Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Help Me Help You

Haven’t posted a blog in a while, but that will change this week.

Frenzy. That’s the goal for this week. All out creativity activity in an effort to end the endless ennui of having days and weeks

 

 

blondie-s-pizzaand months fly by — and oh do they fly in the “senior” years — with the sadness of getting what feels like very little done.

Now I have published my first two books in the last eight months — a life-long dream come true, even if neither qualifies (yet) as ‘The Great American Novel’. I have Facebook friends and Twitter followers way closer to that reality than me. Still, two books. And I have had a couple of public showings of some of my art, both at New Seasons markets  in various Portland, OR locals. I’ve done a few new paintings during that time — and I’m still waiting on the writing/painting simultaneous thing to show up.

But the fact remains that at the end of each day I’ve been blessed with, at the end of each of those weeks, I have the distinct feeling of wasted time. Way too much wasted time. This is not me being hard on myself. This is not me ignoring easy does it. This is simply the fact, Jack.

 

So yesterday, sometime during my daily morning ritual of up at 5:30, sit for 10 – 20 minutes in a rather hilarious half-assed version of “meditation”, drink two cups of coffee while reading something useful (spiritual, inspiring, rewarding) and/or looking at a book of art, then down to the basement for three “morning pages” in a wide-ruled notebook, sometime within that period yesterday I had the decision come upon me that the next week — Sunday, today, through Saturday — I was going to dramatically amp up my creative efforts and social media involvement and general gifting to the Universe with my unique gifts and express myself, and late last night I drew up a chart I could check off and follow and visually confront myself with evidence of any slacking, which in this case translates to lying to myself. And how low is that. Or, hopefully progress.

 

 

So you’ll “see” more of me this week, here and there, and I’ll likewise be invisible and missing in (your) action for long stretches while writing, drawing, painting, brainstorming, etc, etc, etc.

But I will be back right here tomorrow with some specifics about just what exactly is in the works.

A bientot.

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Finish it, will ya!

20140817_090403I have this problem. With my writing. I can’t seem to finish things. Actually, “can’t” is probably the wrong word. A better word is “don’t”. So as not to let myself off the hook. I could, in fact, finish things — books, stories, novellas — but I tend not to. I don’t.

Which is a problem, a problem that is entirely, one hundred percent, ain’t no sharing here, on me. I suppose I could deflect some of this obvious personal character defect — my parents weren’t tough enough, too much sparing the rod and spoiling the child; teachers all along the way didn’t push me, didn’t motivate me, didn’t raise the bar for me; I fell in with a crowd at an early age that was more interested in quality testing of various liquid refreshments like Haffenreffer Private Stock and Chianti (with those cool, round, basket-weave coverings that we used for hip candle holders) and Tango; that I grew up in an age that idolized endless wandering and meandering.

But that would be punking out. I worked for a youth program in San Francisco for a while, with lots of cool, righteous, ‘you are responsible for you’ sayings. One of them was “Own Your Own”. It’s a good one, and I get it and accept it, which means that as far as my starting and not finishing writing projects goes, it is my problem. It’s all about me.

I don’t know why that is, this failure to finish. I suppose a good therapist might help me puzzle it out in three or four years. But, I’m a struggling artist and wannabe writer with very little in the way of money, so that’s not an option.

Which is why I am writing this post. To ask for help. Yours. I need your help.

Let me give a few examples, and I’ll be brief because there’s some other stuff I want to do.

A little over a year ago, after a drive-through with my son Cameron and his family, I wrote a story about a trout farm, and some strange, lethal going ons there. I set the story just outside Astoria, on the Oregon coast and Columbia River. The story was just under 9000, not all that long but not short either. A couple of weeks later I had an idea for another story, about what happens when you drink too much coffee at night, and set that one in Astoria too. Soon after a “Duh” moment occurred, and I realized I could write a book of short stories — I settled on eleven — all set in Astoria, which would be my first ever book, “Astoria Strange”. I plugged along, took a fiction writing class at Portland State, kept writing, and sometime in June finished the 10th story, “Texas Two-Step”.

By that time, in mid-June, I had written just under 130,000 words, had completed ten stories, awaiting re-write and revision. This morning, October 7th, while meditating in the pre-dawn dark (where I usually sit in a chair for 20 minutes or so and think about the Red Sox and other stuff), the thought came to me, in bright neon signage, that I was a story short from writing my first ever book, here in my seventh decade on the planet, and three months had passed since the last one. Double duh.

Here’s another example. I began a short story for a specific submission request that required some kind of apocalyptic event and a leading character with a disability long ago, early summer (just when I was not finishing my book). Very quickly I passed the limit of words that particular submission allowed, and kept going. I went past 10,000, I went past 20,000, I went past 30,000. I knew I had my first ever novella in the making, under then name “Ring Around the Rosy”, and realized, hopefully without arrogance, that it was pretty damned good. But somewhere in August the writing slowed down. I did manage, in late September, to pass 40,000 words, but the steam was running out of my engine. Rosy and her friends were staring at me, pleading for resolution. Total duh.

Instead, I began another story, for another submission, and it’s 4000 words down on the basement computer. It’s been there a while. I wrote, last Saturday, a flash fiction piece of 1200 words and sent it off the same day. See — I can finish stuff.

I should also mention that I have, sitting somewhere in the electrical innards of this computer, the beginnings of two other novels, both begun last winter — one about a young man with polio in Berkeley who is becoming a Jim Rockford character, and another about a kid from Wareham, Massachusetts who drinks too much, suffers a head injury, and begins having premonitions and visions, which will lead him on a long journey to a bar in Santa Monica, CA, where he spends his time, not drinking, but doing something else.

I don’t know what. Yet. I don’t know how the “Rosy” story ends. Yet. I don’t know what story to tell for my 11th and final “Astoria” story. Yet. I don’t know how Bennie in Berkeley rescues the runaways in the Tenderloin. Yet.

I say “Yet”, with great hope, that the endings will come, happy or not, and I will finish these projects. Instead of starting another one. And then another one.

I don’t know what’s wrong, with me. So I am asking for your help. All suggestions, opinions, diagnoses, go jump in the lakes, any of it will be greatly appreciated.

Right now I need to get back to this painting I’m working on.


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Lou Christie Got It Right

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is called “Lightning”.

I remembLightning_Hunter_I_by_desEXigner sacred places from my childhood. They come to me as my fingers rest of the keyboard keys, they come like lightening flashes outside the window in the dark night. They come and then they are gone. If I have a job with these memories it is to hold on to them for just a while, the best I can. They are mine to enjoy. And to learn from. Sometimes, even, to share.

Today is the first day of the rest of my life. That is true, technically. That very sentence was written by me in my morning pages two months back, after a dawn rain and hail storm had cleared Portland, and strands of blue sky were peaking in from the west. There was no lightening or thunder, we don’t get much of those here. In fact, with the exception of a single flash of lightening in the middle of the afternoon that Monday when I was sitting in Papaccino’s Coffee Shop, I cannot remember the last flash of lightening or boom of thunder here in Portland. So while today may be in fact the first day of the rest of my life, I am thinking about Monday, 64 days back, and as my fingers touch these keys, I look back to a tremendous thunder storm in 1979. I was on the back porch of Bob and Joanne Hallett’s apartment in Somerville, MA. The apartment was in the Winter Hill section of Somerville, and the land there was elevated. You could look out back toward the north and west, and on this afternoon the frontal boundary of an ominous thunder storm was clearly defined as it moved from the northwest toward us. As it neared the lightening got brighter and sharper, plunging straight down to the ground, running sideways across the sky. And the thunder became louder and so much louder.

If you have lived most anywhere in this country other than the west coast you know what I am talking about. You can sum up all your bravery and prepare yourself and say, “what, me worry?”, and still without any doubt have the crap scared out of you when a lightening flash is followed almost immediately by the ripping,crackling, crashing sound of thunder close by. Sometime when I was much younger, a child, someone told me that the sound of thunder was really the Gods bowling up in the clouds. Who knows? All you know is that thunder and lightning close together are very scary.

I lived and worked in Florida for nearly five years, combining two moves to the Sunshine State. Talk about thunder and lightening. Here is how it would go. You would get up and it would be hot, Florida summer hot. You would go to work, in my case as a juvenile delinqunecy case manager some of the time, as a landscaper and lawn cutter the other times. As the afternoon rolled around the clouds would roll around too, and roll in. And often so too would the storms. It would be a hazy bright looking overhead, but off in the distance the sky would turn a dark gray bordering on black and you knew you were in for it. The wind would whip up, the temperature would drop, cats and dogs and frogs and buckets would come flooding down from the sky, and it would get flashy bright, and very loud. Then, quite likely, in 15 minutes the sun would be shining overhead again.

I lived most of my Florida time in and close by New Smyrna Beach, just south of Daytona. New Smyrna Beach is in Volusia County, and Volusia County is on record for having the most lightening strikes annually IN THE WORLD. Let me sing a little Lou Christie here: “Lightning striking again and again and again and again.”

The scariest time I have ever been in a car from a job interview in Hickory, North Carolina through South Carolina on my way back to New Smyrna Beach. I was traveling southeast out of Columbia, and just as I was connecting with Route 95 and south to Florida a thunderstorm chased me down from the west. The thunder and lightning were bad, bad enough, but the rain came in a deluge, harder and harder, and now on 95 I was unable to see two feet in front or to the sides of my car. Who will I hit, who will hit me? Eighteen wheelers rushing past, skidding up more walls of water. Eventually I pulled off, ever so slowly, into the brakedown lane, expecting to hit someone I couldn’t see parked there, or be hit by someone who couldn’t see me. Finally at rest I waited in the rain until the storm passed on east toward the coast, then crawled back onto the highway and motored my way home.

Originally this blog was intended as a way to honor sacred, childhood places – the basement dug out under the big white barn in the yard down the street, the woods in back of Donnie Sisson’s house, Pinehurst Beach and the way biking there, Mill Pond. Instead, with a casual remark about memories like lightening flashes, the story took off on me, went it’s own way, did it’s own thing, required of me only the pressing of certain keys in a pre-ordained order. I could say that the story changed because I was writing about kid things, and the idea of being scared by thunder and lightning is just a kid thing.

But I would be fibbing.


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Rambling Rose

I take this quote from the book “The Law Of Attraction” by Esther and Jerry Hicks:

Amy9The greatest gift that you could ever give another is the gift of your

expectation of their success.”

Dig it.

After I had quit Salem State College for the second time – on my way to earning my four-year Bachelor’s degree in a tidy seven years – I rolled back up to Salem from a period of alcohol and drug devotion on Cape Cod and ran into my friend Bob Hanson. He told me that the college had just initiated a new major in Social Welfare, that he had changed his study to that major, and that I – repeated quitter – should too. For me that meant moving first from General Studies. Then to English. Then to Education. And now to Social Welfare. I thought about it for five or six seconds and said, “Sure. Sounds like a great idea.” Such was the careful and extended degree of thought I gave to my career and life vocation choice.

When I finally got through that seven year period, in the late spring of 1974, I embarked – fumbling and hiccuping and bouncing all the way – on a 35-year career in human services. Serving humans.

I fell into my first human services position right out of college, a summer day camp gig for the House Of Seven Gables Settlement House in Salem, supplemented by evening work at their teen drop-in center. When the fall came I was offered a position working with teenagers in East Boston. Some of those kids had really bad attitudes and I didn’t last there long. Quit one night and didn’t come back. A few months later I was offered a position as an awake overnight counselor at a runaway house on the grounds of Danvers State Hospital. This is where I met Bob Zimmerman, who offered me the job, and I began a life-long friendship and main vein connection with him that only ended when he left us three years ago. Through him I met Dr. Doug Martin, and I have gushed about them both often here on this blog, in tales named “67Blondies” and “Hunter” and “Please Give the Keys To Florence” and “A Flagstaff Meeting” and “Old Pine Trail” and more. Doug’s gone too. They were two men who truly gave the gift of expecting success for and to others. Always. Their contributions to the planet grow, and glow, to this day.

Anyway, the runaway house closed when the funding ran out and I worked for the Tri-Town Council on Youth and Family Services north of Boston as a school outreach worker. Then after a pizza selling gig in Venice Beach, California – where I had followed Bob – back to Massachusetts and on the adolescent team at a psych hospital north of Boston. After six months there I took, in fact, a three-year leave of absence from the non-profit world to cover girls’ high school sports for a daily newspaper in Newburyport, MA – wrote under the name ‘Winston Cushman Jr’ – and became – gosh – wildly successful elevating the perception of personal success based as much on effort and devotion as natural talent to a large group of young women and their families. I did some of that same kind of writing for a paper in San Clemente, CA too. Then an alcohol and drug counselor back north of Boston. Then a counselor at The New England Home For Little Wanderers. Then down south to serving humans as a juvenile delinquency officer in Deland, Florida, and a street worker in Daytona Beach, then back north as an Assistant Director at a residence for slightly crazy kids in Quincy, MA, then a Director for my longest-running job ever – a little under four years – at a residence for barely crazy young adults just outside Boston. Then off to run a residential program for court-referred kids in San Francisco, then running a permanent housing program for HIV positive, AIDS infected men and women in Provincetown, MA, then a respite foster care program in Portland, Oregon, followed by an administrator position for persistently and chronically mentally ill women in East Portland. And from there, doo wop, art, writing, and Social Security.

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A Flagstaff Meeting

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “A Flagstaff Meeting”.

On a cold January morning in 2006, early and while it was still dark, I walked down the three flights of stairs from my apartment on Joy Street in West Medford, Mass for the last time, climbed into my severely loaded Ford Taurus, turned right onto High Street, over to Route 60, out to Route 2, up to Route 128, down to the Mass Turnpike, up to Route 84, left into Connecticut, over across to the beautiful country of eastern New York state near Newburgh, into the Quaker state and left onto Route 81, then punched it and barreled down all afternoon through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and into Virginia, eventually turning off the highway before dinner to find a motel room just beyond the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. I was due for a good night’s sleep because the night before I had slept on the floor in the bedroom of my otherwise completely empty West Medford apartment, the furniture picked up by a mom and pop moving company in Roslindale a day earlier, to be stored until I called from California with a shipping address. I had made the moving company deal for approximately $1400 but ended paying only $400 when the furniture was delivered four weeks later to my new home in a basement apartment in the Berkeley hills, from where when I walked a few hundred yards I could see the San Francisco Bay stretched out before me, the luscious red of the glimmering Golden Gate Bridge standing sentry before the Pacific. I’ll tell the story of the $1000 discount another time. It’s a fun story.

I was on my way to get situated in the East Bay, having rented on and through Craigslist the basement apartment in Berkeley, in preparation to begin my pending job as the Director of Adolescent Services for Walden House in the Lower Haight section of San Francisco. I was to begin on Martin Luther King’s birthday, the 16th that year, and was giving myself time to take the dead-of-winter ride on a southern route across the country, Route 40, and stay with my best friend Bob Zimmerman, his wife Ann, and their son Gabe in El Cerrito for two weeks until my furniture arrived. Did I mention my furniture arriving a month later is a fun story?

My second day of driving found me taking a right and turning west onto said Route 40 just west of Knoxville, Tennessee. There would be no more turns other than motel exits until Barstow, California, three days later. I crossed over the Mississippi River in the midst of a brilliantly shaded Memphis sunset and drove a while longer into Arkansas and my second night of highway respite. Up early the next morning, there’s Little Rock way over there on my left, and into Oklahoma and a stop in Oklahoma City and the memorial site to the bombing. It is a powerful and sad place. After an hour or so I moved on toward Amarillo for the night, but my experience buying gas and questioning at a couple of motels sent me flying out of that city and into the deepening night until I finally found a wonderful motel and family-owned diner in the town of Vega, Texas, population 800, literally in the middle of nowhere.

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Both Sides Of the Street – Writing 101

I wonder what that police car is doing in front of Mrs. Pauley’s house? And who those other people are? Something doesn’t seem right.

I know Mrs. Pauley has been very sad since Mr. Pauley died right after last Christmas. I felt bad for her then, and Mom said that when a person has been living with another person for so long that when one of them dies or goes away the other person gets kind of lost, Mom said like a part of them is missing. I bet that is what happened with Mrs. Pauley. She hasn’t seemed as happy since then.

But something seems wrong over there now. The two cops are inside of the house and there are other cars outside. Wait, now there is a big moving truck parking behind the police car. What the hell. The cops are coming back outside with Mrs. Pauley, they both have one of her arms, and they are taking her down to their cruiser. Another guy, and he is dressed up like a real jerk, is going into her house. Now two guys from the moving truck are going in. This looks like a bunch of crap. I’m going over there.

“Mrs. Pauley, what’s going on?”

“It’s okay Jimmy.”

“Why are the cops here, and why are the moving guys here? What’s going on?

“Son why don’t you go back over to your side of the street. There’s nothing for you here.”

“I spend as much time on this side of the street as the other side Officer, and Mrs. Pauley is my friend, so I want to know what is going on.”

“What’s going on is that Mrs. Pauley isn’t going to be living here anymore, she has a new place to live, and we are helping her out. Now head back over across the street.”

“Is that right Mrs. Pauley, they are helping you move to a new house? I didn’t know you were moving. I don’t want you to move. You have the best Halloween candy, and the coolest green witch’s mask. No one else around here dresses up. It’s like you are one of us kids Mrs. Pauley. And I still use the fishing pole you gave me after Peter graduated from his college and moved away. I don’t want you to go. And why are you crying?”

“It’s just a little sad to leave after all these years Jimmy. I will miss you, you are a good boy. Be sure to say goodbye to your Mama for me.”

“You heard the lady kid. Head back home.”

I think I’m going to sit on my steps all day, and keep guard on Mrs Pauley’s house. I think I might not want to be a policeman anymore too, those guys were jerks, and I don’t think they were really here to help Mrs. Pauley. Maybe I’ll be a fireman. Or maybe I’ll be a lawyer, so I can protect people like Mrs. Pauley.  This stinks.

 


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Practically Not Scared – Writing 101

“Wuzzup Dirk Kenneally?”

“I’m scared.”

“Whaddaya scared of, you little chickenshit?”

“I’m scared a being scared. That’s wuzzup.”

“Scared a bein’ scared? What da fuck that supposed to mean? Scared a bein’ scared my ass.”

“Don’t you get it Gerald? Scared of being scared means I might not do something that’s right ina front of me that I outta do. Something maybe really good. Really, really good. But I chicken out because I’m scared, so I don’t do it. And then I don’t get another chance for that.”

“Told you you was a chickenshit. I’m not scared of anything.”

“That be bullshit Gerald. You’re lyin’. What about when we went to the ocean three weeks back, you and me and Rosalee and Janet? And you were afraid of gettin’ in the water, ‘fraid of a little damn wave when we all said we would be tryin’ body surfing? Not scared my ass.”

“Dude, did they flush allaya brains down the toilet the day you was born? I could drown in the ocean, specially at Rehobeth with them big ass waves. Not goin’ into the water isn’t bein’ scared. That’s bein’ practical.”

“Gerald, you are too much. I swear. Okay, you asked me what Ima scared of. The answer is nothin’. When I don’t do somethin’ right in fronta me, somethin’ maybe really great, maybe even some great adventure, I ain’t scared. Ima just bein’ practical.”

“There you go shithead. There you go.”