Not In Good Mental Health

“In their brief time together Slothrop forms the impression that this octopus is not in good mental health, though where’s his basis for comparing?”
― Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

The Cedars Dallas, Texas

The Cedars
Dallas, Texas

“A giant octopus living way down deep at the bottom of the ocean. It has this tremendously powerful life force, a bunch of long, undulating legs, and it’s heading somewhere, moving through the darkness of the ocean… It takes on all kinds of different shapes—sometimes it’s ‘the nation,’ and sometimes it’s ‘the law,’ and sometimes it takes on shapes that are more difficult and dangerous than that. You can try cutting off its legs, but they just keep growing back. Nobody can kill it. It’s too strong, and it lives too far down in the ocean. Nobody knows where its heart is. What I felt then was a deep terror. And a kind of hopelessness, a feeling that I could never run away from this thing, no matter how far I went. And this creature, this thing doesn’t give a damn that I’m me or you’re you. In its presence, all human beings lose their names and their faces. We all turn into signs, into numbers.”
― Haruki Murakami, After Dark

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy

One of the surprisingly few times that I regret being poor is when I think about how I can’t afford to support artists or collect works of art as much as I would like… – especially local work.

Because of that, whenever an opportunity presents itself for me to pick up something affordable – well, it’s a good thing. For a long time, I have been a fan of Kettle Art in Deep Ellum and the artists they support. So I read about an annual event they put on For the Love of Kettle – I jumped all over it. It’s a fundraiser for the gallery. Participating artists donate a small work which are sold off for 50 dollars each – with the funds going to support the gallery. It is billed as a “competitive shopping event.”

I can come up with fifty bucks. I can pack a sack lunch for a couple of weeks.

On Facebook, over three hundred people has said they were going, but there were only going to be a hundred and fifty works of art. Looking through the selections on the website, I realized that there was going to be a feeding frenzy on this stuff when the doors opened, so I went down there an hour and a quarter early and stood in line. There were only a half dozen folks there when I arrived, but the line stretched out down the block, getting longer by the minute.

Most of the people in the front part of the line were participating artists – it was fun talking to them. Also, a lot of people said that this sale was popular not only for the price, but for the small size of the art. So many said they had art they couldn’t put out because they were out of wall space.

These were my kind of people.

Looking into the windows of the Kettle Gallery, waiting for the show to start.

Looking into the windows of the Kettle Gallery, waiting for the show to start.

Everybody peered through the windows at the art on the walls. The rules of the sale were distributed on little slips of paprer. You had to get the number (printed on the wall beside the painting) of the piece you wanted and then register with the volunteers. You wouldn’t necessarily know if someone had already bought the one you chose until you get to the desk. Later, your name would be called at the cashier station and you would pay. Then, you take your receipt to another desk to get your purchase. These careful rules were necessary to handle the surge of people desperate to buy something.

One woman said she fought somebody for a painting a couple years ago. Wouldn’t that be cool? I’d love to have a painting hanging in my hall that I could boast I punched someone for… maybe a splotch of dried blood on the back for proof.

We all talked about the art we could see from the sidewalk and the works that were in the back room. The cry went out, “One Minute!” and everyone tensed. I began to get nervous – this was going to be a lot of pressure to find and purchase the exact right painting under these competitive conditions. I had a three by five card in my had and a pen at the ready.

The door swung open and we rushed in. I went to a spot I had chosen from outside and started to look at the art up close. Knowing I didn’t have much time, I wrote numbers down on the card – paintings I liked in order… 26, 28, 30, 7, 136. Surely one of those five would be available. The line at the volunteer table was quickly growing so I jumped in. Within three more minutes the line reached the length of the gallery behind me.

A man was standing in line right in front of me. An out-of-breath woman came up and lifted up her phone. They had gone in with a plan. He had grabbed a spot in line while she ran up and down the walls taking shots of the paintings (with their associated numbers) with her phone. Now, the two of them were going over the artworks and deciding which one(s) they wanted to buy.

After a few minutes (I was the twentieth in line) it was my turn. Number 26, my first choice, was available. It was a work I had noticed on the website… and it had looked even better in person.

For the Love of Kettle Looking at the art

For the Love of Kettle
Looking at the art

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

For the Love of Kettle

Now, finally, I had time to leisurely push through the crowd and take a careful look at all of the hundred fifty works. They were all good. I thought that they could have sold them at random and I would have been happy – there were no more than two or three that I actually didn’t like. Still, I was pleased with what I chose.

The crowd was thick and happy. A lot of artists were there and some folks were taking pictures with the artists posing next to the artwork they had bought. That’s pretty cool.

A lot of people crowded into the gallery.

A lot of people crowded into the gallery.

They called my name and I went to pay. Since I was one of the first I had a discount and only paid forty two dollars. I milled around talking to people about what they had chosen, until the paintings were starting to disappear and I turned in my receipt and picked up my artwork.

A row of paintings. I chose the one in the middle.

A row of paintings. I chose the one in the middle.

Clay Stinnett painting on the wall at Kettle Gallery.

Clay Stinnett painting on the wall at Kettle Gallery.

On my way to the door, someone looked at my artwork and said, “Oh, you’ve got the Clay Stinnett,” then he read the text off the front – “Tumbling Tumbleweeds.”

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy by Clay Stinnett

The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy
by Clay Stinnett

The title, written on the back, is The Weird and Wicked World of the Singing Cowboy. I really like it.

Clay Stinnett Tumblr
Clay Stinnett’s Honky Tonk Mind
Clay Stinnett Is Painting A Collection of Big Tex On Fire Pictures
Art We Like: Clay Stinnett at Smoke and Mirrors

I’m definitely going back next year… and I’ll be there early and near the front of the line.

The Soda Gallery

There are some really cool places in the Bishop Arts District. One of them is The Soda Gallery. It’s the place where you can hang out… and it gives the phrase “pop art” a new double meaning.

It’s a little art gallery and it’s a soda shop… it’s both.

So you can go inside and make a selection from their extensive collection of soft drinks – 30 kinds of root beer, Dublin Doctor Pepper, Nesbitt’s, Ramune (the Japanese stuff with the marble), and so on and so forth. They have a nice little table out on the sidewalk and I watched some groups buying sodas and sitting there drinking them. What a nice idea! I am so down on alcohol right now – it’s cool to find another option for social interaction other than booze or coffee.

And inside they do have art displayed on the walls. They had some really good stuff – screenprints of superheroes or comic book panels and other examples of local pop art.

I wish this place was in my neighborhood – but I’ll go visit when I can.

On the Soda Gallery’s website they have some examples of interesting soft drink ads… here’s some for your enjoyment.

Nesbitt’s Orange, from the 70’s. There is a lot of Robert Crumb psychedelic stuff going on here.

Japanese Fanta Commercial

It’ll Tickle Yer Innards!

Shooting in the Galleries

I decided to go downtown on Saturday for the first day of the Arts District’s Art in October celebration. The night before, I struggled to get to sleep, and didn’t get up as early as I wanted – but soldiered on anyway.

When I arrived at the DART station and was buying my ticket at the kiosk I looked up to see my train go by. They are scheduled every twenty minutes on weekends so I knew I would have to wait a while. No problem, it was a beautiful day and I settled down on a little seat on the deserted train platform and started to read my Kindle application on my Blackberry.

The Richardson Library now has Kindle books available for loan. I haven’t mastered the method yet, but I had managed to get a book of Billy Collins‘ poetry (“Ballistics”) to appear on the tiny screen – so that is good.

At a break between poems, I looked down and noticed a laptop bag right beside me, leaning up against my little seat. I looked around, nobody… so I unzipped the bag a bit and peered inside. There was a top-end laptop with accessories, including a really nice USB camera, folders of papers, and a VISA card stuck into a side pocket. I zipped it back up and sat there, trying to think of what to do.

A train going the other way pulled into the station and the doors opened wide right in front of me. I expected some panicked commuter to tumble out and yell, “Thank God it’s still here!” and grab his laptop case. It would be easy to get on the train and leave your case behind, but surely you would realize it was missing by the next stop. It would be easy to hop off and grab the next train back the other way.


I sat there for a second and stared at the gaping door in the train. I would love to have a nice high-end laptop like the one in the bag – among physical possessions that is the only thing I can really think of (now that I have my camera back). It would be so easy to simply stand up with the bag and get on that train. The platform was still empty.

I could actually see myself doing this – lifting the case and entering the train with a sigh, as if I was having to go to work on a Saturday. It would be the perfect crime.

A lot of people… maybe even most people (but not you, dear reader, surely) would not even consider this stealing. They would consider it a “found” laptop and they simply lucky. I wonder about people like that. What does the world look like to them? I guess they think of all the stuff that has been stolen from them and that the world owes them one now and then. I guess they have a piece of their head missing, the one that imagines the pain and suffering of someone else that has lost their valuables – in the case of a personal laptop, lost a big chunk of their life. Morality aside, a laptop case like that – with all the critical data in it – is a lot more valuable to the person losing it than to the person stealing it.

The train doors closed and it sped off.

Now what to do? My train would be there soon and I would have to make a decision. Obviously, until my train came, all I had to do was sit next to the case. Any thief would assume it was mine, only the owner would walk up and claim it. But my train would be the next one – nobody will arrive before then. Should I look in the case again, try to find a cellphone number? Should I take it with me and hope to locate the owner later? The easy thing to do would be to simply leave it where it sat and be done with it – but isn’t that about the same as stealing? I wouldn’t get to keep it but I would be abandoning it to a heartless and uncertain world – it would surely end in grief and while I would not be directly responsible and would not be aware of its fate, by inaction I would set the wheels in motion.

Luckily, I didn’t have to make the choice. I looked up and a Hispanic woman and a DART ticket official were walking up from the tunnel (the Arapaho train station is separated from the rest of the world by a wide, busy street – you have to go under it in a long pedestrian tunnel to reach the platform). The official asked me if the case was mine. She began to carefully probe the case, weary of terrorism (something that had not occurred to me until then). I didn’t mention that I had already opened it up. She moved the zipper and inch and saw the laptop within.

The woman that had made the report said the case had been there for a while, “At least five trains,” she said. She and I talked about how odd it was that nobody came back for the case. The official was making a report on her radio. I asked her if there was a lost-and-found and she said, “Yes, but I’m not allowed to do anything, I have to call for the transit police to pick it up.”

At that moment my train pulled up and I was gone.

On the train I went back to reading the Billy Collins poems on my Blackberry. The poems are short and I could pretty much digest one between each train stop.

One of them, “August in Paris” in typical Collins style, spoke of the poet watching a painter in France and standing behind the painter, taking notes, while he worked. He then made the jump to the reader, and how this readers can’t watch him work but he thinks about who they are.

He says, “there is only the sound of your breathing/and every so often, the turning of a page.”

I thought about this… how times had changed. There isn’t the sound of my breathing, but the clacking rails and the tumult of a crowded commuter train cabin. There is no turning of pages… only the silent movement of my thumb across the tiny black Blackberry trackpad and a new dinky screenfull of luminescent text appears.

Dining area at the Dallas Museum of Art. Glass by Dale Chihuly.

Nasher – Tony Cragg

Everyone is taking pictures, not everyone likes it.

The one person not taking photographs was sketching

At the Nasher

Ceiling of the Nasher

One of my favorite Bang Bang videos will not allow imbedding.


Watch it on Youtube.