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Monthly Archives: December 2016

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.

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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.

 

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Yesterday Andrew Meltzer, Operations Manager for SSP America and one of my several bosses, stopped by the host station at Matt’s Big Breakfast where I was on the job. He was there to hand-deliver an envelope enclosing three tangible forms of appreciation for my having worked for SSP one solid year.

One item in the envelope was a letter signed by Andrew and three other high-ups. The letter says in part “We applaud your hard work, passion and commitment. You have helped to show the world of travelers that the journey begins with you!” Isn’t that nice? There is a sincerity to it in light of the fact that ours is a high-turnover business, with average term of employment much less than one year. Cooks have a 100% chance of getting burned in one year; cashiers a 100% chance of stressful in-a-hurry overload, and hosts and servers a 100% chance of being insulted/belittled/sideswiped by those ungracious few who would like reality to warp in their favor, and blame the messenger when it doesn’t. I am proud to have survived this year. It was a thousand-obstacle Obstacle Course to do so. And among the many things I learned is to never use the disparaging term “burger-flipper” again.

The other items in the envelope were a handsome one-year anniversary pin, pictured above, and a gift card for use in any SSP America location in Phoenix. I’m thinking Pei Wei for the card. Their lettuce wraps are Yum incarnate.

The other super-cool thing that happened at work yesterday was showing co-worker Topher Hend the tattoo design I’d made at his request:

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Topher was really generous in his appreciation, thanking me over and over again. He’s also Shared the design on his Facebook page. He wanted this design as a memorial to his mother. I am honored that he asked me to help.

So–what a day, and what a year. Before this all started, I’d never been a restaurant host, and I’d never been a tattoo designer. It is odd to think of myself as either. Jobs do and do not define us. But the successful performance of one job or another adds to our pride, and to our power.

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I’ve been working on this drawing, drinking some cheap Lambrusco wine, and watching Don Cheadle’s performance as Miles Davis in MILES AHEAD. The Lambrusco reminds me a lot of the Boone’s Farm wine I drank in my teens. It’s like soda pop.

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis is good and believable and nothing like anything I’d ever seen him in before. The story is a little too car-chasey, druggy and gunshotty for unalloyed enjoyment, though the music keeps it really good.

As for this drawing, my good friend and fellow poet Bob Kabchef sent me three rare feathers from two exotic birds. Parrot and Macaw feathers were a welcome offset from the pigeon feathers I had been drawing. Then some hearts just came out of nowhere and drew themselves. And now it’s 3:52 AM and time to wrap this baby up.

Thanks again, Brother Bob!!

Hello, Friends. This blog began four years ago today. This is Blog Post #1,049.

Each previous anniversary post had as its theme retrospective reflection. This time round is different, or at most tenuously reflective. Perhaps the page is metaphorical of time and change. Here it is:

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Here is the poem the page illustrates:

a feather falls/a contrail quill

a feather falls
violently
disturbing a locus
of still air
turning it into
eddying swirls

above is another feather
of contrail quill
and hydrocarbon
barbules

Here is a page of life-or-death obviousness. It is imperfect in that it is far from universal, but redemptive in that it sifts away much unimportance.

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Here is a page filled with sketches made while viewing PAPA: Hemingway in Cuba.

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I am now older than Hemingway was when he ended his life. The events in the movie took place 18 months or more before Hemingway’s suicide, yet he is shown to have more than once come close to shooting himself long before his move to Ketchum, where his suicide took place.

Some of what motivated me to fill a page with the obviousness of a life was to draw comfort in spelling it all out. We DO wither, and there is more than physical withering. And we all say goodbye, if only with the fact of our discarded protoplasm.

I want to live a lot longer. I hope you do too.