Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Scatttered, yes, But Clear.

There aren’t many people I feel connected with these days. As I make my day through the world – my world anyway. It’s accurate to say that there are very few people with whom I would want to spend any time. I have some friends – not many – but I do have some, and I cherish them. I think that at this point in my life, with many more years behind me than ahead, my choices, the way I’ve lived my life, my gypsy lifestyle, how I am as an introspective, comfortable being alone, re20140817_090403latively asocial character — well, that has resulted in very few friends, almost no one calling me, writing me, emailing me, texting me. I say this as, Walter Cronkite use to say, that’s the way it is. If you hear a “poor, pitiful me” in this then I haven’t written clearly, I haven’t said what I want to say.

And what I want to say – and saying it right – is a thing for me now, as a writer, a pretty big thing. I’m not always clear about it, exactly what I want to say or why I want to say it (for instance, I spent a long time yesterday writing a post for today’s Blog and then woke up with some doubts and after asking myself – What’s the goal? – I decided to throw it away. I’m not sure it was what I wanted to say, and clearly it wasn’t how I wanted to say it.) But it’s the goal.

The title of the post I wrote yesterday was “Not My Tribe”, and the point I was trying to make, in a rather deluded meandering way which including calling out all my Portland friends and fellow artists for not showing up at Saturday’s family Art Show, but that really wasn’t my goal and it is what it is, because what I was trying to speak to was my complete sense of distance from most of the people in this Country today and in particular people who support and voted for Donald Trump. As in, at this point in my life, the accumulation of all the experiences and all the people and all the feelings and perceptions, the whole stew, I have nothing in common with, other than the giant USA zip code, those people. They are not my people. They are not My Tribe. I wouldn’t want to sit next to them at a bar-b-que, I wouldn’t want my time at a coffee shop messed with in some casual conversation, even an overheard conversation. I have no use for bullies and racists and people insensitive to the joy of difference and the bedrock principal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, the idea that people have a right to live their lives and love who they want, the crazy notion that its possible there’s not an even playing field for everyone in these here States, despite what the haters and the venture capitalists and hedge fund managers and white supremacists and the ‘Christian Right’, and the legion of poor white people who have been hoodwinked all these years to believing that it is “us against them”, when in fact they’ve got the “them” wrong.

Anyway, this post is how my mind is working, barely, these last two weeks. Disorganized, unfocused, a particle collider of thoughts crashing through my head. Crying sometimes, infuriated more, helpless and hopeless and then all positive about sticking it to the man. The Man.csnbly0waaagpqo

Only a few things feel clear. I love my wife, my best friend. I cherish the few friends that I do have, and the larger group of people in my life, a bunch on Facebook, that I was lucky enough to meet and get to know along the way. I’m grateful I grew up in the town I did, with its large percentage of people of color, so I didn’t have to grow up despising or fearing people who look or act different from me because that’s what someone told me I was supposed to do,  and through my whole life I’ve been too lazy and stupid to bother to figure it out for myself. I’m thankful I’m not one of them.

I’m clear about my Tribe. Crystal. And about doing my part to stick it to The Man. Every day, in every way. To wrap my arms around liberty and justice for all. Yeah, I might be scattered these days. Wicked. But, I know right from wrong.

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Scrapheap City

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Last Thursday I typed in the last line for my first ever book, a 52,000 word novella titled “Ring Around the Rosy”. What began as a short story for a specific on-line magazine submission request took on a life of its own, and as I strolled past the 7000 word submission limit I knew that the story had something else in mind. I did not know I’d come back to the story, on and then off, for more than a year and a half, but I got to like the characters a lot, and wanted to find how they did with their challenges.

In addition rosy-mapto the 7000 word limit, the magazine noted two other story requirements: at least one main character with a disability, physical and/or mental; and the setting for the story had to be one of apocalypse. I believe I met both those requirements, and my story has been sent off to a small group of “Readers” for consideration and feedback. After I’ve received replies from my Readers I’ll begin the process of re-write, and once satisfied, the journey where no W.B. Cushman has gone before — into the world of traditional and on-line publication. I’m excited for it all.

It’s the idea of apocalypse and the potential for some kind of dystopian future that I want to discuss here. It all seems too real these days, that possibility, a Mad Max, Blade Runner, Soylent Green, Children of Men, Matrix of an existence. Our two candidates for President, apparently the best we can do – North Korea’s arrogant and in-yourdyst-6-face nuclear game of the ‘Dozens’ with the world – global religious warfare – honor killings – original inhabitants of this country maced and set upon by dogs for defending sacred tribal lands and the right to drink fresh water  www.youtube.com/watch?v=VADcWANqBp8 — families crushed by eighteen-wheelers in the south of France.

Mon Dieu.

My  “Rosy” story’s wasteland setting is more the result of humankind’s stupidity, not the outcome of hate and fear-monging, gender repression and ethnic cleansing. Who knows where those behaviors, if ongoing, will take us.

Anyway, I offer today a vision, a dystopian vision I guess, of where we may be headed, may in fact, be rushing toward. In pictures and musical words.

First, Australia’s Divinyls – “Back to the Wall”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrBd96o7y4Y

Here, science fiction writer Philip K Dick’s stories, brought to the silver screen:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmujN53yNIA

My “Rosy” story is about children. Here’s a scene from ‘Children of Men’, when children no longer exist: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBzWTIexszQ

Or this chilling fudyst-5ture from ‘V For Vendetta’, which doesn’t seem all that improbable:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=yrwTDfdck7I

The Kinks, not like you usually hear them, with this possible dystopia – “Scrapheap City”. Sing it, girls:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuyP-VI_ves

The future. Who does it belong to? What will it bring? In my “Rosy” story, it brings heartbreak and devastation. But there remains some good.

And because there does, I’ll end this piece, a little schizophrenically, on the upside, that maybe there just might be at least a smidge of hope. Because of people.  ’16 Blocks’   www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlQse0lODq0

 


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Stop, Shout, Work It On Out (The inherent flaw in feminist reasoning that to not vote for Hillary is an act of sexism, or a bully by any other name.)

I’m weary. Really weary. Weary of so many things. And one of the things of which I am weary is the implication, spread widely with more than a hint of belligerence, that as a male who considers himself a leftist, to chose not to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of The United States this year is a conscious act of sexism. That there can be no other reason to make that choice.

I see those posts on Facebook. I see those tweets on Twitter, and links everywhere to blogs using lots of big words and calling forth a litany of inherent historical sexism in society, of which I am now choosing to be part of – to participate in, to swath myself in that cloak, to fall on the always wrong side of “if you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem”. Because of who I won’t vote for.

It’s lazy. It’s plain, unadulterated, small picture, blinded by the light lazy. And it is weak, and, for sure, it’s stupid.

To think that someone with a willingness to acknowledge and despise sexism in our society — personal, familial, institutional, educational, in levels of society way beyond what I, as a white male, will ever be able to understand — and at the same time to make a constitutionally guaranteed decision to not vote for a party’s choice who happens to be a woman, that those two thoughts are somehow contradictory, and therefore an act of conscious sexism, is not only wrong and lazy and stupid, it’s also arrogant. Because in the end it denies my right to make a decision on who I think the ethical, moral, spiritual leader of our Country should be, based on the facts that I take the time to learn and understand the best I can, and make my decision based on that, and my inherent sense of what is right – and who is wrong.

This isn’t about bashing Hillary Clinton, who in my mind doesn’t merit the label of ethical, moral, spiritual leader, and who I believe is entirely bashable, as will soon be made evident over the next three months. It’s about being called a sexist because I choose not to support her. So, let me offer these two thoughts.

In Presidential elections in the 80’s and 90’s I wrote in Joan Baez  -twice – and Chrissie Hynde once. If Elizabeth Warren was this year’s nominee I’d be more than happy to vote for her. Ditto Barbara Boxer, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and Patty Murray. I’d be thrilled to vote for Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine. And I’d stand on the corner every weekend between now and November holding up a sign if US Representative Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii was the nominee. Never mind about 10,000 nurses (see Aug 21/2014 blog post, “Please Give the Keys to Florence”) and small business owners and women’s shelter Directors and US forest rangers and so many others from all over the Country who would do a magnificent job steering our ship, ethically and with moral vision, and all of whom who check off the questionnaire gender box “female”. I’m not not voting for this nominee because she’s female. I’m not voting for her because she’s she.

To my second thought. What if the Gods up there in Olympus, or whoever throws the dice and calls the show, what if they decided that Joe Biden’s son wouldn’t die, so Joe ran and he became the Democratic nominee, which could have happened. And with those last pair of die rolling over to snake eyes, and a few giggles in the background, what if it was Sarah Palin who was the standard bearer this year for the white-tinted, angst-ridden, dystopian-hugging Republicans. And so at the end of this very week the election for United States President was between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden. Would everyone of those posts and tweets and blogs and frustrated, agitated coffee shop confrontations, would every one osarah pf them state, for the record, that to not vote for Sarah was an act of sexism?

I wonder.

As it is, frankly, I’m weary hearing myself think about all this crap and write about it, knowing full well how important this election is for children and seniors and people of all colors and gay and lesbian and transgender Americans and soldiers, men and women, and the disabled, and artists, for that matter everyone over the whole granite planet who’d prefer not to be incinerated in an ever more likely nuclear roll of the dice, still, having said that, I’d rather be thinking and writing about art and science fiction and community building and team development and the Red Sox.

I could care less what someone calls me. Why do we collectively like and sing along with songs like “I Did It My Way” and “I’ve Got To Be Me” and “Climb Every Mountain” and songs that celebrate each one of us, we like and believe in them until someone isn’t happy with me doing it my way. With me having to be me. Then there’s something wrong. Something wrong with me.

I was getting my picture taken by the FBI picketing for Angela Davis in front of the Federal Building in Boston’s Government Center in 1971 when many, not all, but many of the women posting and tweeting and blogging about my sexism weren’t even a blink in the cosmic dust. That doesn’t make me better than anyone and it’s not a get out of jail for free card. But it’s one of the ways I can look in the mirror if I’m lucky enough to still be walking around the planet in November, and be okay.


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Why Do I Cry

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Saw this posted by my niece Sarah on her Facebook page this morning and it was the tipping point for me to go ahead and do something I don’t like doing at all — write about politics.

Somehow, incredulously, mostly unbelievably, in these times of terrible pain and suffering, the seeming disintegration of the planet upon which we live, right before our eyes, when every living cell in The Universe cries out for compassion and love, for decency and humility, for a grateful and kind heart, the voters of our country of these United States, the voters that voted, have arrived at the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as our next President. Door A. Door B. In a shocking collective, mass-created behavior that must be listed somewhere — IN CAPITAL LETTERS — within the DSM-IV, that collection of all things mental illness.

There is nothing funny about it, not one damn thing, and if the two paragraphs above come off as glib, I apologize. Because the world needs help, the world needs love. As so vividly, achingly illustrated in the mantra that has become a reality in our daily lives, in the words we speak.  Je suis Charlie. Je suis Paris. Je suis Orlando. Je suis Dhaka. Je suis Newtown. Je suis Baghdad. Je suis Brussels. Je suis San Bernardino. Je suis Mogadishu. Je suis the West Bank.

I am tired, sick and tired, of being someplace.

And yet, here we are, when the world needs love, when our Country needs to celebrate all that we are that is good and decent and kind, here we are with Hillary and Donald. I almost can’t even talk about them, about the myriad of such troubling realities with each.

Hillary will win, notwithstanding some wickedly nasty surprise, because Donald’s inherent bigotry and mean-ness and difference-baiting will, in the end, be too much even for so many who, right here on the eve of the Fourth of July, are waving their assault rifles, yelling that someone’s gonna have to pry their cold, dead fingers off their DSM-IVs. Hillary would not win, however, against another Door B, say a Lindsay Graham or a Susan Collins or a John Kasich. Because she is so thoroughly complicit with all that is wrong with our politics, interwoven with the corporate greed-heads and power junkies, with the Boards of Directors of poisoners and, yes, rapers, those that desecrate our wonderful natural landscape. Who diminish our opportunities.

It truly sucks.

I’m not voting for either one. You couldn’t pay me to vote for either one. For a long time I thought I would write in Deborah Harry, but I’m not gonna, why would I wish any of it on her. Have lunch with Paul Ryan? Nancy Pelosi? Harry Reid? Mitch McConnell? Really? No, I’ll let Debbie rock on. As of today I’m leaning to Tulsi Gabbard, and if you don’t recognize the name please go ahead and give her a google. She’d be a great President. Or possibly Aimee Allison, an author and activist in Oakland, CA, someone I worked for in a City Council seat losing cause many years ago, a flat-out, right-on strong and caring woman. Or the aforementioned Lindsay Graham, Senator from South Carolina, who is a decent guy, who actually laughs  — at himself, at us all — and who strikes me as an actual leader. And boy do we need us a leader, because the Country and most likely the whole damn planet is woefully short in that supply today.

Right now I feel like the kid in the picture. Crying for our Country, crying for our planet. And truly not liking most of these people.


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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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Santorum, Stelazine, and It Takes All Kinds

Here’s something I never thought I’d hear myself say. When I woke up this morning.

I’ve got to agree with Rick Santorum.

I know, I 20140817_090403know. Quick to the medicine cabinet and break open the bottles of thorazine and stelazine and melaril, and every other anti-psychotic medication I still have lying around from the good old days. Maybe one of my neighbors has a syringe, and I can shoot those babies in stat. Quick now, like a bunny, shoot up, tune out, remember it’s only a bad dream – Santorum, Santorum, Santorum.

Anyway, here’s what Rick had to say this morning after the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage – “Stakes are too high to cede marriage to unelected judges.”

Bang! Pow! Shazam all over again. Ricky got it right on that one. Absolutely, positively, unequivocally, one hunnerd percent right, Ricky.

Normally I don’t agree so much with Mr. Santorum. I’d say – hmmm – about zero percent of the time. Hey, we’re just two cools dudes in loose moods that happen to look at the way of the world through different eyes. S’why we have that saying, “It takes all kinds.”

But I agree with him this morning, on this particular statement, concerning this very subject. Because there is absolutely no reason on this God-given planet for nine people in robes to be deciding for anyone who can and cannot speak to their own special particular quality of love and do what’s been going on since before even the Tigress and Euphrates became popular vacation spots, and propose marriage and become married. None. Zero. All wrong. Couldn’t be wronger.

I’ll mostly quote Johnnie Mathis here, who, coincidentally, is a big fave with a long-time-ago-lesbian-friend-who-I-had-a-wicked-crush-on-but-she-just-chuckled-at-me: “It’s not for them to say.”

Cause it isn’t. Why should any two people on the face of this gray and granite planet need a law to say they can speak to their special love with the act of marriage – a union between two people who want to spend their lives together, two people lucky enough to find someone to make them feel that way. A law? That says okay? I guess it’s alright? Go ahead? If you feel you must?

Please. When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

I don’t know how many of the millions of people jumping up and down and celebrating today, with real tears of joy and thanks, thinking free at last, free at last, holding hands and kumbaya-ing all over the place with each rainbowed other, have thought, for instance, if that old Great Powhatan in the sky had seen fit to make just one change of lifespan on the planet – say, Ruth Ginsberg – which meant that President George W. Bush had the chance to pick another justice and picked someone like, say, Michelle Bachmann (and I’m a big fan of hers, I’m just using her as an example, really), so that today, therefore, the Supreme Court of The United States ruled 5-4 that there was NO constitutional right for two people of the same sex to enter into holy wedlock – well then, kids, WTF then? Are we still dancing? And romancing? Are we still ringing it around the rainbow rosy? Is everyone chiming in with their same two cents (quite like me now) with hallelujahs or dagnabbits or god will get evens or whatever? So that, if aliens are tracking our progress on big screens in the sky, they would get to watch the one hunnerd percent exact opposite of what is happening, and whose saying what and, even, whose zooming who, today?

Would that make the marriage between two people who want to get married – regardless of their sex, color, orientation, political party, religious affiliation, place of birth, date of birth, choice of favorite ice cream, Red Sox-Yankee fan, or any defining characteristic you can think of – would that make that marriage any less right? Any less sacred?

Would it?

So those who celebrate today – and, just for clarity, I’m a tea-totaling left-leaning hippie yippie cowsills lovin’ the flower girl Joan Baez for President one of them – think about it. You could just as easily, within the whimsicalness of life in the big city, been crying.

Stakes are too high to cede marriage to anyone other than the two people deciding to do it.

In other words – right wing tea party white supremacists religious morons and lefty leaning save the planet gluten-free-only liberals – get the hell out of my big church.

Ah yes……you gotta love it when the stelazine kicks in.