Tuesday, November 25, 2008

super steve's a tom waits...

super steve

This guy takes his balloon animals seriously. And they last for weeks. He says it's because he's learned how to handle the ballons gently. And that penguin he's holding, it's brilliant. We see him at random spots in downtown Portland, and he's usually at the Saturday Farmer's Market on the PSU campus. He's Super Steve, he's a balloon artist, and he's a tom waits.

Friday, November 21, 2008

i don't know...


Okay. I'm at odds. I want to post a picture of the dog pancakes I made for Addie last weekend. I want to talk about the beauty of the simple things. But people all over the country are watching their worlds crash down. I'm especially worried about folks in Michigan .

My father grew up in Oklahoma during the depression. He was born in 1924 and so was a kid when the stock market crashed. All my life he downright refused to talk about his childhood. When I was six he told me he was born at the age 21 and I pondered that. Was he a man-sized baby or a baby-sized man? Could he talk immediately? Did he come out of his mother's stomach wearing a suit and shoes?

Of course I now understand that he meant his life really began at 21. That there were things about his childhood he wanted to escape. He never really talked about what those things were.

There is one thing he told me about his childhood. "When I was growing up I used to eat beans out of a can." He said it as a reprimand one night when I was crying and complaining about some middle class high school injustice -- I wasn't allowed out or, worse, wasn't allowed to drive the car. It was one short sentence but it said a lot. Disgust, regret, anger, sadness, distance-- but those are just guesses. I was left with the feeling that I would never really know what that sentence meant to him. That it was more powerful than I could ever understand. That it deserved respect.

And now, for the first time in my life, I think we could have another great depression. It is completely plausible that thousands and thousands of families could be left with no working parents, no income, and no place to live. And how long has it taken for the economy to tank? A couple of months? How in the hell did this happen?

I have some friends who, from time to time, have explained to me some theories developed by Rudolf Steiner. He had a lot of interesting, curious things to say about the world. Explanations that he believed were revealed to him from the spirit world. I don't know about that. Some of his theories stick with me, albeit probably poorly grasped and half-assedly retained. One is the theory that humans are evolving back toward a higher consciousness. That somewhere along the way we lost our connection with the spirit world. Maybe this financial downturn is a step in our evolution as humans. Maybe we'll finally move away from the "to be a good American you need to spend more" mentality. Maybe people will stop caring who Paris Hilton is dating and why Heff broke up with his girlfriends (I'm not there yet, I want to know…) Maybe this grassroots movement of home crafting, knitting, canning, making musical instruments from household objects, maybe this is gonna hit the mainstream. Maybe life is gonna get simpler.

My dad worked hard his whole life. He socked money away and, when he died, left it for his kids. He’s the reason I don’t have one of those screwy loans. He’s the reason I have a car that works and a good education. He’s the reason I can wake up groggy, but smiling, and make dog pancakes for my kid. He’s the reason I have the leisure to ponder the beauty of simple things.

dog pancakes

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

she's a tom waits

Okay. So I'm a little bit behind on my promised and much anticipated (thanks for reading, Nealla!) first installment on "Who's a Tom Waits?" I don't know Elsa Mora but her paper cuts blow me away. There is a deep kindness and heart in her postings and her artwork. Dang it. She's rocking the world in her own particular way. Hat's off to that! Check it out...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

who's a tom waits?

When RT and I moved in together (about 8 years ago or so) Rollie’s dog Angie came to live with us. She was a sweet mutt, somewhat wolf-like in appearance. She was an old dog when she came in to my life and I like to think that I put a sparkle back in to her twilight years. We walked our street twice a day, all the way down to the cider mill and back. She got lots of treats and lots of gentle talk.

RT had a game he played with her. It was called “Who’s a fawn?” Basically he’d ask her that, “Who’s a fawn?” while he touched her little gold eyebrows. Then he’d say “You’re a fawn.” You have to imagine his voice – not quite baby talk but tender and sweet with a little bit of goobie-goo thrown in. And you have to imagine her sweet face, happy for the attention but nonplussed. (I love the word nonplussed. An emotional word with a mathematical feel.)

So in honor of Angie, I’m launching the “Who’s a Tom Waits?” portion of my blog. It’s to be asked in the same tone. Sweet. With Goobie-goo.

As for why Tom Waits. Tom Waits has become my symbol of an artist who is an individual, artists who make art that no one else in the world can make. Artists who are fearless (or overcome their fears) to make honest art of true vision. (Not, necessarily, that the vision is truthful – although to me it seems that it usually is – but more in that the vision is true. Narrow and specific. True like a bicycle wheel.)

Really, I don’t need to explain Tom Waits to you. If you don’t know him, just listen and you’ll probably get it. The songs he writes, his voice, his arrangements, they are a particular view of the world. They’ve got intelligence, they’ve got balls and they’ve got heart (heart -- profoundly important.) They are art. They relieve people’s suffering. They impart joy. And they give me hope, for me and for my world.

And so soon I’ll launch my “Who’s a Tom Waits?”

I guess I should also say that I think we’re all Tom Waits’ (Pronounced “Waitses”) We’ve all got our own particular way of looking at the world. We’ve all got the goods inside to translate our world into art (whether it’s a nicely made sandwich, a straight yellow line painted on the highway, or a high falutin’ painting) that can affect other people, affect the world. And life is just the journey we take to find, or maybe a better word is uncover, what has been inside us all along.

How’s that for some goobie goo?