“The more people you have to ask for permission, the more dangerous a project gets.”
“If there is a life force operating in Nature, still there is nothing so analogous in a bureaucracy. Nothing so mystical. It all comes down, as it must, to the desires of individual men.”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
I seen her beat the hell out of a tin peddler with a live chicken one time ’cause he give her a argument. She had the chicken in one han’, an’ the ax in the other, about to cut its head off. She aimed to go for that peddler with the ax, but she forgot which hand was which, an’ she takes after him with the chicken. Couldn’ even eat that chicken when she got done. They wasn’t nothing but a pair of legs in her han’. Grampa throwed his hip outa joint laughin’.”
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
“Everything he had ever done that had been better left undone. Every lie he had told — told to himself, or told to others. Every little hurt, and all the great hurts. Each one was pulled out of him, detail by detail, inch by inch. The demon stripped away the cover of forgetfulness, stripped everything down to truth, and it hurt more than anything.”
― Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders
“Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”
― Pablo Picasso
Kettle Art is a gallery in Deep Ellum and is known for its unflagging support of local artists. Every February those artists get a shot at returning the favor. The gallery distributes about two hundred identical nine by twelve inch boards to be converted into works of art. They go on sale at seven PM for fifty dollars apiece, and all of the proceeds go toward the gallery (they return the favor a week later with their For the Love of Artists event). The thing is that there are two hundred or so pieces, but three hundred or so folks show up and many buy several works – some up to ten. That’s why they call it a “competitive shopping event.” They open the doors at seven PM sharp and everyone rushes in.
The paintings are numbered and you take the numbers up front and reserve your painting – if nobody else has gotten to it first. Then you pay, then you pick up.
I don’t have a lot of money, but I can come up with fifty dollars. I used to go an hour early so I could get a spot near the front of the line… and get the painting I wanted. I don’t do that any more – now I go an hour and a half early.
The event is at seven and I wanted to get there at five thirty. It takes an hour or so to get downtown on the train, especially since I have to change from the Red line to the Green to get from downtown to Deep Ellum… plus fifteen minutes to get to the train station – I left home right at four fifteen.
Everything went as planned until I got off the train at the Arts District station downtown. On the weekends the trains don’t run very often and the next Green train wouldn’t be there for a half hour. That would not do. My eyes fell on the electric scooters lined up on the sidewalk. I’ve ridden the scooters before (read about an adventure here) so out came my phone and I unlocked one and five minutes and a buck ninety later I was in Deep Ellum. The only problem was that the road I took was rough and the little wheels on the scooter didn’t help that – but I made it in one piece.
Arriving right on time, ninety minutes early, I was fourth in line. The fun thing is that the same people go early every year, so we had a lot to talk about. Mostly, though, we talked about strategy. You see, the line starts immediately at the reserve table, so the question is whether to rush to the table or walk around and look for the painting you really want – at the risk of someone else getting it.
I always stress out about this, stress too much. One year I went on a bike ride and arrived dehydrated and the stress got to me and I wrote down the wrong number – getting a random painting. It was OK – but not the style I wanted… and the artist saw me with it and said, “I can’t believe it sold so fast.” I lied and said, “Oh I wanted it right from the start!”
This year I looked in the window and could clearly see the first paintings with their numbers. I realized that I really liked four of the first five and would be happy with any of those. Talking to the people in line (we all traded our favorites and agreed not to buy each others) they suggested a great strategy. It involved buying two paintings. I would rush to the table and buy a painting I like right away (Painting #1, as a matter of fact) and then I had one that I liked locked up. After that, I could leisurely walk around, writing down any others that looked good and buy one of those later. Many would be bought, but some should still be left.
That was the ticket. I’d spend an extra fifty dollars, but get two paintings… and have fun, with no pressure, because I was guaranteed of at least one that I liked and would probably get two.
The line behind me stretched most of the way around the block… and then the door flew open and I rushed in, went right to the table (I was third, the people in line before me were there first) and bought painting #1.
In this photo you can see a painting by Richard Ross – I bought one of his in 2016.
Happy with my choice, I wandered around looking at all the art, writing down the numbers of about two dozen works that I particularly liked. Then I joined the long line waiting for a painting. When I reached the front, I was surprised at how man numbers I had written down were still available. I chose a colorful Day of the Dead skull that I knew Candy would like.
It was painted by David Pech. Candy really liked it.
Once I had both my paintings picked up it was getting late, though there were still people arriving and buying art. Looking at the board where they crossed numbers off when the paintings were taken I noticed that there were still a couple that I had written down as particularly liking that were not purchased yet. So I guess I don’t really need to go ninety minutes early next year. But I think I will. I’ll definitely save up a hundred and buy two paintings. That strategy is the ticket.
I should have brought a backpack because I couldn’t ride a scooter with two paintings in my hands. So I had to wait thirty minutes for the next train.
Back from the Shadows again !
Out where an In-jun’s your friend!
Where the veg’tables are green,
And you can pee into the stream!
Yes, we’re back from the Shadows again!
—-Firesign Theater,I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus
Every year, in the brief interlude between Christmas and New Year’s, I get sick. Really sick. Like clockwork.
For a long time, I didn’t understand. Then I realized it was the Cedar Flu. You see there are these cedar trees in the hill country and south Texas and in the winter they give off pollen – a lot of pollen.
Amazing. Sickening. One certain days the air itself feels like it is full of razor blades.
The last two years were particularly hellish. The congestion spread to my lungs and led to pulmonary and sinus infections. That isn’t good for anybody. The worst every year is the lack of sleep. If you start coughing uncontrollably every fifteen minutes it’s impossible to get a decent amount of rest. As I get older it all seem to be getting worse. Where I could just tough through it before… it lays me out now.
I looked all over the internet and found one women that suffered like I do and had found a solution. In January every year she went to the Bahamas for a month and a half. That sounded good, but I didn’t think I would be able to pull it off.
So this year, I decided to fight the thing. Starting at Christmas I:
- Claritin and Ibuprofen every day
- Stayed out of the cold
- Extra Sleep
- Neti pot twice a day
- Humidifier by my bed and by my desk (this was new this year – worked great – don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier)
And hardest of all – no bike riding. That was tough, but that’s a lot of exposure to the pollen and the cold.
So January felt like a lost month. Basically going to work and going to sleep and not much else. But it worked. It’s February and I’ve been doing pretty well. The last few days I’ve felt almost human. I went for a long bike ride today and felt my lack of fitness, but otherwise it was glorious.
So February is the start of my new year. When I wrap this up I’m heading down to Deep Ellum for the annual For the Love of Kettle competitive shopping event with fifty dollars of Christmas money clutched in my fist, ready to get a piece of art.
Back from the shadows again.
Paradoxical phase, when weak stimuli get strong responses…. When did it happen? A certain early stage of sleep: you had not heard the Mosquitoes and Lancasters tonight on route to Germany, their engines battering apart the sky, shaking and ripping it, for a full hour, a few puffs of winter cloud drifting below the steel-riveted underside of the night, vibrating with the constancy, the terror, of so many bombers outward bound. Your own form immobile, mouth-breathing, alone face-up on the narrow cot next to the wall so pictureless, chartless, mapless: so habitually Hank… .Your feet pointed toward a high slit window at the far end of the room. Starlight, the steady sound of the bombers’ departure, icy air seeping in. The table littered with broken-spined books, scribbled columns headed Time / Stimulus / Secretion (30 sec) / Remarks, teacups, saucers, pencils, pens. You slept, you dreamed: thousands of feet above your face the steel bombers passed, wave after wave.
—-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow