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Hey, forget all that scrimshaw stuff. This page is gonna be about ME, ME, ME
OK, so I might never get around to writing an autobiography. But there's a bunch of fun stuff bouncing in my head that I'd like to get out somehow. Now rather than start at age 0 (which I barely remember), I'm just gonna ramble in scattered-chronological order.
Biggest Boost to my Art Career
I was working as a technical illustrator at a computer company in Beaverton, Oregon. One tech writer, Donita, used to work late. I had heard people talk about her amazing husband - poet, comedian, guitar player. After hours one evening, he came in to visit his wife and began poking around my cubicle. I had some pen and ink drawings I'd done hanging on the walls. He (David) told Donita that he wanted to meet me. Soon that happened. We've been great friends ever since. David (and I'm not exaggerating) has the highest IQ of anyone I've ever met. When he was in grade school he read the complete works of Freud. From there, it was biographies of poets and artists. I joke that, where some can name an obscure Flemish artist, David can name the children and give their birthdates. Simply put, no art professor has a broader knowledge of art history. But, he can't draw!
He told me he thinks I'm one of the immortals. Please keep in mind, I knew I could draw. But I was not far past the point where I was ready to give up making a living at art. I had been doing scrimshaw for just a couple years at this point and hoped something might come of it. With meager confidence, I was suddenly overwhelmed with praise from someone unbiased and un-Related... So began my indomitable march toward Art-for-a-living.
Thoughts on My Work
I've been scrimming now for over 35 years. I still struggle on some pieces, and though I won't name them, some pieces just aren't as good. I was given good advice once, when I was told not to denigrate any of my own work. For example: I have some odd favorite music. I read a comment from the musician that he felt it was a throwaway song or something to that effect. I still love the song, but it makes me question my taste! Oh, well. So, if someone really loves something I've done, I'll never say they shouldn't. Anyway, someone asked me a while back if I had a favorite piece of mine. Sometimes I reject the question, it being something like favorite child to a parent. But I did answer. It's an iguana. "An iguana!" he said, like I must be kidding.
Yes, an iguana. I use this picture as the desktop on my computer screen. Remember, I'm talking about Me, Me, Me. So, don't get mad. I usually don't gush and swoon over my own work. Which is not to say that I don't feel great satisfaction. I do. But about the time I start something new, finished pieces become the past. So one night I was lying in bed, too tired to think, and staring at this picture on the laptop screen. Slowly I became entranced. I was only a spectator, and had no feeling of ownership or authorship. I got totally lost in the dots and lines. I almost felt I could NOT have done this work. Does that make it inspired?
Some Travel Stories
A friend of mine went down to Mexico after we graduated from high school. He made it sound so great I decide to go myself after my first year at the University of Oregon. I worked the summer, bought a used mail truck (the box with driver's seat on the right), and fixed it up as a camper with a cot across the wheel wells and a hammock from corner to corner. After Thanksgiving I took off. My plan was to drive down to the border, and.... well I'm not really sure what my plan was. I stopped to visit a friend in Eugene, who was back in classes at the U of O. After talking for a few hours, he decided to drop out and hit the road with me. It was 1971, I had just turned 19, and I was open to any adventure. My friend, Bug, had been in the dorm with me the year before. He told me he would go just as far as Arizona, then head back to Eugene.
I had never been to California. I was amazed and awed. The redwoods. Wow. When we got further south, we went through Napa towards San Francisco. We passed a young woman hitchhiking. We looked at each other "Should we stop?". We did. As soon as she got in, she said "I made you stop" She told us she sent us telepathic signals.... Anyway, her name was Tish, and she was on her way to San Francisco to meet somebody. When she felt she could trust us, she said she was going down to pick up a couple pounds of pot. Why not? So we drove her down to Haight Street. We parked and waited on the street. You don't have to tell me I was stupid, I know! The Haight-Ashbury of the sixties had passed by this time we were finding out. An open jeep with two SFPD cops passed in front of us. I pointed them out to Bug. I'd never seen cops wearing helmets and shotguns strapped to the rollbar. They saw me point, made a U-turn and stopped in front of us. They hopped out and asked for ID. I had really short hair at the time, and they asked to see my draft card. Not AWOL. Just 1-A. They frisked us, and asked what we were doing there. Seeing they had a couple callow kids, they told us to leave before somebody rolled us or worse.
Tish showed back up pretty soon, and told us that she canceled the drug deal rather than put us at risk. We kicked around a bit, then she invited us to stay at her parent's place. We got a lot of her life story in a short time. She had been married to some guy who worked with the Jefferson Airplane. Her parents weren't at the house where we stayed. They were off somewhere. She told us her last name, Matson. Something about a shipping line. It didn't mean anything to me at the time, though I got the impression money was not in short supply. I've since learned a little more about Matson Shipping Lines... A good night's sleep in Napa, with the song "Norwegian Wood" playing in my head.
The mail truck wasn't exactly a highway-ready ride, but it was a good camper. At least a couple times we were rousted in the night as we slept. Reports had come in to the police of a stolen USPS mail vehicle! A few questions and back to sleep. We were outside the Tucson post office one afternoon writing postcards when about six marked and unmarked cops raced in from all directions. Seems they thought we had broken federal law. Imagine that. I was too surprised to register that guns were pointing at us. After a quick check, several agents quietly left.
One afternoon, we were driving down the interstate in Southern Arizona. Back then the speed limit was 75. Bug was doing about 55, and I thought he should slow down. The truck seemed to strain a bit above 50 or so. He signaled to pull over, but we just decided to change places as we drove. Not quite as reckless as it sounds, since he was driving in a standing position (remember Mail truck). So I took over and slowed down. Pretty soon a Highway Patrol came up behind and pulled me over. License, etc. "Well, one reason I pulled you over is that your turn signal is on. Is it self canceling?" "Huh?" "Does it turn itself off" "Oh, yeah. We were gonna pull over then decided not to" "That's often the sign of an inattentive driver. The other reason I stopped you" he continued "is that you were doing around 40 mph. The MINIMUM is 45." I could almost hear Bug laughing by then.
With several unforgettable experiences behind us (I'll get to some of them later, I hope) we arrived at Bug's journey's end. He was nervous about me going into Mexico alone. So he says, "Let's get some beer, go park in the desert, and at 10:00 we'll flip a coin to see if I go on or go home." No kidding. So we did just that. 10:00 comes. Bug pulls out a quarter. "Alright, heads I go to Mexico, tails Eugene." He flips...tails. He says, "Let's go 2 outa 3" I just cracked up. Need I say, coin flip aside, we parked the truck in a lot in Tucson and Bug and I hitched our way to the border and crossed into Nogales, Sonora, Mexico.
Our time in Mexico lasted about a month, and I could write thousands of words about it. I'll try to hit some of the highlights. We got into Guaymas late at night, just a week or so before Christmas. Loudspeakers played Christmas music. I'll admit to being pretty nervous, expecting the worst. A couple of Mexican guys about our age were coming up behind us. Not speaking any Spanish, I pulled out a phrase book and read "Can you help us find a cheap hotel?" He couldn't understand a word I said, and finally read the book. These two then walked us all around town to find us a place. When they did, they then asked us to stop by their place the next day for lunch. They happened to live with an American Franciscan Brother. They, Alfredo and Armando were seminary students studying for the priesthood. We ended up spending a week at their home getting lots of invaluable advice and also contacts in Guadalajara and Mexico City.
Back in the states I had gotten my long hair cut really short, thinking it might save trouble south of the border. Bug's wasn't long, but it was BLONDE. I wasn't ashamed of my looks...OK, I was once a pretty good looking guy. (I can say that now after the looks have mostly faded). Bug was average looking, and I mean no offense. I do have a point here. We would walk down the sidewalk, and Mexican girls would stare at him, giggle, and do this sort of "chi chi chi" sound comparable to a wolf whistle. He was like a blonde Adonis! I'd have loved some of that attention. Can you believe, he got tired of it?
We traveled by bus and train, and finally got through the desert and into the jungle mountains. I can still smell the thick air as we descended into Puerto Vallarta. The sun was setting. It was dark when we got into the town. I'm not sure we knew anything about PV except that the movie "The Night of the Iguana" was filmed there. We might have checked a couple hotels, finding them a little expensive for our cheap budgets. So we walked out on the beach, pulled out our sleeping bags and slept. We woke up to find vacationers all around running to the surf for a morning swim. We then realized we were down in front of some fancy hotel. We figured we were lucky enough to get away with that for one night, but decided to hike up the beach to a more remote spot.
In 1971, Puerto Vallarta was tiny compared to today, so when we had gone about half a mile we came to an inlet. We didn't see a way around, so we asked an old man how we could get across. He said he had a "canoa", which sounded to us like a canoe, and that he could row us over to the white sands and palm trees on the other side. After some difficult conversation, we understood that he could bring us back when we were ready to leave. So across we went in his little rowboat. It was Christmas Eve. Later, we gave this guy some money to go buy us some food. We suspected at least some of the money went for booze, but he brought us back some bread and fruit. He and his friend lived in a grass shack while they built a one-room cinder block home. We got to sleep on the floor of that. When night came, the two of them started to get very drunk. They kept trying to get us to go into town and get some whores. We weren't interested. In fact, I remember being both disgusted and melancholy as I walked away and strolled alone along the beach. Christmas Eve!
I was relieved the next day to wake up. I mean just to wake up. I didn't trust these two, and I learned a lot in the couple days we spent there. It was there I think, that I felt my first real homesickness. My first Christmas away from home. I remember how we craved some familiar food. In town we found ice cream and hamburgers. That helped.
More Travels | Home to Bed | Latin America | Earthquake | Central America
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