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The above image was done during my viewing of Barack Obama’s farewell address. The text blocks are all derived from the speech he made.

As always, the President was poised and both plain-spoken and articulate. His speech made a fitting bookend to his inaugural speech eight years ago. In both, he emphasized inclusion and rejected exclusion, stressing positivity and involvement of the citizenry.

I would like to thank him for his service to our country. In particular, I want to express admiration for his unbelievable grace under pressure. He remained collected and thoughtful in the midst of incredible, stressful times. We will never know how another would have fared in his place, but my guess is that history will regard him as exceptional.

Drawing has been more difficult lately, and the results have not been good. (You do NOT want to see the Joni Mitchell attempt, for instance.) It will pass. The attached is the best of a bad bunch done this week.

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The umlaut forces ambiguity, as does the word split. The next one will be more unforced.

 

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Yesterday, browsing through the video at Red Box, CAFE SOCIETY, written and directed by Woody Allen, caught my eye. It had Jesse Eisenberg, Steve Carell, and Blake Lively in it. It also had Kristen Stewart, who was underwhelming in the only Twilight movie I saw, but she did a good Joan Jett. So, though my feelings about Woody Allen took a nosedive after being convinced that there was some substance to the claims of his pedophilia, I took CAFE SOCIETY home and watched it. It was well done, well written, and had excellent performances. But there were two or more elephants in the room of my head as I watched. A lot of guilt that I would enjoy a probable pedophile’s movie. And then there was the butterscotch schnapps I kept nipping at till it was gone, negatively impacting the drawings I was making while watching the movie, and darkening my thoughts about the movie’s twofold subtext, which I saw as Love Justifies Betrayal/Everyone Does Awful Things. At my tipsiest I reflected on the many horrible, rotten things I have done, a few while under the influence of alcohol or gambling or both, and felt deep shame. I also wondered if this latest Woody confection was his way of at once confessing and justifying his crimes.

Kurt Vonnegut was a reluctant fan of the author Celine, who was a Nazi sympathizer. I don’t know if I’m a Woody Allen fan any more.

 

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Parts 1 and 2 of this series detailed the provenance of the developing image. A work crisis loomed. Employer wanted a certain number of hours from the employee during holiday time. Employee would not receive the Social Security benefit for that month working those hours, as income would exceed maximum allowed.

The crisis is resolved. The employee called in, not sick, but unavailable, two of the days of the month. One of the days was Christmas Eve. This absence on Christmas Eve meant, per the union contract, that the employee would not receive holiday pay for work performed on Christmas Day. That reduced the monthly income by slightly more than 4 hours’ work. There was also continual encouragement of the employer to save payroll money by sending the employee home early if things were slow.

The employee, myself, consequently will receive the Social Security benefit. The employer, SSP America, did not suffer overmuch for my absences. Win-win!

Here is a variant of the final version of the now-framed image, showing relief on two of the faces of the image.

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An “X Marks the Spot” map is useless when the treasure lies at Z.

Out Wit The Old

Obtain a twisty turn then Lo
Upon his Life its Name her Soul
The fittest future will unfold

Here are two pieces of paper. One is a map, folded to fit a glove compartment. One is a blank, folded for aerodynamics. Follow the path on the map and you arrive at an expected place. Toss the paper airplane into the air on a windy day and go whither it will and if you are paying attention, you will be looking at Earth and Sky and Traveler instead of crude or nonexistent approximations thereof. No matter what the obstacles along the way, you will learn improvisational skills following the glide path.

There are two puns in this acrostic. One is in the title, a corruption of “Out with the Old.” The other may not be obvious to any but engineers, statisticians, bodybuilders, employers, or doctors. “Fittest” is splittable into “fit test.” Our lives are one Fit Test after another, deciding upon a course of action and then seeing how good a fit it is with Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. Some of us ignore the results of the Fit Test and keep on doing the same old dysfunctional thing. Those who grow into physically, ethically, and spiritually fitter beings check their Fit Test results often, and, sometimes painfully, abandon a given dysfunctional path and seek one more suitable. Comfort with dysfunction can be deadly. Dissatisfaction with subpar results is an important step on the lifelong quest to outwit the old.

About eight years ago an arsonist set fire to the grass by the back fence of the house where I lived with my then-wife and still-daughter. Before the FD arrived the aluminum shed by the fence, and most of its contents, were destroyed. The remnants were put in another shed.

This week my now-former wife Joni and I made a deal: I would clear out the shed sufficient space for my kiln, potter’s wheel and other art supplies, and then some, and I would be able to keep them there until I found a home for them. (My current apartment is unsuitable.) While doing the clearing out I found three fire-damaged but interesting items that hearkened back to my long-distance running days.

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Here is an undated, unsigned page with two drawings on it. The upper left is a slight aerial view of runners at a race, probably at or near the starting line. The lower right is Mary Decker, who was declared Sportswoman of the Year by Sports Illustrated in their double issue at the end of 1983. (Since then she became Mary Decker Slaney.) I did this page in the mid-80s, most likely in 1984, the year I finished my first marathon. From 1982, the year of my first 10K, to 1993, I participated in more than 50 footraces.

The drawings show my draughtsmanship strengths and weaknesses at the time. I had excellent eyesight and a steady hand. I would not be able to do the pen-and-ink Mary Decker drawing, whose arrow is only 4-1/2 inches in length, today, at that scale and with such detail: I’ve lost both visual acuity and dexterity. But I do tend to finish what I started MUCH more than I did then. Both of these drawings are unfinished, and though there is a freshness and charm to that, there is also unprofessionalism.

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This is a letter I wrote to my cousin Livia Householder. She and I ran the 1986 MetroChallenge 10K, a course that looped around the then-thriving MetroCenter Mall, while she was visiting from California. I was giving her the benefit of my three years’ serious running experience. Alas, we did not run the MetroChallenge in 1987.

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Here are George Gilman, friend and fellow Glendale High School graduate, and I approaching the optional finish line of a race that came to be called P.F. Chang’s Rock & Roll Marathon. (I forget what it was called the year we ran it, which I think was either 1992 or 1993.) We had just decided to call it a race at the half-marathon point and not circumvent the finish line to do the second half. George is wearing a shirt he and I both earned doing America’s Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego. I’m wearing a shirt he and I and Dr. Augusta Simpson, another classmate, all earned in a half-marathon in Glendale whose name escapes me, whose course, near what was then the Thunderbird School of International Management, included a lot of rugged desert terrain, including dry washes and cross-country up&downs. That race was either 1991 or 1992.

These images speak of a time in my life that I am not quite sure is over. I hope to get back into running. Last year I managed to jog more than a mile a few times, but I could tell I was playing with fire. If I can get my weight down to 160, my running days will resume.

Today  my daughter Kate treated me to a Netflix binge-watching of LUKE CAGE, and a theater viewing of the new Star Wars movie ROGUE ONE. She also brewed me some coffee and took this picture of me with my coffee cup:

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When I say “my coffee cup,” it is and isn’t. I made the cup a little more than 16 years ago. It is signed and dated on the bottom, thus:

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Though it’s dated October 9, 2000, the signature and date were done when the ware was in the greenware stage. It was then bisque fired, glazed, and glaze fired. I would guess the finished product came out of one of the gas kilns at Phoenix College right around the end of October, 2000.

The cup is ungainly and otherwise imperfect, especially its handle, but it feels friendly to the grip and its lip meets mine warmly. But when I say it is and IS NOT mine, that’s to say that the cup resides with Joni, my ex-wife, and Kate, our daughter and Joni’s co-tenant. When Joni and I declared divorce, which was finalized five years and two days ago, I left and the cup stayed. It is only when I come around to the place I lived for more than 22 years that I get to see and interact with this cup.

But I do have full visitation rights, and bragging rights: This is Exhibit A to establish that I can make a coffee cup with my bare hands, with or without the use of a potter’s wheel. (One of my coil-built cups would be Exhibit B.) I fully intend to make more cups in 2017, which would end a more than two years’ hiatus. I miss being One With Ware.