Life is a tragedy when seen in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. - Charlie Chaplin

Friday, December 10, 2010

icing on the cake

I started writing one thing but found it had no legs what-so-ever.  So, I thought about what makes me happy and away I went.

Wayne Thiebaud

I didn't discover the LA artist Wayne Thiebaud until college, luckily early in college, via the Art Conservation Club.  We took a trip to DC for the sole purpose of gallery hopping.  I'm not sure if it was coincidental or had a reason,but three different galleries had works by Thiebaud:  The Corcoran, The Phillips Collection and another one I can't recall to save my life.  Funny thing is, I almost didn't go on the trip due to the "narrow scope" of seeking out only this one artist's work that I've never seen and didn't know a thing about.   

Thankfully some divine intervention put me in the van on its way to DC, the lone male (someone had to be) and lone freshman.  The only thing I had to go on of what to expect was the president of the club's description, "he painted what he loved and what made him happy".  So as long as what made him happy wasn't a pile of poo, it couldn't be too bad.    

Well, not much has to be said for what came from the trip.  I became an instant admirer, for one and got an itch to explore more galleries, experience more artists I never heard of.  I had been such a strict realist with my artwork that I dismissed too many artists, especially those modernists (psh).  Now I have a calendar from MoMA on my office wall.  We also visited the National Gallery of Art and the Renwick Gallery of Art; it was at the Renwick I discovered a piece I've talked about ever since visiting:

Ghost Clock
1985 Wendell Castle
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Change can bring happiness and snatch people out of the ruts in the road. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

the great american

Right now I'm thinking of the many Christmas seasons when my parents bundled my brother and I up and headed out to Hershey Park.  Yes, Hershey (a usual summer destination, with roller coasters, etc.) Park in 30 degree or below temps.  Every year, since I can remember, the park turned their entrance "village", stands and vendor areas into a glowing, sparkling, semi-chocolate-induced Christmas wonderland.  We'd make our way from the parking lot, into the toasty, chocolate scented "Chocolate World", humming the "Hershey Song" between chattering teeth.  I don't ever recall there being a charge to enter, but of course they got ya with hot chocolate, cookies and all the "Hersheyana" you can stand.  My parents weren't as hesitant to satiate our nagging for it either, as I'm pretty sure they liked it as much as we did.   

It was only a few years ago that the Hershey Company closed its factory in Reading, PA.  This is where York Peppermint Patties, Zagnut, Jolly Ranchers and 5th Avenue bars were made for 23 years.  Next time you go to tear into the wrapper of one notice "Made in Mexico".  This jaded me more then I thought it might.  While my chocolate dipped memories are still intact they can be personified by the lost chocolate bar  in the back of the refrigerator or cupboard, found when the craving for it came, opened up to a disappointingly white, chalky film formed on the outside.  Bottom line, "Damn it!  Why'd they have to go and spoil it for me!".
Two years ago my mom asked if we wanted to go out to the Christmas Village at Hershey.  She was feeling nostalgic and suddenly I was 8 again.  I didn't think a minute about the factories or the workers who lost their jobs.  I sank into the dreamland that made me smile ear to ear, wanting, more then anything, to share this with my wife.  We went and it really was a great time, very much like remember, just smaller feeling.   

So it wasn't until I sat and thought about it about a day ago that I got into a quandary of "Wow, Hershey sucks for doing what they did, but I have fun when I'm at their Park!", up against the fact that they now may move the whole production out of Hershey, PA, if the union can't strike a deal, keeping a new facility nearby.  The need for the new facility makes sense, the idea that the workers and the people of the town of Hershey come a distant second, feels like a low-blow to an ailing economy.   

Kind of feels like deciding to shoot Old Yeller.

Monday, November 29, 2010

turn...and face the strain

A lot can happen in a week's time.  No sooner do I sit down then change occurs yet again.  The inevitability of change is both inviting and scary to me, especially thinking about it over the holidays when family and friends surround me holding trays of cookies and turkey.  I try NOT to think of change; my grandmother's eventual death, people moving away, people getting divorces, the holidays ending.  All the more reason to get lost in every little moment you can.  I can be both good and bad at this.  If it's not something I want to be doing I get lost in the thought of being somewhere else!  Yes, that human nature thing that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.  I've gotten better at being content with the turf I'm on, even the crab grass.   

I had to take a moment to write before getting going on my workday.  I try not to do this just because it is work, the paramount reason I am able to do what I do outside of the place (IE recreation, buying food, ability to go to a doctor and not sell my car to do so).  I've found taking things off my mind early in the day much better then going through the day with it.  So there ya have it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


autumnal leaves dash
carried wayward on smokey winds
memories float

I don't recall the last time I wrote one, so it's been too long.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

shutter island

Elections are won by men and women chiefly because most people vote against somebody rather than for somebody.

-Franklin P. Adams (1881 - 1960), Nods and Becks, 1944

I'm going to choose not to go into a rant on politics, including the outcome of yesterday's voting (even though, as of now, I believe Alaska is still counting).  I want to stick to the rules of cocktail party etiquette in not talking about two things in my blog:  politics and religion.  Hey, I figure out the next new party's name, the "Cocktail Party"!  Huh, it's funny but with a hint of possibility.  Allow me to shutter. 

Monday, November 1, 2010

where's the fire?

The hurrier I go
The behinder I get

My mom had this cross-stitched onto one of those corkboard/chalkboard message holder things in her kitchen when I was growing up.  One of "Mom's Mantra" which planted itself in my subconscious.  It stirred up randomly the other morning when I realized that while I'd like to use this as an excuse for myself, I can't.  I hate hurrying, running around like a nut-job, as if it helps a situation.  However I know many of that type, who spin their wheels in the thick, muddy slurry that is their work, their duties and their commitments with the wishful thinking that it will get them to their goals.  By days end they are physically and mentally spent, their tasks not much farther along then when they started.

Call it lack of dedication or pride, but I choose to consciously leave my work at work.  Yes, I gripe about it, pull a little hair out from time to time because of it, but I refuse to sit and analyze it.  Everytime I do my mind is driving that 40 minutes back to work, away from a tasty beer, a cozy sofa and mowing the lawn (maybe that last one isn't so bad to drive away from).

I prefer the Army soldiers' saying, "Hurry up and wait". 

Thursday, October 28, 2010


A few posts ago I tried weaving a tapestry of flattery and reverence to Buster Keaton.  What triggered this, I can't pin down exactly.  It was a bout a month ago, however, when I became enthralled with the guy and silent films.  Althought I've enjoyed silent films for a while now, I guess I never realized how amazing they were for their time until now.  Everything is relative, especially when it comes to technology and what is "modern" for the time. 

I don't want to say I chose Keaton over Chaplin, Lloyd, Arbuckle or others, but instead of.  Maybe this time next year it will be a different ball game played by a different comic that draws me in.  Though Keaton plays darn funny third baseman. 

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

silent shouts

As per usual I started out writing about one thing . . . then hit "delete".  I had a good paragraph going about my commute into work this morning and the trials and tribulations therein, especially concerning the rain, darkness; the strange disregard for others' well-being some still retain even while driving in bad conditions.  But, I decided to take it in a different direction.

Could be the time of day or my mood, but really I think it's my simple want to look on the bright side rather then one of many things I cannot change or help.  Movies and actors were the topics that carried the casual conversions spotting the day; them and food, but then how can't food be included when casual talk happens mostly around coffee breaks and lunch.  It got me to thinking about one of my favorite actors, Buster Keaton.  He, being a silent film actor, epitomized the word "movie" or "moving pictures".  I never really thought about the word itself; hence the description of "movies" with audio as "talkies".  Pretty simple concepts huh?

Keaton composed these "moving pictures" like a comedic mosaic utilizing subtle frowns, nonchalant tumbles, trips and falls and extreme, "rubber-band-man"-like stunts.  Like an actual mosaic it is seen not heard.  To gain a big impact the big picture must be made cohesive via all of the small elements working together. 

He certainly set the bar higher on present day comedies and really was something we won't see again . . . we talk too much these days.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

calming fiction

OK, so I'm all better after that last post, I am.  I actually was able to settle myself through talking to my wife about what exactly may have set me off into the depths of gloom, and it worked, it all made sense.  If not to her, it did to me; to just talk and be heard (I hope I was being heard, let's say I was) worked.


I wasn't exactly sure what I'd write sitting down at our computer.  My hands are slightly cold and I'm kind of procrastinating from a good bit.  I have a few projects I could work on, a book that I'd like to finish this year, some stuff to put away, dishes that could be done, oh and that Halloween party invite I drew up to scan and get out to people before the RSVP date (THAT will get done before going to bed).  I think I just needed a few moments to escape into the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack.

I like to picture myself in a Wes Anderson movie sometimes.  Muted tones enveloping quirky, smartly witty, well-dressed, smoking, troubled individuals.  I'd take a few days ride on the Darjeeling Limited, stroll up to 111 Archer Avenue, sleeping in my eclectically decorated room, after dinner with "Steve-Z".  But for as intensely interesting the worlds he's created are, I never feel rushed by his films.  I always feel well introduced to characters, to places, to the world he's about to have me dive into for the next hour or so.  I think that's why I think I'd feel comfortable in those fictitious places and around those fictitious people.  Or maybe I just prefer fiction to fact, I dunno.

I think we all crave that "other place" and that "other you".  I think we all can even describe it if asked randomly at any given hour of the day.  I also think that if we can incorporate a tad of that in our lives we'd be happier.  It's not that you'd be "aiming high" if you say, decided to grow a beard like tennis great Richie Tenenbaum . . . just don't try to kill yourself after shaving it off.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

Friday, October 1, 2010

the fact is

We like to think we're in control of every aspect of our person.  We alter our appearences to feel better about the image we put on for others to look at.  Some change their religion many times over the course of a life-time.  Some choose not to eat meat.  Some . . . change their gender.  

So it's a funny fact, when you step back to look at the bigger picture, that we are living beings, just like snakes, just like bats, just like worms and plankton.  Humans, unlike either of those two creatures, strive to become something.  A snake eats mice (generally speaking, so I'll say a black rat snake), eats, sleeps, sheds it's skin, mates, grows and stays a live as long as it is able.  It is what it is and nothing more.  Humans seem to not be content for what they are, what they are born as.  We don't eat, sleep, live, procreate and die.  We came up with school, careers, economies, politics, monies, retirement, rich and poor.  We set definitions and parameters early on in our existence, basic ones, that now transcend cultures and countries.

We defined "happy" and "sad".  We personify everything, from making boats and cars female to convincing ourselves that Rover is saying "I love you" and not just barking in different pitches.  Unfortunately with all of the ways humans have come to make themselves, to develop in to the most "advanced" and "intelligent" animal on earth, we've managed also to create things that propigate depression, stress, discontentment and fatigue.

So, where am I going with this?  Well, I'm, at this moment, not happy.  I'm not free of concern, not relaxed, not looking at all I have done and all I own and saying, "Hey, everything's great!".  No, because I managed to create in my own head an equation that equaled out to me being distraught.   Of course I don't want to be, but in my head the events which played out, the small hints of and fatigue have comingled and left me like this.  

Fact is, I didn't have control, something in me made me react certain ways, think and do certain things and create this scenario I'm in.  Maybe I could've stepped back and thought things through, but deep inside something took over stronger than anything a therapist could have told me to revert to.  (note: I don't and never had gone to a therapist)  

Another fact:  Everything will be OK in the morning. 

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The post that wasn't...and is

As you can tell from my last post, I'm quite the nostalgic fella.  I've always been, and when not nostalgic for something, some idea, some one or some place from my own past, then I look to which existed150+ years ago.

It all began with two books: one on the American Revolution and one on the American Civil War.  They and several friends came to my brother and I via family friends, who, I'm guessing, were cleaning out their bookshelves.  I immediately remember the smell.  I was in third grade when I first cracked them open and I'll always remember the smell.  It could've been the paper they were printed on, the glue in the binding, maybe the type of wood they sat on since first being purchased in the late 60s.  Whatever it was they had a smell.  They were used but not abused by any means, their dust jackets taking the brunt. 

I toted these two with me to school squirreling them into my desk, anxiously waiting until break time when we gnashed on soft pretzels (15 cents each!) and escaped into little groups or an individual oasis for about 15 minutes.  To me, the words weren't as important as the pictures; men decked out in uniforms of all kinds, accouterments hanging off of them, armed with rifles and swords going head-long, brave, into battle.   

I was with a college class visiting a local museum, when, as I rounded a corner, I saw it. 

Nation Makers by Howard Pyle - Brandywine River Museum

Stopping in my tracks, I looked to a classmate, excitedly explaining how I remember seeing the painting in a book when I was little.  It wasn't because it was considered amazing artwork, or that it was by Howard Pyle.  No, it because back in the classroom, I saw myself marching through the fields of high grass, smelling the spent powder lacing the air, feeling the breeze that fluttered the tattered flag.  I had not returned to a familiar painting, but a familiar place.  

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Where'd my post go?

Had one typed up and it went away . . . no clue why.  Maybe it was a boring post and my computer just couldn't take it.  Too tired, gonna post tomorrow-ish.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

catch and release

I just gotta draw your attention to the bottom of the page, past all of my posts, to the fish.  Place your mouse arrow over the "water" and they'll come swimmin' up, looking for food.  "Click" to drop some food.  I didn't wanna do it, but that little boy Matt welled up in me and screamed "FISHY!" clicked on the gadget and now look.   

My brother and I received fish as a first pet, three of them:  Alvin, Simon and Theodore.  Apparently I wanted to be a vet at that age and had a habit of taking them out to do check ups.  Luckily I wasn't at the age for some of my other firsts and they generally made it back before going to the big tank in the sky; first pocket knife, first fry-pan, first sushi for example.

We went fishing as well, walking down a long field along side our grandfather; a former machinist, coal miner and Navy vet, who retired to a life of all kinds of tinkering and diligently tending an annually large field of strawberries.  It took a lot to drag Pap away from the weeds of his strawberry patch, but on most summer afternoons we succeeded, rippling the smooth face of the water with our lures until sun-down.

Taking our catch back to my grandparents' deep sink next to the washing machine, we'd watch our new finned friend swim and after washing and a quick snack, we'd watch them, well, die.  And I will say it that bluntly because luckily there were people in my life growing up that didn't sugar coat the fact that to eat we'd have to kill Charlie Tuna (er, Bass).  After the deed was done, the fish sometimes went into something I now wish I had, the smoker.  It was the only cooking I knew my grandfather to do and he did it well.  

After dinner my parents, brother and I would stroll back down to my grandparents screened-in porch.  For the life of me I can't tell you what we all may have talked about, but I'll always remember the cocktail of smokey fish, pretzels and beer, carried around the room on the sweet country breeze.  It would be the last visages of the day before I fell asleep on my dad.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

fleeting bloggery

I tried blogging about three times while I was on vacation, one entry made it through.  It was the first one, I wrote it at my parents' house.  I had a few paragraphs typed up those other two times and just didn't, I dunno, want to post them.  I made something that was on the internet ephemeral, able to select the whole block of text and hit DELETE.  I didn't feel the need to fill in a blog entry just to do it.  But the funny thing is, the thinking process, the writing and the ultimate deletion felt good.  It felt like the blog fulfilled its purpose if only to be a white box, there to fill with black, Arial text for 10 minutes.    

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

inconvenient truths

If there are speed bumps in life, I've hit one.  More of a speed hump; I've hit the plateau and really want to get to that drop off on the other side.  If only it was just ME hitting this hump it wouldn't be so bad.  In short my family is in a crazy state of flux, where up isn't up and left is right.  Death, joblessness, uncertainty and ultimate depression are plaguing this second-half of 2010, and doing it efficiently.  

Vacation has yet again begun in a fog.  I wish it would take only another tattoo to come out of it, or a good beer, or meal, or maybe a sunny day with a cool breeze.  Let's hope.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

vacating the everything

Waking up around 6:00 this morning, I realized something that made my day, I didn't need to be up at 6:00.  The time has finally come for me to do . . . whatever I felt like.  Well, OK, we all know not whatever, but that simple fact that I didn't drag my body out of bed simply to go along with my muscle memory felt like success in that department.

I had forgotten several times over the course of last week that I had off the next.  Caught in the relentless flow that is my workplace, my mind refused to accept that it would have to actually stop thinking about the daily grind.  I could now think of the morning's cup of coffee as a cup of coffee and not my first daily dose of caffeine.  Even in my social life (yeah, there is one, a small one) I noticed a rut forming.  Activities I do for fun became not so fun.  Friends, while great people, became predictable once the weekend rolled around.  Beer tasted . . .  no beer is still fine.  

I couldn't agree more with the wise saying, "Everything in moderation".  The good or bad, work or play, friends, family, coworkers or food, too much of anything, for a long enough period of time, dulls the senses.  

On that note, it's late, I'll finish my thoughts tomorrow . . . if I feel like it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

greasey slicks and love

I was living in Kentucky and working as a line-cook in Ashland's premier "fancy" restaurant, all while watching my mid-twenties, and college degree, go down the floor drain.  Love brought me out to a state I knew only for baseball bats, bourbon and the Derby.  My relationship with my then girlfriend grew stronger while depleting my faith in finding a job that could set me on my way to the classic young American dreams: marriage, house, kids, retirement, grand kids, death (death in a dream sounds creepy, but you get it).  Don't get me wrong, I made some wonderful friends, had some memorable times, ate some great regional food, drank lots of beer (a topic of another post), set off lots of fireworks (while drinking said beer), and came to appreciate a nook of the country written-off by at least my mom, if not most of the East Coast.

So, why start with this stroll into my past that wasn't so long ago?  I blogged then, posting almost everyday.  I wrote some of the deepest, most honest and intelligent paragraphs in my life on that blog, using the computers in the library across the street from our apartment in the podunkiest of podunk towns. However, unlike while in Kentucky, I have a full-time with benefits job that I rarely come home stressed from and definitely not wreaking of grease, we have internet in the house and I'm now married to the aforementioned girlfriend.  My job, coworkers and surroundings produced some angst, despair, frustration driven posts.  Still much healthier then getting drunk daily and taking things out on my girlfriend.  MUCH healthier.

I came to realize recently that that was truly my space and I miss it.  These social networking sites feel demanding of me to post my whit and my feelings via my status update, seemingly to quell all of my "friends" and that just isn't cutting it for me anymore.  Lately I've had a rash of thoughts, not rants or simple venting, but thoughts that made me happy to think and I just had to have another new place to put them. 

Yes, a friend told me about this.  Yes, I can't get too much more on a band-wagon that's cutting its ruts across America.  At least I stopped going to walmart.