Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Art from the Heart

There's a place in North Carolina, near Holden Beach, called Mary's Antiques and Folk Art.  Used to be it was called Mary's Gone Wild.  And when Wendy and I first discovered her place a dozen or more years ago, it was called something else.

Way back then we were driving along, looking for bookstores, coffee shops, and just anything unusual.  And, there it was.  I don't remember who was driving, but out of the corner of my eye I saw this color explosion of odd miscellany hanging from trees, and scattered around the yard.  We had to pull over.

What we found was the work of a true honest-to-goodness folk artist.  Paint cans and broken glass painted in wild colors, window frames in various states of brokenness propped up against trees, signs collected from everywhere, odd assortments of Christmas lights strung from trees to buildings back to trees, tree-houses with doll furniture, and gospel music blaring away from a speaker.

And then, there was Mary.  Always smiling, dressed as colorfully as the conglomeration of objects she painted.  I asked her if any of her art was for sale.  She said she'd take 10 or 20 dollars for something if I liked it.  Wendy and I found an odd piece and handed her a 20.

That's Mary.  You can't go to her place without coming away smiling or laughing.  She's a living testament to the true creative spirit.  No art classes?  No materials?  Not a problem.  She takes what other people throw away, paints it, glues it to something else, and hangs it from a nail.  Voila!  Art.

We went back there four or five years ago.  Mary was still there, creating, smiling.  Her husband Paul had added more odd buildings on the property, and Mary kept filling the buildings with her creations.  They had built bottle houses, bottle ships, and a bottle pool.  There was also a Coca-Cola house.

We have some of her work hanging on the fence in our backyard. Someday it will deteriorate. And that would be okay with Mary. She’s not concerned about preserving it. She’ll just make more art.

If you ever make it to North Carolina along Holden Beach, stop by Mary's.  Click here to see some of her work: https://roadtrippers.com/stories/marys-gone-wild-folk-art-and-doll-museum-is-home-to-over-6000-dolls.

Keep writing, friends.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Supermarket Words

We woke up (Wait... is it more correct to just say woke, without the 'up'? Or should I say we awoke? I'm never sure. Need to look that up. Hmm... up gets used a lot.), and decided to go to Joseph-Beth this morning for breakfast. It's actually Joseph-Beth Booksellers, but that's too long. So we just say Joseph-Beth. Or Jo-Beth.

Anyway, we went there and had a great view of the pond outside, and had an opportunity to see duck social dynamics in action. We watched a mother duck with her eight kids, but the most interesting show was of an awkward threesome. There was a mallard female (we think), her mate (we think), who was a white duck, and an interloper mallard male. From our point-of-view the male mallard kept making improper advances toward the female mallard. The white duck kept chasing off the male mallard, but finally the male and female mallards flew off together to hang out in the motel swimming pool nearby. It was a regular duck soap.

At any rate, we hit the supermarket next. And one of the items we searched for was a jar of capers, which set me thinking (unfortunately). I did not subject Wendy to my runaway train of thought, so I have to release it here. Apologies.

I don't know why the 1960s Batman series never had one of our regular villains plan a heist of a caper shipment.It would have been the Caper Caper. And, of course, Batman and the Boy Wonder and aforementioned super-villains would have capered about in their colorful undies during the fight sequences. Capricious, I know, but there it is.

Also in the store, I spied a jar of Eggplant Appetizer. Apparently, it's something you apply to eggplant. But the word appetizer I've always had trouble with. The definition says it's a first course that's supposed to stimulate your appetite, but all that's happened when I eat an appetizer is that I get full. Then I don't want the meal. Seems to me it's an anti-appetizer. What they should do is not serve an appetizer before a meal to make everyone hungry. That would be a non-appetizer.

Stay tuned for the next post when I'll write about our trip to a bookstore, where we perused the non-books.

Sorry, folks, but I'm feeling much better now.

Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Whadda Ya Mean I Can't See Through Stuff?

Had a buddy of mine several years ago who took a trip to New York City. He saw all the sights, did all the checklist stuff. But the story that got the most attention when he returned wasn’t about what worked out, but what didn’t work out. But in a good way.

He bought a Rolex from a guy on the street. Yup. And when he got home he was smiling about it. And we were laughing about it. Because he knew it was a fake before he bought it. Paid five bucks for it knowing it wouldn’t work.

Buying a Rolex from a guy on the street, especially if it’s in NYC, is a story. A legend. Someone a long while back bought that first innard-less Rolex, bad for him, good for us storytellers. If my friend had returned from New York with a fully-functioning Rolex, would we care? Nope. But a defective Rolex? Storytime.

Now, I didn’t go to New York, and I didn’t buy a busted Rolex. I did, however, find a pair of X-Ray Specs at our local Goodwill. Remember them? Used to see them advertised in comic books when we were kids, along with all the other kid stuff. And yes, I sent off for a pair when I was a kid. And nope, they didn’t do what I thought they’d do. I couldn’t see through anything. All they did was make a translucent outline around whatever I was looking at. But just like the five dollar Rolex, it made for a good story.

True enough, like the first defective Rolex buyer, I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but it evolved. The story, that is. And like a shared memory, all of us who had bought the sea monkeys, or the throw-your-voice kit, or the plastic tri-color sheet that could turn your black-and-white set into a color TV, we told the stories, adding to them, embellishing them. So, yep, I had to buy them when I saw them at the Goodwill the other day.

And they work just as well as they did way back when.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

To Comma or Not to Comma

Yes, that is the question. And the answer is, it depends.

I have a tendency to toss in commas like garlic powder. Which I happen to like. A lot. So, as I'm in the midst of editing my novel for randomly and liberally sprinkled commas, what I find helpful is to read passages out loud. I know I've brought that up before, but it's a vital part of editing.

And, one of my other idiosyncrasies is to begin sentences with "And," and "But," then slap a comma after the word. I started to use it just with certain characters in my book, thinking it would be an interesting character trait (or defect), but what I've noticed is that it often makes them sound like they're quoting Captain Kirk from Star Trek. "You, know, Spock, with a, dramatic pause, after a, couple of, words." So, watch those, commas.

There's also the... ellipsis... which is effective for pauses, but can... put your readers to sleep.

Keep writing, friends.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Where are the Rattlers?

Dancin' at the Reptile Zoo
You just can't beat a good reptile zoo. And while this one didn't have everything promised, it was still fun.

Wendy and I headed to Natural Bridge State Park today, a Monday, for an overnighter. And what should we see while heading there but one of my old favorite places to visit from when I was a kid, but a reptile zoo. Of course, these days, having seen my share of tilt houses, mystery spots, all manner of ghostly places, I told her, "Don't expect too much, hon."

Ah, but it was great to see one again. Somehow we (or, rather, I) had the impression I'd see brown recluses, black widows (not snakes, but, hey, venomous critters are venomous critters, and still appeal to the five-year-old in me... as long as they're in their glass cages), rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral snakes. But, no, we saw a couple of cages of corn snakes, perhaps a copperhead, a king snake, and a few others I couldn't identify, all napping on top of one another in piles like kittens. A couple of aquariums of local fish and turtles completed the exhibit.

No, I didn't get to see any rattlesnakes, or coral snakes, or other poisonous creatures. But it did take me back to the days I'd holler for my parents to stop at one of those roadside places. And in my malleable memory, I remember riding on the back of a Galapagos Turtle, staring at a cobra, and watching a pit full of alligators.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

If it was a Golden Goose, Maybe it was a Golden Ticket

Happened on this little newsworthy headline today:
Man uses plastic bat to defend son from goose, gets ticket.

This bit of news is so much fun, I hardly know where to begin. But I will.

First off, those department store plastic bats like they used in the old "B" vampire flicks are sort of floppy. I'd think one of those wouldn't be too effective. I believe I'd try a live bat. But they're kind of bitey, so that wouldn't be too good, either. Of course, maybe they mean a plastic baseball bat? Not sure.

Also, who goosed the man's son? And why? What happened to provoke the gooser? Did the goosee goose the gooser to set off the whole incident. It's really not clear, is it? Or are they referring to the bird variety of goose?

What kind of ticket did the man get? Concert ticket? Baseball ticket?

But wait. There's more....

The man stated that the goose "...chased his son...", and that the goose was "clearly attacking" the boy. Not just attacking, but "clearly attacking". Obviously, plainly, and evidently attacking. So, what we have here is a goose expert.

Ah, yes, but anyway....Always remember, folks. Be precise in your writing. That way, when you've been goosed, you'll know what kind of bat to use so you'll receive the appropriate ticket.

Keep writing, friends.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Don't Wabi My Sabi

Yep, I like wasabi with my sushi.

Oh, wait, it's not wasabi. It's one of the latest fad phrases to catch hold of us. In our staccato, ADHD world of new terms, wabi-sabi is one of the latest. Originating in Japan, it's the idea that impermanence and imperfection is okey dokey in art. And here all along, I thought that was what art was about, anyway.

Nothing's perfect in art. When you write something, you can always go back and see something that needs changing. In painting, a slip of the hand adds that extra brush stroke. Film? Editing problems. Photography? Too little, too much light.

We latch on to these bright, shiny expressions. Empowerment. When I worked for Long John Silver's in the 90s, that was the big, new word. Just meant giving yourself permission to forge on. Later, it was paradigm shift. That's looking at things differently. And in the writing world within the last few years, it was steampunk. That's just dressing up Jules Verne a little fancier.

Be wary of the Emperor's New Clothes, folks. You can say you're downsizing me, but I know when I've been fired.

Keep writing, friends.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

And Chaos was His Name-o

Ray Bradbury used to say (at least I think it was him) that whenever he needed a story idea, he looked around his office and picked up some random object, a personal treasure, and that would fire up the story-generator. Okay, Ray, perhaps that worked for you, but for me, I need to minimize the number of objects around me. I have more than enough cluttered chaos floating around in my noggin. Plenty of ideas up here, I just need to focus enough to get them on the laptop, then complete the damn things.

Here's an example: I wrote the above paragraph in my notebook last night. By hand. On paper. And I immediately thought of hitting the Alt key, then F, and S to save what I'd just written. See what I mean? Chaos.

Keep writing chaotically, friends.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Writer in the Park, III...

...forgot to mention earlier that it was blowing cool and breezy that first night when I wandered with Ernie to his home. Amana Heights.
"You ever been to Amana Heights, Stoph?" he asked.
Stoph is short for Stoffel, which is short for Christopher. We had too many Christophers in the family, so I shortened it to Stoffel, then shorter still to Stoph. Started off spelling it Stoff, but it evolved (or devolved) into Stoph.
"No, not that I recall, Ernie. I've never even heard of Amana Heights. Why's it called that?" I asked.
"Refrigerator boxes. That's my name for it because I have two refrigerator boxes. Most other folks around the area only have one. I'm kind of proud of it."
I believe he was.
So, anyway, we left the park, and had a bit of a walk through and industrial section. There was a chain-link fence we had to go through. Looked like a car ripped a gash through it.
"It had," Ernie said, when I asked him about it. "Shoulda seen it. Regular high-speed chase. I got several stories out of that. Made several dollars from those stories next day, writing them from different perspectives."

Go to these links to read parts I and II...


Keep writing, friends.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Writer in the Park, II...

... "Will you teach me?" I asked. Was there a whiny, plaintive note in my voice? The crowd that had gathered around Ernie left for the day, and he was packing up his gear to head home for the day, wherever home was.
"Your voice had a whiny, plaintive note to it," Ernie noted, Tom Swiftily. "And where did you pick up a question like that? 'Will you teach me?' How many times have you seen Karate Kid?"
"Too many times," I said, "But I think it came from Doctor Strange. Seen it?"
"Yes, I have," Ernie said, as he shook a Marlboro from a wadded cigarette pack. "Light?" he asked.
"No, sorry, man, I don't smoke."
"Okey doke," and he stuck the unlit cigarette in the torn shirt pocket. "And, we won't waste any time with the usual jazz where I make you prove yourself. Yup, I'll teach you. C'mon." And he hopped down from his picnic table perch with surprising dexterity. "Oh, and when you write this story later on, don't say something about me hopping down with surprising dexterity. Find one word to replace two."....

Keep writing, friends.