A WARNING

I am of an age advanced beyond my youthful dreams.  This age could have easily not been achieved; a battle with colon cancer in my mid forties made life a little questionable for a few years.

In 1967 when the Beatles questioned the “needing” and “feeding” by the rhetorical “you”, none of us could not imagine this question of age: we had no empathy with that piece of art.

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But we hummed the jaunty song and went along to pile on the years.

When Paul McCartney turned 64 the irony of that song tugged at me.  How odd.  Years younger than Paul, that horizon was still lost on me.  What is that fallacious mathematical question which states if you cut a space in half between point A and point B and continue to cut the resulting space in half and in half, one will never arrive at point B? There you go.

I have been fading at this age, and it has been a total surprise.  It all started last October, but is ending today.  Don’t remember any past discussion about the body in this way, but hear me and do not favor one knee over another!  Always being accused of “thinking too much”, I have figured out why my meniscus snapped last October.  Short waisted, I had been sitting on that knee and propping myself up for 60 years.  It was the “go to” solution of not being tall enough.  Hate being not tall enough, for so many reasons! 1-lee

And there went my running basically until today.  From October until April.  And what else was lost because of not running?  Good heart rate, good blood pressure, good bone mass, good weight, good mental health.  Also, our roads were cluttered because I pick up aluminum cans.

Well, today with an ace bandage wrapped around the knee in question, I ate up three miles.  Would have gone the whole four if my aluminum find had not been so bulky.  The dark time is past!

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MADELYN AND LEE IN KINLOCH

Madelyn sent me this link when all in the Ferguson diaspora looked with pain at the violent images every night.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Briefly, it says that to understand Ferguson, you have to first understand the story of Kinloch and the story of north St. Louis. As a kid without a car, north St. Louis escaped me. But I knew Kinloch. Madelyn and all her (even then) political activities took me there. It amazes me this vein of authenticity that runs through Madelyn; fifty some years after we first met, she has the same ideas about the same things she always has. She was right then, and is right now.

This was back then when “liberal” was not a bad word, and when Lyndon Johnson was creating his “Great Society”. Madelyn got involved in Head Start, a program of early education for children so that they were not behind already on their first day of kindergarten. Not surprisingly, she has taught children all her life. Madelyn and I went to the same church and we belonged to a very active youth group, much of the time guided by Madelyn’s politics. I can still see her brainstorming ideas for programs for the group. Having recently come to Florissant from some years in Japan, it was interesting to me that she suggested a program called “Youth in Asia”. Of course, she was suggesting “Euthanasia”.

dad's car

That was Madelyn. This time she was collecting old clothes for children in Kinloch, the all black suburb of St. Louis closest to where we lived. We were to drop them at the Head Start location there.

No one could believe it when Big John bought his first convertible. Conservative, but a Democrat, he was a government bureaucrat at a high level. Friends and neighbors were intermittently questioned about him by the government because he dealt in sensitive stuff. My dad was quiet. Then something remarkable happened and he bought a 1964 Buick Special convertible, black, and a big straw hat with fringe on it!

Three years later he bought a 1967 silver Buick Le Sabre convertible, like the one pictured above, and that is the car that Madelyn and I borrowed to deliver old clothes to the Head Start in Kinloch. Beautiful summer day with the top down. Dad at work.

I remember the day; the boxes in the back seat sitting on red leather, the freedom of the wind, the freedom of the car, and the freedom of the lazy summer.

When Big John got home from work that evening, he was appalled. You did WHAT? In KINLOCH? In the CONVERTIBLE? WITH THE TOP DOWN?

Madelyn and I lived in Florissant, right next to Ferguson. Florissant means “Valley of the Flowers”. Madelyn and I sure acted like valley girls that day!

Here are Madelyn’s words from just yesterday:

“Yes, Lee, I remember going to Kinloch with you in your car, and am astounded at how little I knew of the effect of my life style on others, the privileges and power we had without knowing.”

EARTH DAY AND WASTE AS A WAY OF LIFE

http://www.bluefishdigest.com/Blue_Fish_Digest/Welcome_to_Blue_Fish.html

Who knew?  Living on a budget because most artists have to, and to have to value creativity as an asset instead of money, does celebrating Earth Day elevate this?  Synchronicity is fabulous when one runs into it.

I remember the first Earth Day,  sadly being that old.  1970.  Another reference said 1978, but I don’t think so.  Remember the Whole Earth Catalog?

Wh-earth-69-cover

Looking at this cover and the subheading of  “access to tools”,  it was.  But it was so much more.  1969!  First published a year after the “Crack in Time” of the year 1968, things were definitely shifting.

inside whole earth

Steve Jobs said that the “Whole Earth Catalog”  was the predecessor to the internet;  he was just out of the garage by then.   Buckie Fuller became famous through it.  And those of us who were around remember the cheap paper the catalog was printed on, just like we remember Mr. Natural and “trucking on down the line”.

mr natural

Those were the days, my friend.  Go back and click on the link at the beginning of this post.  This is where I ended up.  Click on “current issue” and go to page 24.

SHIRLEY TEMPLE BLACK

More than a generation removed from Shirley Temple in age, we watched her movies over and over again on Saturdays.  First was our morning cartoon time.  After that, the old movies kicked in.  Heidi.  Rebecca.

shirley 2

We saw Shirley dancing with Bill Bojangles Robinson up and down those stairs.   Many times as an orphan, or searching for a father who had amnesia, or living in a boarding school,  or living in a lighthouse,  she was  mistreated by bad people.  They physically pulled her away from the people she loved.  She howled.  It was awful this quest for parents and happiness.   The movies often ended with a beautiful and smartly-dressed young couple who would fall in love, adopt her, and the world was set straight again.

Throughout all these trials and tribulations, she had the most fabulous set of blond curls you could imagine.  And the dimples.  When we went to the Flaming Pit for dinner, we would order Shirley Temples to drink.  My mother had a doll packed away somewhere.

shirley-temple-48

This was the entertainment fare of the “Greatest Generation” during the Depression and we were their kids.  The stories were basic enough, and she was cute enough, that we could step aside of the older fashions and older ways.

We continued to follow her on Saturday mornings as she aged.   Was she ever “Junior Miss”?   No, her teen self was not a movie success.   As she changed that face remained iconic but twin sets and saddle shoes?  It didn’t work.   It was difficult for me to imagine Shirley that old, and it was tough for everybody.  Her hair darkened.

Shirley_Temple older

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So we kids were watching the adolescent Shirley when she was actually in her 30s to 40s.  She started her career in public service in 1967, and was appointed Ambassador to Czechoslovakia in 1969.  Somehow I merged her married name with the darkening of her hair and the loss we all felt as she aged.  Shirley Temple got black and everything changed.

MANY SMALL WORKS

I first met Janet Kozachek years ago at the old House of Pizza in Orangeburg,  one of the only places to have lunch in that small town back in the day.   I was immediately touched.  She looked exactly like a character in one of my childhood story books.   It was about the golden goose, and how townspeople (in a long sticky line)  exhibited their greediness for gold by being unable to unhook from the chain of folks who tried to pinch a golden feather.  It is an old Russian tale.

golden goose

Janet looked just like the girl who was directly attached to the goose in my book.  It was stunning.  Russian in extraction, her almond eyes, and her Chagall-like wisps of hair connected me intimately with this old memory.

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Janet came to us with amazing recommendations:  she was the first non-Chinese person to earn a certificate of Graduate Study from the Bejing Central Art Academy (1985), and a graduate degree from Parsons School of Design (1991).  She studied ceramics in Holland in 1986, and also later with the granddaughter of Maria Martinez.  In 1999, she was the founding president of the Society of American Mosaic Artists.  And her work is just as broad as this mosaic of an education.

janet's building

All of this background is represented in her exhibition of small works opening at the Orangeburg Arts Center on February 11, 2014.  In most of the works, one can detect the influence of multiple academic experiences, but clearly created by western hands.

lee's teapot

The series of little vessels (there are seventeen), done in acrylic,  stand boldly and aggressively on their trimmed ground, allowing examination of their surface creatures.  One can find small worlds  pictorially within these vessel walls.  The grounds on which the vessels sit seem likewise worldly-influenced, and all nervously vibrates.  Janet creates these little wonders by paint removal and scratching as much as paint application and calls them painting/monoprints.

Tango dancers done in quick calligraphic-like lines exhibit Janet’s Chinese self, again combining a fertile gene-mixing of her history and coming up with a hybrid.  To some Janet has added Chinese cartouches,  containing characters saying (in translation) “Chinese tango”.

troll horse with red hair

The most unsettling and evocative works are a series of paintings of troll dolls (yes, the ones from the late sixties), the doll shapes again dominating the clipped ground.  The surfaces of these examples are brilliant and shiny, completed in oil made with Renaissance techniques.  The detail and description of the dolls is masterly, including both fronts and backs.  But why troll dolls?

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In a way, the brilliant colors used in the dolls seem like pure light and heat that needs to attach to something.  Simple, geometric, vibrating Amish quilts come to mind as similar in color “heat” if not in visual language.  The trolls can be spooky, but their description is not.  Here’s why they exist:  Janet was very ill when the group was created.

Janet has suffered through an undiagnosed illness for some years.  During the time the trolls were created, she was at a low point, could barely leave the bed, and could lean up to paint just sometimes.  These dolls were collected by her, at hand, and she could lift them.  Therefore, she painted them.  That simple.

Could one make an allusion to the boomer experience with these paintings?  Maybe, who else would even know about these strange beings?

In general, this exhibition is a tribute to the healing nature of art.  All these small works being done during the years of her illness, it is proof that the time she has had to be quiet was not lost.

MODERN MATH

This is what they called it about the time the Cardinals won their first World Series of which I was aware.  The “smart” kids were corralled and marched down to the cafeteria in an off hour.  At first it was an honor, and then it became a sickness.  I began to get nauseated as that time of the day came along.

1-BioProj-book-1964Cardinals

I remember the cafeteria being all beige with eight foot long tables rearranged from lunch.  Using graphite on one of those tables made interesting bold marks.  And you could rub them away with your finger.  Even the eraser made great marks if you tracked it through a smudge of graphite.  Of course, I was just interested in the marks; they were not answers to anything.  I had no idea what the answers were.

A year later, Glenn had a similar experience in Catholic school.  They brought in a “lay” teacher to instruct in the new math.  She was all red.  Glenn remembers a redhead, deep red lipstick and a red skirt she sometimes wore.  It is all imagery for Glenn.

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In different little worlds, and both of us being in what is now called the “creative class”, neither of us understood what was happening.  We could not figure up and down anymore, we had to go side to side.  We could not use regular numbers anymore, we had to use only ones and zeros.  Why?  They said it was for a switch being turned on or off.  What switch?  Why a switch?  A switch to what?

My mind could not complete the change in longitude and latitude.  And what about cancelling out things on either side of the “equal” sign?  Why?  It was all just a nightmare.

I did not have the confidence to ask an authority about these changes.   All I knew was that everybody else understood it, and I did not.

On NPR some months ago, a man discussed that research has discovered that some learners cannot understand until they are told what the calculations were for.  Well, YEAH.  Wish I had been part of that research: they forgot about the vomiting part.

MY INSPIRATION

No Cooper River Bridge Run for me this year.  Something different is pulling.  Now training for it,  just after my daily run, I am also cleaning up the roads around here.  Never do only one thing at a time.  This also helps my blood pressure and bone mass.  What’s not to love?

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A friend gave me a book about hiking the Appalachian Trail.  Wish I’d read something like it forty years ago.

odyssa-cover

Jennifer Pharr Davis has written a simple story of finding self,  uniting with the natural world, and therefore overcoming self.  Man, the self requires hard work!  Inspired.

Weaving through my art education is pattern.  Pattern or repetition of an action or a shape allows one to focus on that thing, and not on “self”.   Pattern is predictable, repetitive, understandable.  You are in it, like a monkey swinging from tree to tree.  Ask a weaver about the power of the beater bar.  Like a heartbeat, it is.  Running is this way for me.  Repeat the steps, lose yourself, gain enlightenment.

So it seems to me that hiking would be like running, but instead of eliminating the self, the self is trying to merge with all the variety of nature encountered.  To be part of something bigger, where self holds only a little status.

Living in the South, I can stumble over to the AT fairly quickly and hike for a couple of days.  Too old to think about the entire 2180 miles, two days with a nice hotel in between sounds good to me.

So I am running my four miles, and then walking/hiking down in the ditches on either side of the nearby two-lane.  Hoping that this will strengthen other muscles in my legs and back.  Below is today’s bounty of trash!

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THOSE WERE THE DAYS, MY FRIEND

And now some of us are 64?  Will you still need me, will you still feed me…

Where the hell did all the time go?  Have you listened to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” lately?

1-grandview plaza

How appropriate that this center of our young lives was also on Route 66.  It adds to the romance.  We could, and did, walk here, but it was a long cement trek.  It was very near to our high school. The Grandview Cinema (which would materialize about where the little floating sign suspends above) did not open with the shopping center; it was built a little later.  There, we dated.  We shopped at Penney’s.  We stared into the mostly matte black windows of the Jet Lounge, and wondered what was going on in there.

The most evocative part of the picture above is what is surrounding Grandview Plaza: the pattern of houses.  They marched on for miles.  No one lived much differently than anyone else.

I begged my father’s new 1967 Le Sabre Convertible soon after I got my license for some unimportant task.  Took that car top-down to Grandview, parked it and strolled around Penney’s.  It wasn’t until looking for my keys on the way out that I realized they were left in the car.  With the top down.

dad's car

grandview plaza postcard

You can see the sign in this postcard in the lower left of the first image, across from the gas station.  Image is sure more important now.

Much more fun to take the bus, changing once at the exotic Ferguson Loop and go to Famous-Barr in the Northland Shopping Center in Ferguson.

northland

We’d save up our money, have lunch in the mezzanine between floors; there were drawings of women shoppers; angular, a mix between Audrey Hepburn and Barbie carrying hat boxes.  Later, during the British Invasion, there was a shop for juniors mimicking Carnaby  Street.  You just had to use the bus to get that kind of fashion interface!

glenns accident

Glenn had his first accident in the area just under the Kresge sign.  Years after this picture was taken, but we remember the Christmas candles on the roof.  And it was Santa in the helicopter.  This was probably the first year Northland did this.

northland 3

Northland was destroyed in 2005.

My now thirty year old son was maybe six when he realized that my youthful world was not actually black and white.  He was very perceptive.  In a way, the sixties WERE very black and white.