Getting Away For Sanity
I've been thinking about St Thomas today, so I thought I would include a little painting of the St Thomas Yacht Club today.
I like St Thomas, though you need to have a reasonably high level of discipline and perseverance to live on a tropical island. Everyday things on the island are just a little bit more difficult.
You can't let things get away from you. Eternal vigilance pays off.
And, every once in a while getting away is just the medicine the doctor ordered.
God, is it great to get away.
I get "State Side," as opposed to "The Territory," and everything is different. For one, when you get a drink in a bar, the glass is probably not half full of alcohol before they start pouring the mixer. There's a term for that on St Thomas. It's called a Stateside Pour. Yup, It's a thing. I think the reason is, mixers are more expensive than the booze there. So you've got to keep an eye on your liver.
When I make it back to the mainland, I experience a bit of culture shock. Here are a few signs I've been on the island a bit too long.
1. Road Side Confusion
Do you ever get confused what about what side of the road to drive on; I hope not. You should have that down pat, but traveling back and forth from St Thomas can throw me for a bit of a loop. On the island, you drive on the left, and the steering wheel is on the left side. It's not so bad once you get used to it, but your first couple of excursions in the car can force you to engage a few dormant brain cells. It's not insurmountable, but sometimes it gives you a little bit of an uneasy feeling pulling out of a parking lot. At least, in England, the steering wheel position is commensurate with the side of the road you travel on.
2. Wild Eyed Wonderment
As I wander through the aisles of the supermarket, I look like I've just come from the third world. Everything is so bright and shiny and so new and fresh. The shelves aren't half empty because some container ship didn't come in this week. In the island some days the market will have the bread you want and some days it won't. The very next thing I notice is a gallon of milk costs a ton less than eight dollars, a half pound of butter doesn't need a second mortgage, and if I can spot a nice loaf of bread and it can be scooped up for less than $10.00, I'm liable to swoon.
3. Friendly Faces
Stateside I smile all the time at bank tellers, supermarket cashiers, and other service people. The US is a service oriented country, and we do it well. If you've ever complained about customer service here on the mainland, stop right now. Service is so much better here. I would forgive you for qualifying the Continental United States as a different planet.
The worst service in Arizona is oodles better than average service on St Thomas.
There are some places on St. Thomas where the service is exceptional, but exceptional is indeed the exception, not the rule. At most places, you can hardly get the cashier to pay attention to their job if you can pry them away from their cell phones.
4. Trips Are Easy Man
Going to the store in Arizona or Ohio is as easy as falling off a log. I'll gladly go at the drop of a hat. I'll even volunteer with a smile as big as a kid with a humungous bowl of ice cream.
We plan every shopping trip on St Thomas like a military operation. We have to prepare to go to the right store for bread. Then, the butter is less expensive at that store. The fruit is better at the Fruit Bowl but sometimes more expensive. Do we have to get gas, because the station at Coki is thirty cents cheaper per gallon than the one in town? Can I stand to go to Pueblo this week or will Plaza Extra fill me with less angst, gloom, despair, agony, or depression? Which Drug Store (Chemist) will have what I need for my prescriptions? Do we need to pick up the mail? Is the mail center open at this time?
Friends are important. The people you know and you're comfortable around are few and far between. We've met a lot of tourists, and we used to try to get to know people, but they're here one day and gone the next. Building lasting relationships on the island is difficult. I did start to get to know some folks at the golf course, but Irma and Maria were jealous and put an end to that, and the golf course is not only closed and unkempt but up for sale. Got $42 million to invest?
I like being where my friends are. I guess that's the way with most people. I know it's like that with me.
I think this year is our last on St Thomas. Though I have enjoyed the experience, I'm ready to call it quits. We committed to living on the island for five years, and this is our eighth. I'll make the best of our time remaining, and I know I'll have fun, I always do. I'll lap up as much sunshine and salty air as I can, while I can, but then I will think of the Caribbean in the context of holidays rather than day after day.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Alan Bean - Artist Of The Week
Fifty years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took a romp on the moon. I was thinking about the astronauts who went to the moon this week. Amongst them was the fourth man to walk on the moon, Alan Bean.
He retired from NASA in 1981 to pursue a career painting. I guess he figured he'd paint what he knew, so he spent the rest of his days blissfully painting that far away place he visited so long ago. I imagine he could have taken up just about anything but he decided on painting.
His paintings are unique.
First, there is no other painter in the world who has first hand experience with the landscape and feeling of being on the moon. He was there, he experienced it first hand and he passes that down to all of us in his paintings.
Second, because he was allowed to keep his space suit and other memorabilia like patches, he thought he would incorporate some of that moon dust he brought back in his paintings. He mixes the paint and adds a bit of magic from November 1969.
Third, he used his space boots, and the hammer used to sink the flag pole in the surface of the moon to add texture to his paintings.
If you look closely at this painting, Spirit of Apollo, you can see the textures he added with his space boots.
I suppose this was not exactly as he saw things 240 thousand miles from our front door, but it's exciting to see how he wanted to convey the experience.
We owe a lot to these adventurers who took that round trip to our little grey cousin in the sky. It's motivating to see such a guy take up painting and sharing his experience and his work. If you want to read a bit more about this painting, you can visit his website and read it in the artists own words. The Spirit of Apollo.
Alan Bean passed away last year and was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on November 8, 2018. His funeral was marked with all the attendant flourishes you would expect for such a man.
Rest in Peace Alan, your work will continue to represent you long into the future.
You can visit Alan Bean on Wikipedia or his Website.
Now, you go out and make some art.
What happens when you are just born without fashion sense? I mean, look at this painting I did a few years back, it all fits. All the colors are in all the right places.
You’d think, having an artistic nature, I would be good at coordinating clothes and colors and getting myself looking smart, but the fact is that I am hopeless at putting an ensemble together that doesn’t look like I’ve been dumped off a turnip truck after a long day picking.
It is not that I don’t want to look good, because, as they say, if you look good you will feel good. That brain function just doesn’t work for me. I reach into the drawers and pull something out, and no matter how hard I try I can’t seem to get it right. I’ve even tried and look in the closet and pick something that would NOT go together. That doesn't work either.
Did you know that unless you match the right shade of blue with the right shade of blue, you will look like a blooming idiot? The problem is I have no clue what those blues may be.
On my sixtieth birthday, we had a little shindig at the homestead. In my closet was an array of clothes that, individually, were just perfect.
I picked a pair of shorts I liked. Then I pulled a nice linen shirt I wanted and put them on.
The problem is the pair of shorts I liked were not in love with the shirt I wanted. The lovely pink shirt ended up continuously bickering with the colorful tropical yellow shorts. I tried to keep them in order, but they just wouldn't listen to me. They just kept arguing and disagreeing with each other.
Eventually, Andrea chimed in to stop the argument, “Now, that’s enough! All three of you upstairs!” She said, "I’ll be up shortly to settle this argument once and for all."
Knowing who the boss really was, the yellow shorts and the pink shirt shut up immediately. Andrea has that way with clothes, she can order them to do just about anything. And they listen.
My wardrobe choice was driving me crazy. I was trying to figure out what I did wrong. I picked the clothes I loved. They were each wonderful in their own way. But the minute you put them in proximity to each other they clashed.
I remember picking out the clothes myself. You wouldn't believe it. They were trying to blame each other for the sorry situation we got ourselves into. I was only an innocent bystander in this clothes selection magnum opus.
When I went to pick out my clothes, it was like walking into a homeless shelter with a hundred dollar bill hanging out of my pocket. Everybody loved me.
While perusing the Attenborough collection, I saw lots of contenders.
I have many colorful shirts, but they’re long-sleeved shirts, and they didn't want to play on this warm summer's day.
One shirt, one exceptional shirt, jumped out and recommended itself. It said, “Scott, you know you like me. I’m that pink golf shirt that you like so well. Wouldn’t it be just the best thing in the world if you would wear me today? I know you like me best. Don't you?”
I thought, “Of course, I love you pink shirt, please come out and play today.”
What a fabulous choice; on went the shirt.
Rummaging through my drawers I saw one of my favorite pairs of shorts, the yellow shorts said, “It’s warm outside, I know that’s unusual for England, I’m a great pair of shorts, don’t you want to wear me. Pick me! Pick me!”
"Brilliant - I love you too," I said, and the shorts went on.
Both items were, in themselves beautiful clothes, fabulous clothes, they were clothes of considerable standing in my drawers and closet.
I should have known there might be problems when I lay the clothes across the bed, and they started to clash. They were both vying for world domination. Yellow is such a colorful color; it’s a vivid color; it’s a fabulous color. I said, “Pink, you are one on my favorite colors too.”
Eventually, Andrea came up the stairs and completely dismissed that the clothes were still arguing. I wasn't arguing. I wasn't to blame. But she said, "You silly, silly man. Do you see what you've done here? Don't you know those colors don't ever want to be together? Everybody could see they were arguing. Everybody could see you had no control over the clothes. Do you know how embarrassing that was?"
I looked down at my shoes, and kicked the carpet with my right foot gently and said, "I'm sorry, but it's not my fault. They chose me."
"Do you know how silly that sounds."
"Okay, let's see what else there is to wear."
In an instant, the clothing goddess arranged my recalcitrant wardrobe.
In the end, it was a lovely party. I loved every minute of it, even though my clothes tried to ruin the occasion.
So, if you see me around and I look like I've got it all together fashionwise, it's either a fluke or I've had some very good advice and direction. Probably the latter.
Until next week, I wish you clothing peace.
Leroy Neiman - Artist Of The Week
When I was growing up, I loved Leroy Neiman. I don't know if it was because of his flamboyant personality or the vivid colors in his paintings. He was, to me, one of a kind. He was pretty much the only modern era celebrity artist I knew about at the time, probably because he was always showing up on sports programs with his paintings.
His colorful paintings are iconic. To me, they represented the sports era of my childhood. He painted golf, football, baseball, The Olympics, and he even painted an album cover for the 5th Dimension. I remember seeing him on television a couple of times when I was a kid.
Neiman did his work in oil, enamel, watercolor, pencil drawings, pastels, serigraphy, and some lithographs and etching.
His paintings blast your senses with motion, strength, and color.
He wasn't a reclusive artist like Andy Warhol or Lucian Freud. I thought, wow, he's an artist and a celebrity.
There are still places you can see his work on the internet. If you want an original, you can expect to pay a few bucks. If I had the money, I'd be right there.
Check his work out on these excellent interweb sites
Leroy Neiman Website Leroy Neiman Foundation
Now go out and make some art!
I Remember When
I painted this about ten years ago in Arizona. I know it was about ten years ago because, a tiny bit more than ten years ago, just before we moved to Arizona, I had one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
This painting reminds me of the mysterious and my life has often been a mystery, even to me.
I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. I spent some time cutting concrete and pumping gas. I thought being a Marine would be a nifty idea and the Marines is one of the best ideas I'd ever had, but that's another story altogether.
When I was young I had trouble choosing a direction. I couldn't figure out if I wanted to be a brain surgeon or a fry cook.
So, I drifted, and I dithered. I had dreams and inklings of what I wanted to do but never really went for it.
I've always been hesitant to go for it. You know, to go for it with everything you've got. What's wrong with going for something that you want to do. Well, it's pretty scary.
As a consequence, I think I've spent too much time thinking about doing things and living in my head. I've discovered that being out where the rubber meets the road, doing the things that you love to do, is so much better.
For a long time, I liked playing the guitar, and I dreamt of being in a rock and roll band. I never thought I would be good enough until, about ten years ago, I started hanging out with my friend Doug. We'd periodically get together in his basement to make music. Perhaps we only approximated music, but we had a lot of fun doing it.
We started telling friends what we were doing and how much fun we were having. Eventually, Jon, Wayne, Harold, and Kevin joined us. They may have known what they were doing, but I certainly hadn't a clue. All I knew was I was having fun and more fun than I'd had in a very long time. I loved getting together and making music with those guys.
Eventually, we went from playing in the basement to playing out at various places. I got such a thrill from that experience. If I could have glowed, I would have. It was relatively short-lived, but for that brief time, I had so much fun being a rock and roller.
Eventually, I moved away; the guys kept playing together, and, of course, they've been getting better all the time.
When I come back to Dayton, I look them up to see where they're playing. I love to go to their gigs and experience a bit of rock and roll vicariously through them.
I feel great that, at that time, I went for it.
Maybe, someday, I'll pick it up again. Maybe.
For now, though, I think I'll stick to writing these letters, and instead of picking up my guitar to play, I pick up my brushes today.
With any luck, I'll continue to get more creative, more proficient, and better able to express myself.
I hope you've found ways to express yourself. It feels so much better doing than just thinking about it.
Until next week, I wish you peace.
Jose Trujillo - Artist Of The Week
This guy's a one-man marketing dynamo. He calls himself the worlds greatest living artist. At least he's got a goal. He's prolific, and he does come up with some work that I like. His name is Jose Trujillo.
What I like most about this guy is his enthusiasm, initiative, and his willingness to "go for it."
He was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. He came to the United States with his parents when he was around nine years old. Kinda like me. I came to this country when I was nine years old with my parents too from that northern border!
Jose lives in Tucson, Arizona. Maybe I should take a little drive down there. I've got other friends there I've love to see.
His paintings are impressionistic and he says he wants to follow in the tradition of Monet and the Impressionists.
I follow Jose on YouTube. He puts out a video almost every single day. He is energetic and does his best to share his knowledge with anybody who will listen.
In this video he shares his background and why he does what he does. He is a full time working artist. That is a feat all unto itself. It takes guts and a willingness not to hide your light under a bushel. I admire his moxie.
If you ever lacked confidence. If you ever needed a kick in the backside to get going. You might want to look up Jose Trujillo and see how he does what he does.
You can find him at these fine internet outlets.
Iguanas are exotic creatures. They're in just about every nook and cranny on the island.
Iguanas remind me of hanging out at the beach. They can show up just about anywhere.
They look like fierce creatures. You might even think they're dangerous, but they're not. I wouldn't say I'm afraid of iguanas, but I do prefer to give them a little distance.
I do, however, have another phobia. It's a fear that has to do with humans; a particular type of human.
Like lots of people, I hate going to the dentist. I avoid going to see anyone until it's absolutely necessary. I know it's wrong, but I'm guilty.
I equate the dentist with pain. I'm either in pain when I go to the office, when I'm in there, or when I leave. It's all pain.
I've been told I grind my teeth at night. I wouldn't recommend it if you want any kind of longevity out of your pearly whites. Over the years the constant pressure can end up putting cracks in your teeth. It wears them down.
It doesn't help that I like eating lovely crunchy things like nuts, ice, hard candy.
A couple of years ago my grinding and abuse cracked one of my teeth, and it got infected.
I had to find a dentist on St. Thomas. I hadn't even located a barber let alone a dentist.
Either I'd get it taken care of, or I'd have to suffer the fever, and pain that came with my cracked tooth like some demented bonus, indefinitely.
Pain killers weren't touching the lightning bolts generated in my mouth, firing through my eyeball, and escaping out my right temple. It was seriously destroying my island serenity.
I got right to it. I looked up a few dentists online and came up with a list, and a three-pronged strategy.
First, I had to understand the receptionist. I have real trouble understanding people on the island sometimes, and I didn't want any lack of communication where there's pain involved.
Second, after leaping over hurdle number one, the dentist had to be busy enough he couldn't see me immediately. If the dentist was too busy and couldn't see me right away, they were in high demand. If they were in high demand, they were good. Pretzel logic, I know, but I was in pain.
Third, being too busy to see me, maybe they could recommend a dentist who could. A good dentist wouldn't want to ruin his reputation by referring me to a bad dentist. So, if that dentist were too busy to see me, he would recommend someone good who would.
I got lucky! The first dentist I called passed test number one with flying colors. The receptionist was friendly, courteous, and best of all, understandable.
They passed the busy test too. The doctor couldn't see me right away, but he might be able to fit me in tomorrow. Bingo!
I made the appointment right away and was sure to show up on time.
When the doctor did the exam, he found the job required some heavy lifting he couldn't do. He'd have to refer me to an oral surgeon.
Surgeon?! Yikes! Holy Moley!
Finding decent bread on the island is difficult at the best of times. For heaven's sake, fresh vegetables are hard to come by. From what magic hat are they going to pull this mythical animal called an oral surgeon?
I had visions of being medivacked.
I'm happy to say the dentist had contacts. He knew of an oral surgeon only 15 minutes away. He called up and got me right in. I hoped it was one professional doing a favor for another expert. I didn't want to think the oral surgeons were hanging out at Floyds Barber Shop playing checkers just waiting for customers.
He told me the oral surgeon was excellent, so I got in the car and drove over the hill to my savior's office.
When I got in the waiting room, things got a bit blurry.
I remember some irritating and inconsiderate people. For some reason, they assumed it was okay to play videos with the volume up on their smartphones for entertainment. It was like they thought everybody should listen.
I remember getting into the dentist's chair.
I remember getting a shot of Novocain that felt like it penetrated my optic nerve. It numbed my entire throat. I felt like I had to swallow continually. Then, I felt like I had to cough. Then I felt like I couldn't breathe. Gasp.
Was I going to die in this freaking dentist's chair?
The doctor came back it to see if the numbing agent had done its job, and I was apoplectic. He told me to calm down. He said it was normal. I said that his normal felt like crap. He dismissed me like I was a petulant child. (I probably was).
He got to work with his jackhammers, hammers, and chisels. He pulled out several things I'm sure I saw in my studies of the Spanish Inquisition.
I thought to myself, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!" Thank you Monty Python.
If they were questioning me, I would have confessed right away. I've seen Marathon Man. I know what happens. But I had nothing to confess. I'd have to make something up quick.
After much tugging and prying and digging out of tooth parts, the carnage was over.
The only thing left was a bruise on my chest from his knee.
I staggered on my way with a suitcase full of Vicodin and a bunch of gauze in my mouth.
All I wanted to do was sleep for three days. I think I did just that. The problem was solved, but at what cost?
It was a very stressful time on the island.
Last week, when I lost a crown. It fell off in my mouth, and my eyes bulged to the size of grapefruits. I waited for the lightning bolts behind my eye; the stabbing pain in the temple.
My previous dental trauma flashed in front of my eyes.
Luckily, there was no pain.
I did feel an extreme desire to wait for help until I got back to Dayton.
When I got here I went to my friend Dan is a dentist. I shyly went to him and said, "Can I come to see you in your office? I think I have a problem."
He said, "Of course."
I was delighted he said yes. There's no gnashing of teeth. It's all in the bag.
I have not regretted my decision to wait to come to Dayton. It was the right choice.
Until next week, I wish you peace.