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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"Paradise Waits..."

I've always been plagued with a personality which lends itself to very creative thinking. I'm always coming up with great ideas, that really don't go anywhere. Part of the reason is that they are forgotten before I have a chance to write them down or think them through. And the ones which do make it...well, I just don't have the money to bring them to fruition. I guess I could bang on some doors, beat a few rugs and hope that some venture capitalists will fall out and agree that these are indeed good Ideas and deserve a shot in the free market place.

I have had my shot at the free market place a couple of times within the food service industry. Restaurants are a hard sell to an investor, unless you are investing in one of those National chain outfits which can have the Mothership beam down a new Funked Up facility to a vacant lot in less that two weeks. Then you will have 1000 people lined up to spend their money the day you open.

The Mom and Pop places in my town are disappearing. As they probably are in your town as well. Last week's news headlines brought forward the news that three downtown eateries in Springfield, MA were closing their doors. I'm glad I am no longer on the ownership side of things as far as restaurants go. I would surely perish even if I did get the questionable location I had chosen going. I occasionally drive by the space where I had my restaurant. I can see the walls which I painted and my lighting fixtures. I can see all of my old equipment. The line is still set up the way I left it. It is still vacant having seen two subsequent attempts by others fail in the same location. No rent is better that some rent isn't it?

I went to lunch with Freddy Freedom the other day. It was a beautiful day in Northampton. We were at one of the newer restaurants in town, Green Bean. This place is fabulous. It's a little bit country and little bit rock and roll. The vegan kids from Smith can go in there and get something delicious without alienating their parents who are looking for some finely prepared eggs with a side of something locally produced, very crispy, smoked, and decidedly non-vegan. It really is the best of both worlds. It is really refreshing to experience an independently owned business that actually has a chance of making it. So refreshing.

I don't want to sound bitter about my life as a restaurateur. I found success and notoriety in that field. Where I really want to make my mark is in the world of Arts and Literature. I am on the cusp, but something is holding me back. Yes, lately, I have been prolific in the writing department, writing the best I have had in years. I am working to hone the craft. It is important to me and a few of you out there who keep encouraging me to continue.

I have a glass studio with an open house coming up in three short months. I can count on one hand the number of pieces I have to offer for sale at this show. It is embarrassing. I need to get off my arse and do something about it, the bills are not going to pay themselves.

But for reasons I fail to identify, I am stuck. I need a muse. I need a few thoughts which will make me laugh to energize and excite those creative juices. I have ideas which are really good, yet the shop lays dormant.

I burned myself a couple of weeks ago. I was trying to jump start myself and get out of this rut. I had an idea, a simple one but ended up maiming myself in its execution. I sat down at the torch recently with limited results.

Freddy and I discussed this at our luncheon. It is a wonderful thing to be able to have a contemporary to toss a few ideas around. He is an amazing writer with a unique perspective. I spoke to him regarding my thoughts about laying it all on the line. In this studio space, I will emancipate myself from the chains I have forged for myself. What I really want to do isn't that difficult. Especially now that I have a clear head. With the lifestyle associated with active addiction behind me, I think I have a chance...In fact I know I do.

I wonder if I am afraid of succeeding. How would I handle success, would I fritter it away like I have done so many times in the past? I'm pretty sure I'm onto something profound with this next thought. I think it is fear of rejection that inhibits my ability to try. Historically, I have succeeded only when I was absolutely certain I would.

As we further discussed my dilemma, the subject matter did lighten up a bit. I let Freddy know about a few ideas I have been kicking around.

Here are some of my most recent hair brained schemes we discussed.

1.) Fashionable and hip sneakers geared toward people who have abnormally large or wide feet. Of course, we would have to make them for "normal" people because they would be just so darned cool, and in demand.

The sneakers would be made with hemp uppers and recycled rubber for the soles. Yes, Freddy pointed out that has been done. They would be made by American Workers paid real wages with real benefits. Oh yeah...and the catch, the catch which would make these sneakers marketable? The name and what they leave behind. Sasquatch sneakers will have a sole which will leave leave footprints wherever you go. Marketing ideas? Think about the concept of taking pictures an leaving footprints. And, of course Bigfoot would make an appearance in the Ads. Cavemen eat your hearts out.

2. It seems like a lot of the younger people are really into the whole tribal/body piercing scene. How about functional accessories? I'm sure you have seen the big 3/4 to 1 inch spacers the kids are wearing in their earlobes? How about making a Bluetooth which would fit in there instead of over the ear. Fashionable, hip and functional a little tribal mixed with some Star Trek, eh, ah?

Freddy and I were sitting there enjoying our food while our waitress was clearing the table. I was admiring the art work which was on the walls.

All of the pieces were a mixed media presentation involving a decoupage collage of old-time magazine clippings and advertising art which were highlighted with fine symmetrical brush strokes of paint utilizing earthy tones. The texture of the painting over the collage was fascinating and really brought the art to life. The brush strokes ran in alternating parallel and horizontal blocks. The strokes had an almost impressionist and multi-dimensional feel in their application. It was enough to give the art life without obscuring the collage, rather offering highlights and texture; bringing the attitudes of old time clippings, depicting apron adorned women in more domestic roles to a hilarious conclusion. I pointed the piece out to Freddy. I also noted the price of the piece, $1,000...a price I surely would have paid if I had some income to invest in an artist other than myself.

Freddy said, "Remember the time you asked me why art was so expensive?" I lurched forward in laughter at how ludicrous a question that was and what I could have possibly been thinking to prompt me to ask such a question. I'm sure I was stoned when I said that.

I looked at the artist's bio posted on the the nearby wall. Then I looked at our waitress and realized it was she, Lisa Orsted, the artist whom I had been admiring, clearing my lunch dishes and who was about to ask us if we wanted any dessert. I complimented her on her skills. She promises to send me a link when these collages are visible online.

The situation of confronting art and artist in such a moment of stark reality made me think of my dilemma and my artistic blockage. It seemed insignificant. It made me humble. It made me stronger. It gave me the patience to wait. To wait for a day when I am successful and living a life not very different from the one I am currently experiencing, just a little more comfortable. I wish Lisa the best. Her art truly moved me that afternoon, the message her work offered was truly enlightening and was further accentuated as she toiled and dealt with reality in the shadow of her Art.

Yes, "Paradise waits..."

"Why is art so expensive?"

Because it is worth it!

Once again, you can find me..."Running Hard out of Muskrat Flats."

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