Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Liquid Lightning Two

Sharon is finding her muse once again with new approaches to her painting. In the beginning, it was welding and metal art. Then it was making collages out of old National Geographic magazines. The particular arts and crafts exercise didn’t really matter as long as they suited her fancy…if even for the moment.

Sharon first became a metal head after a career in academia and business. She learned to pinch metal around stone like Giacometti and apply torching like Motherwell. She was comfortable with heavy metal in her hands and blue-yellow flames framing her face.

A couple of years ago Sharon took classes from Vesper College located in the heart of Nordeast. Vesper is one of those non-profit schools offering classes in such esoteric areas as metal bending, torching, welding and stone sculpturing. Sharon loved it…and I love the fact that she’s found a new outlet for her creative juices.

Now she has expanded her creative expression far beyond metal art. The medium that Sharon pursues is less important than the act or process that she goes through to get there. She began with classes on alcohol ink painting at the old NKB (Northrup King Building) in NordeEast Minneapolis.

Alcohol ink is an acid-free, highly pigmented, and fast drying medium used on non-porous surfaces. By mixing alcohol inks an artist can create a vibrant marbled effect. For many enthusiasts, it’s a new way of artistic self-expression. It means discovering the almost magical ethereal mutations that take place when alcohol colors mix and integrate into themselves. It’s layering colors, mixing tones and textures, morphing shapes and sizes into a kaleidoscope of  bastardized offspring’s of color. For its many disciples the process is full of constant discovery and, often times, pure amazement at the results. It’s like trying to cup liquid lightning in your hands.

By the end of this last season in Palm Springs, Sharon had expanded her artistic expression to cover a gamut of new avenues. She moved from the Palm Springs Art Center to specialized classes to her own roughhewn studio in our garage.

Then this spring, she discovered the White Bear Center for the Arts and a new medium called ‘cube art.’ Now it’s exploring new techniques at the Plaster Center for the Arts and International Market Square where some of her work is being displayed.

But it always seems to come back to Norde East and the NKB building. Even as the neighbor-hood grows with its artistic enclaves and new breweries, it retains its old charm.

Little has changed there since I camped out near the University of Minnesota. It’s the same old neighborhood just 55 years later. Millennials are rediscovering the place where they can be urban and ‘in the city.’ With establishments like Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge and Fried Bologna Vintage, how could they go wrong?

Fifty years after the West Bank of the University of Minnesota harbored the disenfranchised, the hippies, and other malcontents of a similar ilk that population or their decedents have now moved to the Northeast part of Minneapolis. In an unplanned, almost organic metamorphosis of a cityscape, this unwashed morass of creativity has moved west. Old Nordeast, an eclectic enclave of blue-collar Eastern European nationalities, has become the new West Bank.

But instead of hippies, now people of color, Hispanics, artists of every variety, house flippers, yoga gurus, craft beer specialists, software developers, and other creative types are flocking to the area. A new variety of business has also sprung up whose main purpose is to breathe life into the arts for a whole new generation, young and not so young. These include art classes of every type, including metal sculpting.

The roughhewn, anti-fashion, individualistic, truth-seeking individuals whom I find so fascinating all hang out there. Now my wife does too. It’s not as compact as Dinky town but the atmosphere is much the same. It’s almost as if inquiring minds once again scream for an exploration of life’s truths in that modern version of old Bohemia.

So while I’m there I want to soak up the atmosphere and perhaps build a nest someplace where I can just write to my heart’s content. It seems like a good place to explore the recesses of one’s mind, mining whatever thoughts and ideas might be lingering there. I’ve got a companion in the arts now, sharing the same excitement I feel every time I put finger to pen or keyboard.

Strange how after fifty plus years, some things change and yet many things remain the same. Now I get to explore my creative self with Sharon alongside me doing the same.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Trains, Planes, and a Tube or Two

Of all the great cities I’ve visited around the world, London stands out as friendly, cosmopolitan, adventurous, and comfortable. So it was with great anticipation that I boarded our Delta flight for ten days abroad with our expanded families. The trip was a gift to Sharon for her Seventieth birthday. She got to choose whichever place she wanted to visit anyplace in the world. Past trips to London with our two kids sealed the deal. Sharon decided to spend seven days in London and three in Paris with her family.

My first introduction to London came in the form of a folk song by Tom Paxton, one of my favorite singers back in the day. It was called ‘Leaving London’ and it emitted all the angst and emotions of a young man traveling through the city and missing his girl back home. Part nostalgic, part hooky, yet very effective in bringing back lots of memories from a similar period in my young life.

I first traveled abroad in 1967 after graduation. A second trip in 1968 sealed the deal. I loved foreign travel and losing myself in the cultures, traditions and various forms of foreign living. We took our kids to London twice while they were in their teens. This time it was different. A twenty-year gap had changed a few things. In many ways London was now a very different city. Yet in so many other ways, it hadn’t changed at all.

The kids found an Airbnb online, located in the heart of Paddington. It was a four story, six-bedroom townhouse with its own back patio and enough room for all three families to spread out and relax.

Outside of the townhouse

Nana's art class
Out our front window

Brian noticed the fancy cars parked around the block so I had him do a little research. The neighboring townhouse sold for four million dollars several months earlier. Our unit sold for over two million in 2014. Now I understood the all too familiar refrain about London housing being out of reach for the average millennial and worker.

Rehearsing to put on a play

Eleven people living together under the same roof can present a challenge sometimes, especially when those eleven include very independent children and mostly alpha personalities among the parents. It was a good test and we all passed with flying colors.

Back patio

I sequestered myself on the back patio each morning and read ‘The Evening Standard.’ It was refreshing to be away from the media circus back home. Ten days absent the clowns and magicians and carnival barkers. All those curious forms of life that have disrupted distracted and confused the workings of government here. Of course, I wasn’t entirely free from political intrigue. Theresa May had her own battles going on with Brexit and Emmanuel Macron had his own battles with both the left and right political elements in his own government. But aside from local politics like train service being interrupted to Wimbledon, it was a week relatively free of political distractions.

Paddington Station

With our Oster Card (all day pass) we were able to navigate the Tube all over town. We swung through various museums, along the Thames for our river walks, to the Tate Modern Museum, up on the London Eye...

Then it was on the Eurostar for a quick trip through the Chunnel into the heart of Paris. I forgot it was the height of summer travel and large groups of students on field trips crowded the train stations and every venue around. Europe was experiencing a heat wave and The Metro (subway) and most hotels aren’t air-conditioned. Fortunately ours was.

A ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower proved to be the highlight of our French excursion. With only three days in the city of lights, there was a lot to pack in. Our last meal at a corner bistro was our quintessential Parisian experience.

Unfortunately, our last Parisian experience at Charles de Gaulle Airport was the cancellation of our flight back home just ten minutes before boarding. A challenging ending to a picture perfect first trip abroad with the grandchildren.

But that’s another blog entirely.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sins of Omission

When you think about the things you will regret when you’re 80 or 90 or 100, it’s probably the things that you didn’t do. They’re your sins of omission. Very rarely do we regret something we tried but failed at. It’s those actions, connections, statements, or gestures that we should have made - but didn’t - which will haunt us as we’re making our final tabulation of time spent here on earth.

When we were all young and dumb, the world was a rainbow landscape full of wonderful adventures and opportunities. Each of us set out to become whatever we thought we should be…at the time. The world was our oyster and we meant to have it all.

It’s funny how reality evolves and our past lives and aspirations finally catch up with us. That winding road called ‘life’ is either running smooth as asphalt or rough like gravel. And yet none of us want to get off the road even if the ride isn’t what we expected it to be after all these years.

It’s been fifty-four years since I turned twenty-one and shed my cloak of anonymity to adorn myself with the costume of adulthood. Now many of us are at a point in our lives where reflection is more than a glass of chardonnay framed within a sunset or a cold brew among high school buddies.

Our current life style is an accumulation of habits born long before our birth. For some of us it was modeled after our parent’s pioneering excursion into life. For others, it was a process of discovery, loss, acceptance and rejection. And finally our life style became us on a daily basis and we weren’t even aware of it. It’s only now that the accumulation of excess and/or scarcity raises its hidden head.

I had a quote given to me by the President of the Maryland Center for Public Broadcasting back in the early 70s.  It’s guided me for many years in how to live my life. The quote goes:
‘The worst thing one can do is not to try, to be aware of what one wants and not to give in to it, to spend years in silent hurt wondering if something could have materialized – and never knowing.’

Ernest Hemingway is quoted as saying that life is like a bank account. How you use it is solely your determination. You can withdraw it in a hurry and live a very short life. Or you can be diligent with your withdrawals and live, hopefully, much longer.

We can always try to rectify some of our mistakes or enhance our positive steps but age and reticence to change are usually huge obstacles to overcome. We’ve let life’s ebb and flow (our gypsy muse) guide us in this rhythm of life. For most of us, the process was organic and without a lot of thought. For me it was my first apartment, my first real job and the first time camping overnight during a long Minnesota winter.

And now quite unexpectedly, we find ourselves both benefiting and/or suffering from past investments of our youth. The things we did to ourselves, the deposits we made on our bodies, our finances, our love life and our children. We’re now at the stage of making withdrawals from our youthful decisions and indiscretions.

Our life investments have been made, squandered, lost, divested and set aside. Some things worked out and some others didn’t. Now we have the residue of our wisdom or luck or mistakes to live with for the rest of our lives. And all those life steps are now just a memory.

A career was hatched, grown and nurtured or changed many times over. That part of our lives is over unless boredom and fear of retirement pushes us in a new direction.

My bank account of friends isn’t the greatest. A reluctance to make an effort back then, despite the chiding by my wife, has left me lacking in that area. Yet what I do have in the vault is now priceless. One of my aspirations was to mine those rich veins of past friendships to see if I might unearth more nuggets there. Occasionally I’ll strike gold and rekindle a long lost almost forgotten friendship from the dusty archives of my past. It’s a blast and immensely satisfying.

Those random discoveries got me thinking about other friendships; past and future, strong and vapid, present and omnipresent. I thought about the friends I’ve had over the years. Some of them shared isolated points in my life; high school, college and work. Some were but fleeting incisions in the tenderness of my youth. Others were shared experiences like the military; isolated, vacuous and destined to crash with each discharge celebration where inane behavior in the barracks seemed to make perfect sense back then.

Most of those memories are lost now in that vacuum called life experiences. A few were found again but most are just fragrant memories of a life well spent. Like separating wheat from the shaft, I’d love to rekindle a few of those friendships and nourish them back to the point of a commonality we once shared; a kind of harvesting from my ‘lost years.’ Another aspiration was to explore my talents as a writer. Another was to teach the grandchildren.

I guess that’s why I want to continue seeking out opportunities to teach the grandchildren and give them experiences I never had growing up. A recent family trip to London and Paris is a good example. Eleven people living together in a foreign country for 10 days and accumulating wonderful experiences along the way.

So it all comes down to friends and family. I am in a good place in my life. I don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore! As an artist, I love creating stories in many different genres and I intend to continue writing until my pen dries up or I go blind. I’d like to take my friends and family along on this journey of self-discovery and see whatever else comes our way.