hours a week in order to watch the number on your online bank account go up. A race for property to sit down in and a retirement package to be dripped intravenously. A successful life is to gain security after security and to keep an opaqueness that, if you're lucky, comes across as serenity.

And it seems to me that childhood has prepared us for something better than that. I used to sit in our towel closet for hours with the light on imagining one thing after another. We had fairy tales and dinosaurs and myth. And then we had pirates and Peter Pan. Narnia. Tolkien. And then we had dreams of travel after we were done with school and that constant struggle to buck the yoke of authority imposed on us by parents and teachers. College, Whitworth, at least, allowed us to indulge in subjects that were interesting and expansive instead of simply technical or job-related.

And now we're out. There is no more parental authority and yet I don't know what I can do except to tie my cravat and go to work with the rest of them.



There's a man who rides the 74 whom I would really like to paint. There are three seats that face sideways at the front of the bus, and he stretches out on them, puts his cap down over his face, and takes a nap for our traverse from the Valley to Spokane. I was about to sneak a picture of him on my phone when we stopped.

Three blind people boarded the bus. The first was a black man with a long white cane. He had a narrow chin and long nose. He had chiseled features and reminded me of a pharaoh.

He waved his cane back and forth, checked for people's feet, and promptly sat on my man with the cap.

The three blind people then sat on the three seats across from the no-longer-sleeping man who was looking at them with a kind of wonder.

The girl next to the pharaoh was pale and had brown hair loosely pulled into a French braid down her back. The two leaned close into one another to talk, and I realized eventually that they were holding hands.

My sleeping man has brown eyes, I found out. And the two of us stared at the blind couple. The man kept combing a hand through his hair, and from the way they spoke it didn't look like it could have been above a murmur. It surprises me how much affection I see at the Plaza or on the bus, between people who are not conventionally attractive -- they are heavy or dirty or simply funny lookin. But this was the first time it felt like I was watching a couple where appearance actually didn't matter. And I've never seen intimacy more transparently.


Last night Kris and I went to the Swamp Tavern to play some pool. We got Pike Tandem and PBR and I set down to get my ass kicked. It was a Wednesday night so the place was pretty empty. There were a couple of folks up at the bar and a pair of men sitting at a table next to ours. One was sitting on a high chair, his arm rested on his table. His hair was dark and straight and his face was sort of feline, if you can picture that. The other man was standing. He was balding on top and his beard was grizzled. He wore a puffy vest. They stood close to one another as they talked.

They were close enough to us to occasionally get in the way of lining up a shot. Once in a while they would interject something into our conversation.

It was hard not to overhear them as I was busy not hitting balls in pockets. For the length of one of our games they talked strictly of dogs sniffing other dogs' asses. They discussed what they, the dogs, were saying, really. And they told stories of dog-ass-sniffing encounters they had seen recently.

They eventually called the evening finished and good and left that green-lit bar. When not long afterwards some more characters showed up. They played pool at the table next to us, and one guy was wearing a navy blue shirt with a picture of a dog sniffing another dog in the pooper. The caption: Do I know you?



project update.

jan 18-one of many drives to and from spokane.
feb 19-erin and erik.
jan 20-josh's drunk banana grams.
jan 05. chocolati.
jan 08- snowshoeing.
jan 29-bread and wine.
jan 07-an engagement ring.
jan 28- laundry.
jan 19-work.
feb 13-apples in spokane.
feb 21-kyle and anne.
feb 01-amina.
feb 20-white detroit.
feb 24-a cat by my boot.
feb 25-trees in bellevue.