Tuesday, January 29, 2013

My Own Private Wilderness

My Rob Brezsny's advice for this week:
Become a sect of one.

(Not bad advice, considering
my inclination to hole up
somewhere remote, and simmer.)

It's a rainy winter night,
and, oddly, this darkness
and this solitude
are equally a comfort.

Monday, January 28, 2013


Father and Child, 1987
My oldest, at almost one, beloved by his father.

After I ran across this photo yesterday, I got to thinking about a series of black and white photos that were taken in my childhood home at the reception following my father's funeral. I remembered that my mother (possibly) hired someone, or maybe she asked a friend with a good camera to take the photos.

But the more I thought about it, the less likely it seemed that it had happened. Who takes photos at a funeral reception? And in 1966, color photos were the rage; B&W was something left over from previous decades.

What I recall is their stunning clarity of the many friends packed into our small house, and the details of couch, table, lamp. The 4x6" rectangles seemed too small to contain what had to be contained. And the background of potted mums, the funereal bouquets without color seemed without life.

I remember bouffants, and wing-tip glasses,

A phone call to a sister confirmed the fact of the photos existence, but not their whereabouts. I have my suspicions that they are in the coveted possession of yet another sister, along with additional boxes of additional photos, for some strange reason closely guarded. I once asked her if I could take some of them home so I could scan them, and she refused to let them go.

I realize that my many years of recall have most likely distorted details, perhaps added a layer of embroidery to their two-dimensionality. It may be, after all, that they are most unremarkable.

Which of course begs the question of whether I really want to see them.

And the answer is "yes".

Reilly and his cat Alice, in her last minutes, 2009

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Check Out Time

The five-photo sets recently posted here ("Abandoned" and "The Ghost of What Remains") were taken in a yard and house a mere thirty steps (give or take) from where I sit typing. I've written on this subject before, here and here.

This week I emailed Mary's brother, sent him a link to "Abandoned", and asked if he would mind if I went into the house and took more photos. He said he didn't mind — I promised not to disturb anything. We spoke later on the phone, and he insisted that he's not keeping the house as a shrine to his dead sister, but that his life has been very complicated these past 6+ years, and he'll eventually get around to dealing with it. (He lives out of state.)

I also asked if I could have the weather-worn Virgin of Guadalupe, and at first he said yes, but then changed his mind, that he didn't want others getting the idea that things could be carried away from the yard.  (He said that he would let me have her at a later date.)

Worried that someone else would walk away with her— and this is silly because it's in the back yard embedded in pine needles, and disappears in the weedy growth all spring and summer, and the fact that she's been sitting there all these years — so I thought I'd put my name on her and move her into the shed, or the house.

Well, this idea was met with a resounding "NO!" by three close friends. Worries about upsetting the karma, of causing a ripple in the energy embedded therein.

Walking through the unheated house yesterday, I knew they were right.

The only ghosts I encountered were the ghosts of objects — indeed, the ghosts of what remains. All the implements of living — from spoon to toilet plunger to shovel to television to bed to bath mat to sink to hot sauce to candle — at once ordinary yet holy, plain but imbued with the sacred utility of being alive — 

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Alone for a few hours on the job today, I pulled up some Richard Thompson on YouTube and listened to him at full volume. (This ability we have, with current technology, to listen to nearly anything we desire at any given time, astonishes me daily.)

This song, especially, makes me swoon. This guitar —

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Moon, and Jupiter

Yesterday on Facebook, my friend Jamey posted a 25 second video of the moon and Jupiter; the only movement was from his hands, steadying his iPhone.

I watched all 25 seconds of it. There was something marvelous and amazingly sweet about this, and I can't quite put my finger on what it is that I find so enchanting, but the fact of posting on a social networking site a 25 second video of the moon and Jupiter makes me smile, and smile again. And again.

Maybe it's about the constancy of the moon and planets, and the relative-recentness of social networking — liable to shift to the next and newest incarnation of itself or something else entirely— that makes this so remarkable. I mean, there's not much new about the moon and Jupiter, while
Facebook (as a metaphor for modern technology), in comparison, is as new as spring's first blade of grass.

And then there's my friend, who is the epitome of understatement and nuance. No shouting out the news from Jamey. The news will arrive in its own good time, no rushing-it, please.

And there is the right-now aspect of Facebook, the read-it-now component of whatever it is you want to say and have known. Tomorrow it will not only be old news, but disappeared news, all things considered.

But the moon? And Jupiter? On any clear night, from whatever orientation you  claim as your own, chances are you'll find at least one of them, or Venus, or Mars, old reliable friends shining their old reliable lights minus fanfare, minus the Big Parade that Facebook marches out every day for our viewing pleasure, or, er, displeasure, whatever the case may be.

So I say thank-you to my friend Jamey, for reminding me that friends like him — the tried and true — are as constant as the moon, and Jupiter, holding reliably steady in a universe of infinite changeability.

Friday, January 18, 2013

"I am in love with the world." --Maurice Sendak

I've listened to this (the link below) about ten times today already, and every time brings tears.
This shall become an annual post, along with Brendan Gill's Rules One and Two.
And live your life.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Pack-Up

We packed everything up yesterday afternoon in a record 3 1/2 hours, just about lost it while shrink-wrapping the three pallets, but instead descended into post-show giddiness. If you've ever shrink-wrapped anything, you'll know that it's the same as Saran-wrapping food in your kitchen — the roll gets tangled, sticks to anything and everything — except that in shrink-wrapping the roll is 2+ feet long and misbehaves often. There's an art to shrink-wrapping a pallet, and it seems that we have to reinvent it every time we do it.

It's intense work, and all around us is a general frenzy as every vendor is hot to get packed and outa there. At one point, to give my complaining back a momentary rest, I laid myself down on the rubber flooring and closed my eyes. I could have easily fallen asleep.

When we left, what was, just hours prior, a beautifully-lit and carpeted marketplace, what now an upheaval of empty boxes,  disassembled display units, dollies, rolling carts, packing peanuts, tossed water bottles, newspapers, show maps, and the general detritus of after-market.

Rather incredible to think that in a few days our pallets will travel by truck to a Philadelphia warehouse, where they'll sit for a few weeks before being delivered to the Buyer's Market of American Craft.

And then back to Seattle.

As wholesale shows go, Atlanta was considerably less than fantastic, but we garnered some new accounts and made some great connections which have lots of potential. To be honest, the buyers were generally of a less-sophisticated sensibility than those in the Northeast. We won't be going back.

But....we will have a collection for sale at the gift shop of the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Monday, January 14, 2013


AmericasMart in Atlanta covers 7,000,000 square feet over three city blocks. It is completely overwhelming. Over the past few days, I've wandered across many of those square feet, and viewed immeasurable numbers of every possible type of product, walking, I'd guess, many miles.

The exhibit hall housing gourmet foods was a manic miasma of over-zealous vendors hawking chocolate, pickles, hot sauce, popcorn, waffles, relishes, cookies, cornbread mixes, marshmallows, tea, coffee, spices, etc., each scent conflicting with the next, buyers reaching over each other for samples, food spilled on the carpet.

One day I wandered into the "Cash'n'Carry Jewelry" wing, (past "Seasonal" where it was Halloween and Christmas all at once) and entered another dimension. Vendors stood hawkish at the rear of each booth, behind the heaps of bracelets, necklaces, rings, hair ornaments, scarves, beads, most of it the cheapest of the cheap, all mass-produced on the other side of the globe. You didn't have to be a wholesale dealer to purchase, and there was no minimum requirement. Women were diving into the entanglement of bling, piling their trays with their must-haves. My jaw hung open in astonishment. I've never wanted jewelry less than I did then. My god. Is this really the world we inhabit?

So the next day (we haven't been busy, alas), I thought I'd go back down to Crazy Jewelry Land to see if it really was all as insane as I thought it was the day before, and it was, in fact, even more insane. I felt like I was taking notes for a master's thesis in social behavior.

I never want to buy anything again.

At 6pm, at the closing bell (as it were), thousands of exhibitors and buyers were dumped out into the streets, and I was in the middle of them all.

It felt like this:

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Say What?

This Associated Press story had me screaming with incredulity —

WASHINGTON (AP) — A "Death Star" won't be a part of the U.S. military's arsenal any time soon.

More than 34,000 people have signed an online petition calling on the Obama administration to build the "Star Wars" inspired super-weapon to spur job growth and bolster national defense.

But in a posting Friday on the White House website, Paul Shawcross, an administration adviser on science and space, says a Death Star would cost too much to build — an estimated $850 quadrillion — at a time the White House is working to reduce the federal budget.

Besides, Shawcross says, the Obama administration "does not support blowing up planets."

The U.S., Shawcross points out, is already involved in several out-of-this-world projects, including the International Space Station, which is currently orbiting Earth with a half-dozen astronauts.


$850 quadrillion???
I don't even know how many zeros that is.
And what a relief — we're not going to blow up planets!!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Have you ever notice that sometimes you can look in someone's face and see the child that they once were? And then there are those people in whose faces there is no remnant of child?

I looked at so many faces these past few days, and saw so few of the children these strangers once were. There was one couple — husband and wife — fifty-ish — and I could see with unquestionable clarity the little boy of five or six, in that man. His wife's face held nothing of her past, stripped clean, as it were. It was extraordinary, really, that each so clearly stated one or the other, and that each was so clearly opposite the other.

And I don't mean "baby-faced", as the saying goes. I mean that in certain people, there is the possibility of a glimpse of something from decades back, something still evident, a playfulness or an openness that so many of us lose, or, as a practice, send on its lonesome way.

Lovely, really.
The older the person, the more lovely.

I recall seeing it in my mother, in her gleeful moments, which were numerous.

And lucky I am, to remember it.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Formicidae, at Lanta

I've been blogging from my phone — a real pain on such a doll-house-sized keyboard, but internet service has been spotty. At an exhibitor's party tonight at the Capitol City Club, there was no service, zilch. I suppose rich southern gentlemen have more important things to do than check their email.
Currently this building is dwarfed by high-rises, and exists amidst the exhaust fumes of downtown traffic. We did, however, enjoy a few moments on the veranda in the 66-degree January evening. (Cough, cough.)

I sat on a red velvet couch beneath a massive oil portrait of this man —

— a Mr. Livingston Mims, who was elected mayor of Atlanta in October of 1900. (And another great name for a character in my not-gonna-happen great southern novel.)

America's Mart — the massive, multi-block many-leveled facility where this gift show is happening, feels like a massive ant pile. We connect from wing to wing in narrow tubular walkways, and our 150 square-feet booth seems like an ideal place to stash ant eggs.

Since our arrival on Tuesday, we have passed through the larval stage to the pupal stage, and will emerge as fully-fledged adults at 9am tomorrow morning when the show opens. We are of the caste of artists.

In this massive colony, there are literally millions of categories of "stuff" to be had. As we pass through the narrow corridors (with low ceilings), goods to be had to the left and to the right and seemingly-never-ending with every step, I get a little dizzy. Lose my true north.

Though there's no question which way is down —

Hold tight.
Here we go....

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Sitting at the bar last night, chatting with the great-grandson of Emma May, he said:

"Atlanta is 50% white and 50% black. Of those blacks, they are 50% good and 50% bad."

Hmmm. I took out a photo of  two young men, who are black, and said,

"These are my nephews."

I must say that it was with pleasure that I saw him squirm.

I guess, if my nephews lived here, they'd be among the 50% of blacks who are good.

The South is still The South, and racism is still racism.

Sure glad I can call Seattle my home.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

At Lanta



Stuck out here seven miles north of downtown in Hotel Land.

Up today at 3:19am waaaaaay tooooo early to catch a 6am plane.

Here's a name for you:

Emma Mae Suggs Calhoun

Gleaned from a bar conversation with a man (progenitor of Miss Georgia 2006) who claimed to have sold more hotels than anyone on the planet. Emma Mae was his great-grandmother, and if I ever become a Southern Novelist she will be my main character:

Emma Mae Suggs Calhoun.

But from the looks of it, I might as well just work her into a poem
because me + southern fiction ≠ anything.

The bellboy (or bellman, as it happened), wanted to know
if we were pleased with the results of our Washington state election.
Tee hee! He giggled as he left.

The hotel salesman told us that he came from generations of southern farmers
who always had a side crop of cannabis, for "spending money".

The farther away from home one goes, the smaller the world becomes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Winter doldrums are in full roar.

(an expression of boredom or apathy): We thought it would sell, but customers are saying “Meh!”
unimpressive; boring: The first few songs were meh.
bored or apathetic: I'm feeling a little meh.

1990-95;  popularized on the TV show
The Simpsons

Friday, January 4, 2013


My friend, the poet Paul Hunter (who can be found here) posted this on facebook today, :

“I sense the world might be more dreamlike, metaphorical, and poetic than we currently believe--but just as irrational as sympathetic magic when looked at in a typically scientific way. I wouldn't be surprised if poetry--poetry in the broadest sense, in the sense of a world filled with metaphor, rhyme, and recurring patterns, shapes, and designs--is how the world works. The world isn't logical, it's a song.” ― David Byrne, Bicycle Diaries

I like to think that this is the world I inhabit.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Less than a week until Melinda and I fly to Atlanta, and we're intensely occupied with painting a new design. It had me cursing repeatedly today — it takes some time to get to know the landscape of a new design, and I entered into Black Paint Hell.

I should mention, though, that it is always exciting to develop new work. M. is faltering with a completely new line. Stop. And go. Invention was never simple.

And on another bright note, our 2013 reserve orders are piling up. One gallery said they wanted exactly what we sent them last year — but doubled. No complaints!