Pollock’s Mural 

August 5, 2017


I was finally able to view a Jackson Pollock. Not just any Pollock, but arguably the greatest Pollock — Mural. Certainly the greatest in stature, at almost 9’x20′, if not the greatest artistically. And if not the “best,” it was at least a turning point when Pollock, who was commissioned by wealthy socialite Peggy Guggenheim to fill a wall in her townhouse, began painting large-scale works. 

Much has been written about the painting. Pollock, a relatively unknown artist at the time, was hired by Guggenheim in June of 1943. He received a $150 per month stipend (equal to about $2100 today) and was to have the work ready for a show in November of the same year. Legend has it that when November rolled around, the giant canvas remained untouched. Pollock claimed to have completed the painting during one creative outpouring sometime in late December (later testing proves the work was not entirely painted at one time, however), and said that the painting came from an inspirational vision the Wyoming native had. “(It was) a stampede…every animal in the American West, cows and horses and antelopes and buffaloes. Everything is charging across that goddamn surface.” 

Standing alone on a hot summer day inside the cool halls of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO, where Mural is on loan from the University of Iowa, I was able to truly take in the artwork. While it isn’t my favorite painting, and Pollock isn’t my favorite artist, it is something to behold. I stood as far as possible and viewed the painting as a whole. I could visualize the stampede, yet was also able to let my eyes lose focus and get lost in the free-flowing, yet repetitive, form. In some way I felt as though I was being watched. It is intriguing and mysterious. 


I walked the length of the painting — back and forth — imagining how difficult it would be to keep the work consistent, yet maintain the subtle differences throughout. I stood with my face inches from the canvas, studying the lines, the splatters and perhaps unintentional drips (Mural was finished several years before Pollock started his drip paintings), the layers, the textures…and all the other tiny details hidden in the monstrous piece. 




I imagined Pollock’s studio — his apartment, which had to have a wall secretly removed in order for the canvas to fit —  and what it might have been like. The smell of paint and turpentine was undoubtedly and obnoxiously mixed with the cigarette smoke that hung in the air. Pollock’s thick, boozy breath clung to the wet paint, and his dripping sweat became forever a part of the artwork. Maybe a jazz record played in the background. Perhaps Pollock worked in silent solitude. What was going through his mind? Did he sit and eat a ham sandwich at some midway point, staring at the unfinished work and wondering what the hell to do next? Where were his first and last brush strokes? Was Pollock pleased with the completed work? 

While I’m a lover of art, I’m no historian or expert. I see what I like, and what I like makes me wonder. Art makes me think in ways that I don’t normally. I believe that’s why I’m drawn to it. Mural certainly made me wonder. It made me think. It drew me in. If you get the chance, I highly recommend viewing it. 

Advertisements


There’s nothing that can be written about baseball that hasn’t already been said. It’s a game that grown men wearing silly outfits play until their arms are dead, their knees give out, and their eyes can no longer pick up a fastball. It’s the perfect game in many respects, the chess of sports, where strategy is critical, yet a single pawn occasionally wins a game. The best hitters fail more often than they succeed, but when they come through at the end of a game — at the end of a season — well, it can bring tears to old men’s eyes. 

They say baseball is a metaphor for life. It’s a long season full of ups and downs, triumphs and heartache. Some days are good, some are bad, and sometimes the rain ruins everything. As in life, it seems that success is usually the result of teamwork, determination, and a lot of good fortune along the way. It’s not always the most talented team that wins, and as Yogi Berra’s saying goes, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. As fans, very few of us get to regularly enjoy the post season, but each new year brings renewed hope. The last two seasons are proof that anything is possible, and also that patience truly is a virtue. 

So as we start a new season in earnest today, I sincerely wish everyone luck. I’ve experienced the thrill of sitting on the edge of my seat during an unimaginable late inning rally resulting in victory. I’ve witnessed an entire city unite with unbelievable pride during a magical season capped by a long-awaited World Series championship. Most importantly, I’ve felt the simple joy of hanging outside with my family on a warm summer night, talking about life as baseball plays on the radio. 

Maybe life is actually a metaphor for baseball? As in baseball, remember that if you stay focused and keep your eye on the ball, eventually you’ll get a hit. Sometimes just a little hit is all it takes. Hustle every chance you get, play with all your heart, and — most importantly — remember to enjoy every game. The season is long, but life is short. Play ball. 

(And GO ROYALS!) 

Random Sunday Ramble

March 11, 2017

Sorry to ramble…

I had a lot of things I wanted to get done today, but daylight savings time has ruined my schedule.

How can thirteen-year-old boys be so good at remembering to liberally douse themselves in cheap cologne, yet they can’t remember to turn off lights or flush toilets?

Why does getting good experience at anything take so damn long?

No kid of mine will be operating a vehicle if they “can’t” operate the washer and dryer.

I recently read that the brain begins deteriorating at age 27. Or was it 37? Anyway, it seemed young.

If you believe God is omniscient and everything is predestined by him, what is the point of anything? I at least wouldn’t be getting up early for church.

Why is it that the competitive neighborhood dads all seem to end up mowing at the same time on Saturday mornings?

Did you know…the average American annually consumes as many calories as 32 Kenyans?

Tacos sound good.

I like soccer, but it seems to discriminate against people in wheelchairs, which is why I think basketball is a better overall sport.

Does anyone actually say “tomahto?” If so, they’re not doing themselves any favors.

Spring break is nice for kids, but for most parents it’s simply a week when we are forced to find a sitter.

We are all capable of doing great things, but most of us decide to take a nap.

One out of every three people in the world has no access to a toilet, yet the average new American house has three toilets before finishing the bathroom in the walkout basement.

I truly believe soda is worse for you than beer, I just don’t have the data to back it up.

Life is best experienced with your TV off.

While I don’t watch much TV, I become very concerned when I can’t find the remote.

Considering thousands of people are born each day, I’ve concluded that the possibility of reincarnation seems more realistic than going to heaven.

When we were younger my wife would complain that I didn’t listen to her. Now she just tells everyone I’m deaf.

25% of people in the world live with no electricity. This makes me feel slightly guilty about having a portable phone charger that looks like the poop emoji.

With so many aging baby boomers, I predict canes will start to be en vogue again.

I’d be lying if I said speaking French didn’t make me more handsome.

Did you know…805 million people in the world go hungry every single day. Meanwhile, I’m sitting in my warm car, polluting the air, as I complain about the long line in the drive-thru (tapping my steering wheel along with the radio, of course). Pathetic.

“As a matter of fact yes, (teenage) son, that gold chain does make you look like a douche.”

They say learning to play an instrument has many wonderful benefits for children, yet they never mention how much it sucks for the parents of these children learning to play instruments.

Did you know…it is legal for children to smoke cigarettes in the US? Doctors, however, discourage it.

If I knew then what I know now I know I would have at least known more then.

Call me stupid, but I feel inclined to believe in ideas backed by scientific evidence.

It’s scientifically proven that no man can look cool while drinking from a straw.

Twenty-somethings are into the whole “Netflix and chill” thing. My wife and I spend 45 minutes trying to find something to watch on Netflix, then just decide we are too tired for a movie or sex.

In a world where you can choose to be anything, many people seem to choose poorly.

My six-year-old daughter recently had some ideas about how I could comb my hair differently to look less bald. I thought this was kind of cute at first, but she followed that up by saying that I should consider wearing black because it’s slimming.

Did you know…farting helps reduce high blood pressure?

Dear Red-Blooded American Badass: Before you start cursing that guy because he’s in your country and isn’t speaking English, you might want to know that the good ol’ USA has no official language.

Do you suppose God plays tennis?

I think it’s good when people are politically correct, but I’d rather hang out with someone who is genuinely kind and also enjoys making fun of people. Including themself.

If I could do it all over again, I would be nicer.

Life is short. Let’s do some good.

“None of us wanted to be the bass player. In our minds he was the fat guy who always played in the back.” – Paul McCartney

I’m no rock star, but I’m somewhat (or more) of a rock star wannabe. Yes, it’s true that I play in a local rock band. We play pretty hard, original rock ‘n’ roll. We rehearse once a week and get to hit the stage at some very cool venues around town at least a couple times each month. We have a fairly large and loyal following, and are considered to be one of the good bands in a town that has many good (and not so good) bands. We are fast-approaching middle age (I’m already there), yet we dance around like teenagers in our skinny jeans as we loudly bang on our instruments. It’s a lot of fun, and something I also take very seriously.

Still, I’m no rock star. Rock stars tend to be divorced and estranged from their children. I’m happily married and spend a ton of time with my kids. Rock stars party all night and sleep all day. If I’m up past 10:30 on a weeknight it’s probably because I got out of bed to pee or due to realizing that I forgot to take my multi-vitamin. Rock stars drink Budweiser in the morning, then wash down various drugs with jugs of whiskey at night. I enjoy a few craft beers on occasion. Rock stars are rich and have personal trainers, personal chefs, and personal assistants. They drive fast cars and jet-set around the world. They have mansions with mirrored ceilings, six-car garages, swimming pools, and hot-tubs.

Like I said, I’m no rock star — and I actually have no desire to lead that kind of lifestyle — but I do wish I could simply master the art of the “cool vibe” that we all see in our musical idols. You know, the cocky swagger of a lead singer belting out a scream as he simultaneously catches a woman’s bra being heaved onto the stage. The effortless drum solo that includes stick twirling and tossing, plenty of cowbell, two bass drums, and the thunderous hammering of a gong. The blistering guitar solo, perfectly executed as the shirtless virtuoso squints through the smoke coming from his dangling cigarette…and then, my favorite part, the flick of the guitar pick into the crowd. A mob dives after it like a foul ball in the seventh game of a World Series. These people define cool. These are the rock stars.

But there’s a problem. You see, I’m not lead singer, a drummer, or a guitarist. I’m just, well, I’m a bass player. That’s right, the guitar’s ugly, long-necked cousin. The instrument that most people can’t even pick out in a song. The member of the band who people can’t name and never seek autographs from. The guy who is usually mistaken for a fan or, if lucky, a roadie (probably because he is carrying the rest of the bands’ gear). Once a bassist proves to security that he is part of the band, he still may not be allowed backstage. The person who wasted groupies accidentally sleep with because they thought he was the guitarist. The butt of endless jokes:

How do you get a bass player off your front porch? Pay for the pizza.

Why don’t bass players play hide and seek? Because no one will look for them.

Why do bass players have trouble opening locked doors? They can never find the right key.

How many bass players does it take to change a light bulb? Never mind, the keyboard player will just do it with his left hand.

What do you call someone who is always trying to hang out with musicians? A bass player.

And so on… But enough bad jokes, how about some boring technical stuff.

There are generally two types of bass players — those who use a pick and those who use their fingers. A pick typically creates more volume, more “attack” (an edgier, grittier sound), and sometimes makes it a little easier to play faster. Playing with your fingers creates a smoother sound, a deeper thump, and makes it easier (in my opinion) to get into the groove and really feel the music. As a result, I’ve never been one to use a pick. However, my band recently added a new tune that just sounds better with a pick. It’s been fun for me because it’s a fresh, new approach to playing. But more importantly, playing with a pick gives me a chance to do something cool.

We debuted the song at a gig last week, and in the days leading up to the show I was incredibly excited about the rock star opportunity that had presented itself to me: throwing my pick into the audience when the song ended. I had played the scene over many times in my head — always in slow motion. As the last note of the song rings out, I loft my pick out over the crowd, all of whom (thousands it seems like) are jumping and stretching, eyes focused and mouths open in anticipation of grasping this $0.10 piece of plastic used by a guy they’ve never heard of. I knew it would be so awesome. When the time actually came, my heart was pounding. Don’t let the pick slip out of your hand, I kept thinking. The song ended and — trying to keep from smiling so I was sure to look even extra cool — I threw the pick…

Unfortunately, things didn’t go quite right. Rather than have the pick softly soar over the outstretched, screaming fans, it instead somehow took off like one of those old round plastic discs that were shot from toy guns in the 1980s. You know, those guns that were banned in most countries due to causing so many injuries to children. Yes, the pick became a dangerous projectile and struck some poor, unsuspecting dude square in the eye.

I’m not sure he ever saw it coming, although I saw the whole thing. After impact, he briefly lowered his head, then raised it so I could see his spastically blinking, red, watering eye. I was doing a frantic, awkward “I’m so sorry” wave/gesture thingy from the stage, but I don’t think he had regained enough focus to see me. Thankfully, he seemed to recover quickly and didn’t appear to be seriously injured. A woman next to him grabbed the pick off the floor and offered it to him, but he put his hands up and looked away, adamantly shaking his head no. The woman happily smiled as she looked at her souvenir. She must have thought our guitarist threw it. I tried to find the guy after the show to apologize, but he was gone. I can only hope he didn’t rush out to seek medical attention.

Yet another epic fail for the bass player. To the fellow I hit, I offer a sincere apology. I genuinely hope your retina is still attached. I vow to continue my quest for rock star coolness, but in as safe a way as possible. I may never quite get there, but I’ll at least be very happy making music with my friends, as I fight off getting old with all my weak bass player power. Here’s to realizing we are all as cool as we want to be — and maybe, just maybe, cooler than we think. Rock on, baby!

Cheers.

 

Photo Credit: A Photographer

Dear Open Letter Writers,

I write to you today about a very serious and scary subject. Yes, it’s the “open letter” that you like to write. Disguised as a sincere letter addressed to a person or group of people, it quickly becomes little more than a mean-spirited rant and attempt for attention. You fill your so-called letters with opinions (or just downright lies), along with a couple of lame facts you find through extremely questionable sources. Your propaganda includes played-out clichés like “wake up America” or “we’re not buying what you’re selling.” You use broad generalizations, big words, and way, way, way too many adjectives. You think you’re better than the rest of us, and that you’re somehow responsible for saving humanity. You throw around words like you, us, and we, yet you don’t even know us, let alone know how we feel. You’re hateful and condescending. You’re overly dramatic. You refuse to ponder any idea that might seem slightly novel (that means new). You are intentionally hurtful, just to amuse yourself. You think you’re so clever, brilliant, and smart.

Well let me tell you something. We aren’t drinking the Kool-Aid. There is nothing clever about an open letter. They are everywhere, and have been for far too long. I bet you didn’t know that, according to Wikipedia, the open letter has been around for thousands of years? Not so brilliant now, are you smarty? Or did you know that between 50%-80% of open letters are written by people between the ages of 30-60? Abhorrent. I could obviously give you a lot more information about this, but I think even you get the point. You make me physically ill, you elitist scum.

Maybe you should consider writing in a unique style, about something interesting for a change. Oh wait, you don’t have the skills required, you pathetic beast. No, you will stick with the open letter because it’s all you can do. You’re appalling in every way — and, quite frankly, the reason America is going to hell in a hand basket.

It’s time you wake up and smell the coffee, you sadistic serpent. We won’t let your open letters continue to divide our nation. Half of us, give or take, are in total disagreement with you, but we agree with me. You’re all bark and no bite, but I’m a pit bull, baby. I won’t waste everyone’s time with a lot of words, but instead will get right to the point. When you get right to the point, it’s easier to make said point, and grab people’s attention. If you were more educated you would probably be able to grasp such a simple concept. But you probably only took a few online classes at the local community college. You’re repugnant.

I’m proposing a ban on open letters. The future of our country depends on it. Trust me when I say that I have many, many, many people backing me on this. So be ready, you odious piece of refuse. It may not happen today, this week, or this year, but your days of writing demoralizing, despicable, and disgusting open letters will be ending very, very, very soon. God bless America!

Sincerely,

The Rest of Us

  
It’s a very cold and rainy spring break morning in my neck of the woods. Regardless, I’m still feeling very fortunate to be able to be home with my kids (well, mostly), and the weather provides a perfect day to make some popcorn, cuddle up under blankets, and watch movies. We have cable and Netflix, and movies are just a couple clicks of the remote control away, yet I would love to be able to take my son and daughter to the local video store to pick out some old classics. Something they have never had the pleasure of doing.

While technology certainly has its upside, our kids are missing out on some things that my generation took for granted. Long gone is the excitement of perusing the new releases at the pre-Blockbuster corner video store (don’t forget to check the recently returned cart — and try to sneak a peek into the Adult section), the joy of getting dropped off by our parents at the mall (my mom can take if yours can pick up?) and slowly flipping through records at Musicland (either before or after slurping an Orange Julius), or even just playing board (bored) games like Life, Monopoly, and Clue.

Perhaps I’m suffering from a worsening case of silly nostalgia as I get older, but it seems like it was just a simpler, better time when we were kids — despite being more difficult to do some things. I’m aware of course that every older generation thinks such things about the current “troubled” youth of society, but maybe the old geezers are on to something. I mean think about it…we rode our bikes everywhere (my kids literally dislike bicycles), we played outside from sun up to sun down in the summer (my kids would rather lie in bed doing “stuff” on their electronic devices), we got severe, tissue damaging sunburns (my kids wear sunscreen if they happen to enter sunlight), we played actual sports (my kids excel at virtual bowling). This is messed up, man.

Who am I kidding, my kids would probably freak out if they had to go to an actual video store. Part of how they act is on me for not being a better parent, and I suppose part of it is just the way things are today. That being said, my children do great in school, are generally very kind to others, are not complete spoiled brats (despite how I describe them), and my wife and I love the hell out of them (and that love is definitely reciprocated). They also recycle sometimes. The world may be going to hell in a hand-basket, but things could be much worse. As the old saying goes, the kids are alright (they just aren’t as good as when we were young).

Here’s to a happy spring break for all and some true quality time with your damn children (oh, and better weather than we have). Cheers. 

 

 

 

Recess

February 17, 2016

Photo Credit: A Photographer

 
If you’re one of the seven people who read my blog regularly, you know that I quit my job — no my career — almost a year ago to pursue happiness. I spent about six incredible months as a stay-at-home dad, and have been working as a substitute teacher since school started. I love being a sub and working with kids. It’s challenging, rewarding, and sometimes I’m lucky enough to work in the same school as my kids, which is pretty cool for all of us.

Back when I worked for “the man,” there was a trendy deli in a quaint neighborhood that I went to often for lunch. Okay, it was actually a Subway, but this particular location truly had some of the freshest ingredients, and it was in a cool part of town. It backed up to a park bordered on the far side by a school. On nice days I would get lunch to go and eat in my car with the windows rolled down. While enjoying some fresh air and a mediocre sandwich, I was always able to hear the school kids playing during recess. I couldn’t see them because a little hill was in the way, but I didn’t need to. What I could hear was pure joy. Jubilant laughing and playful screaming was perfect background noise on a warm, sunny day. The students were obviously elated, without another care in the world at that moment. It was a great — albeit very temporary — escape from the conflict resolution meetings, particularly particular clients, and general negativity and stress of the daily grind.

I’ve been a long-term substitute at the same school for nearly two months, and I now get to experience recess up close on a daily basis. Being able to physically see recess gives me a newfound appreciation — no awe, really — of the early coordination skills of our youth, which I formerly perceived to be somewhere in the range of fairly awkward to dangerously clumsy. Every day I expect to witness broken bones, lacerations requiring urgent medical care, concussions, or worse.

Let me attempt to paint a picture for you: at each recess there are about 125 kids playing on a chunk of rock-hard concrete that’s approximately the size of a football field. Sound scary? Wait. Now imagine these 125 kids playing seven separate games of tag, two games of basketball, a game of four square, and pretending to have a gymnastics meet. All while a soccer match is taking place. Oh, and a handful of the students like to just sit on the ground and talk. When I worked a recess for the first time, I asked one of the seasoned, full-time teachers where the ambulance was kept on standby. I was only sort of kidding. Amazingly, I have never witnessed more than a scraped knee (knock on wood), and even that is rare. It’s similar to what I would expect if several flocks of birds were put in a giant cage. The kids just magically follow their group around at high rates of speed, never running into the ever-present trouble surrounding them. It is truly something to behold.

The school I’ve been at recently happens to be designated as one of the district’s “English Language Learners” elementary schools. This means that students who are new to the country or unfamiliar with English are brought in from outside of the school’s normal boundaries in an effort to help get them up to speed before middle school. This results in a wonderfully diverse student population. I get to not only hear the youthful fun, but I see children from many different races, nationalities, and religions playing together (mostly) in harmony. Sure, there are disagreements and even occasional scuffles, but at this age there are really no cliques or clubs, just kids having fun together. It’s firsthand proof that love — or at least acceptance — is natural, and hatred is learned. This is a great thing to be able to witness.

Remember when we were kids? Most of us didn’t worry, judge others, or overthink our existence. Life was pretty simple, and most of the time was simply great. Despite that, we couldn’t wait to get older. Now many of us make things more difficult than necessary, as our remaining time on this earth races by at an ever-increasing rate of speed. Someone more clever than me said that “these are the good old days.” Trust me, you can do better than briefly escaping over your lunch break, over the weekend, or even over a vacation. Live your life like the kids on the playground — with exuberant energy, with kindness, and by making the most of the moments we have left. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that, regardless of age, everyone says they feel like a kid at heart. After all, we are just kids who grew up. Find time for recess.