Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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So Many Pedestrians, …

When I moved to Portland, Oregon I had to learn a new way to cross the street. I’d grown up in Massacchildren-crossing-sign-k-7066husetts and had spent most of my life living – and crossing streets – there. Now I was living in Portland, a city of about 500,000, similar in population to Boston. The last place I had lived in Massachusetts was the town of North Truro, on Cape Cod, population about about 318. (Actually the town of Truro, of which North is part, has a population just over 2000 so I am likely underestimating – in my usual smart-alecky way – how many people live on the North side, closer to Ptown. The point is, not a lot.)

None of which is the focus of this piece. I was talking about crossing the street, and re-learning the way to take that action once I’d relocated to the Northwest. You see the title up there, up at the top of this post? It is, in fact, half of a popular bumper sticker seen periodically on the rear bumpers of cars whooshing around the Bay State. In it’s entirety it reads like this – “So Many Pedestrians, So Little Time”. If you’re a Bay Stater, you get it.

When I moved to Portland and needed to cross the street I would step to the edge of the curb or into the curb cut or even off the curb if I felt foolhardy and wanted to live dangerously – and wait. Approaching cars, somehow having seen or perhaps sensed my intention from more than half a mile away would slow down and eventually stop. Up the street from me. Being from Massachusetts, where we take it as a God-given right to actually gun the motor at the sight of someone foolishly teetering at the edge of the curb, I would wait. The car would wait. I would wave them on with my hand, cause there’s no fuckin’ way I’m stepping out there Bro. They would wave me across. I wouldn’t go. They wouldn’t go. I would feel something like frustration, like, just go you asshole. They would feel something like rage, because I was making their sensitive and kindly and well-trained in driving etiquette selves waste time, and I have little doubt that perhaps more often than not they would slide their fingers under the driver’s seat, or maybe into the purse to their right, and feel the reassurance of cold steel – locked and loaded, one in the chamber, safety off motherfucker.

What’s a boy to do? Because I know, growing up where we have bumper stickers that yearn for just a little more time, that if I step off the curb and start the dead man walking stroll across the macadam some perverted Celtics fan is going to gun that bitch and twist the wheel ever so slightly in my direction. So I don’t go and the Portland car don’t go and I wave and they wave (and sometimes you can’t actually see the face behind the wheel and it’s freaky and scary like that movie “Duel” with Dennis Weaver and the invisible truck driver, which was actually Stephen Spielberg’s very first  full-length film btw) and I mutter under my breath “dumb Portland asshole” and have no doubt that they mutter too, except in braille, with their fingers on the trigger.

And so, back to Cape Cod and without disparaging the truly lovely and inspiring town of North Truro, the fact is you’re way more likely to get gunned and runned there than with the half a million sweet automotive souls in the Rose City.

Which is mostly meaninmonday-pic-2gless – all of it I’ve just written – to this Blog post. Because this is a post about reading, about reading books, about the 50% of the United States population that continues to read books after graduation from high school, and about what I was thinking early this morning, in the blue recliner with my second cup of coffee, looking at the pile of “to be read next” books on the little wicker thingy table beside the chair, and I had this thought – “So Many Books, So Little Time.” Honest, I had that very thought. There were three books I’d just purchased at Powell’s with a Christmas gift card and two out from the library, and three old Kurt Vonnegut paperbacks and the copy of Desolations Angels I’d finally bought for myself after having read Kerouac’s book (my favorite of his) twice out of the library, and I said “Man, there are so many books to read, I’ve got to read more” and I thought “so many books” and then, as if by the magic of one bread crumb leading to another or, possibly, psychosis, the bumper sticker found on cars in Massachusetts, the one that says if I had any wish in the world – other than world peace – it would be for just a little more driving time, that popped into my head and I ran down here in the basement and turned on the computer and typed in the headline above, then went upstairs and took the picture of Steinbeck, Steinbeck, and Bradbury, had a bagel and some yogurt, looked at Twitter for a while, and then came to the keyboard – which I do quite a lot these days – and typed up this daydream about living life right, where you wait for all the cars to go by, and living life wrong, where the cars wait for you, and they’re not happy about it.

And by the way, in the spirit of full disclosure – drivers in Massachusetts are way, way, way betters drivers than drivers in Oregon and Washington and probably most everywhere else will ever be.

Word.

Stay off the road. Read a book.

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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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Fear and Hoping From the Basement – Storytelling

This is my today story. My Sunday story. But, first a brief note on everyday.

I get up at 5:30 a.m., my wife turning off the alarm and, she tells me, touching the warm spot where I have been in the bed. I drag on some clothes, go to the bathroom and splash water on my face, then head downstairs. There is a straight-back, dining-room chair I have placed in the middle of the living room the night before, and for the next 13 to 25 minutes I sit in the chair, the goal being to meditate, and think about a whole bunch of whatever it is that shows up today. When I’m done I go turn on the coffee, while waiting I usually go outside and look at the sunrise or lingering darkness in the winter, then I take the first of my two cups of coffee to the pinkish, mauve-colored recliner I bought for $40 (delivery included) on Craigslist when I first moved to Portland seven and a half years ago. Reclining there, I read something I consider to fall beneath the broad umbrella of ‘spiritual’.blog pic

Now today. Sunday. I read from three books that I checked out at the library yesterday – actually I checked out five, but two cups of coffee only go so far. This morning I read the ‘Introductions‘ to these three: “The Right to Write” by Julia Cameron; “Bagombo Snuff Box” by Kurt Vonnegut; and “Thunder and Lightning” by Natalie Goldberg. Last night I’d brought upstairs “Maps and Legends” by Michael Chabon to the other recliner in tkurt-vonneguthe house, the blue one that belonged to my mother Irene and was gifted to me when she died 11 years ago, and which I have dragged across the length of these United States three times since then. I began reading the first story (there is no Introduction) of the Chabon book about 10:45, but between the smothering heat on the second floor and the length of a long day the words began dancing before my eyes, and I quickly gave it up and went in to sleep , no covers, beside my already sleeping wife.

I checked these particular books out yesterday – the fifth being “The Pocket Muse, Endless Inspiration” by Monica Wood – because my step-daughter Marie and I are heading off on our second annual “Writer’s Retreat” next Sunday foIMG_6634r four days, to a cottage partially owned by Marie’s Dad (meaning we get a big discount)  which sits not four hundred yards from the Pacific, to write stories (and in my case edit already written stories). The five books, which are all coming along, will serve as anchors and inspirers and rectangular muses and anything else they wish to be, and we will write in timed writing periods throughout the days and take long walks on the fabulous beach and deal with my cooking and watch DVDs we bring (with my fave “Super 8”   www.youtube.com/watch?v=tCRQQCKS7go   among them).

Because writers we are, and writing is what we do. I’m an artist – as is Marie – and I have a brand new Artist Web Page ( www.buddycushmanfineart.com ), and I go on long walks and have a long career in human services and administration and even an original music CD to my name. Yet, after all the meanderings and dead ends and geographical cures and flights of fancy that make up the 67 plus years of my life through this morning, I’m a teller of stories first and foremost. A story teller. Hence the writers retreat. Hence the blog. Hence the telegraph avelibrary.

And then there’s this.  A musical story by The Stories for the song of the week:    www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJxZL9L6YWc        And here is author Michael Chabon talking about my favorite book of his, “Telegraph Ave” and the 1970s:     www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvgjhwuxKeE       And, lastly, here the wondrous Kurt Vonnegut takes a minute and a half to explain his “Eight Rules” for writing a story.  www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmVcIhnvSx8

I ‘d like to mention these books as well – Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones” and Julia Cameron’s “The Artist Way” – as having profound influence on my storytelling life.

My Monday blog appearing Sunday this week, just because.

Do you have a story to tell?

 


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Fear and Hoping From the Basement

The stars were out shining over Portland last night. The Red Sox have by magic Cou3gFLUIAAUrPistaved off, for the day, an increasing sense of fear and loathing, just another summer past-time those of us in The Nation know well. Today’s the end of Major League Baseball’s trading deadline and it’s hard to say which way the kids in Red Sox, and their bosses, will go. Buy? Sell? Punt? We shall see.

20160722_082418_HDRThis post marks the beginning of a new effort from me in that part of my world defined as blogging. I feel done, I felt it very strongly in the recliner this morning, with political posts and long examinations of life in the big city, yes the big planet, and even those earlier blogging tales of drunkenness and serious stupidity and the slow climb back to respectability (!), as such, and everything else that’s previously appeared in this verbial cyber spot. It’s my intention from here on out to offer up small tidbits of this and that, anything that I believe helps to move every reader in the direction of saving the planet. Which, by the way, will be a call sign, so to speak, for me, here out – #savetheplanet .

So, if you are follower of this blog or a noticer of its appearance on some social site like Facebook or Twitter, or perhaps a member of my small but loyal email community, I offer, going forward, freebies and suggestions and true glimpses into genius and wonder and abundance. Ways in which we gets to love each other, better than yesterday.  Offered from way over here.

What with it being a significant day in baseball, I suggest taking a few minutes to watch this:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwB7fRI-jp8      Take a dip in magic waters.

I’m grateful for Ted Talks and I hope you are too. There is something sweet about giving people a voice, different and varied people, with lots of worthy things to say. This blog will feature at least one engaging Ted Talk every week. They’re generally less than 19 minutes, sometimes much less than that. I truly hope you’ll invest a small slice of time, and maybe be nudged just a little bit toward wonder. Here’s this week’s :  www.ted.com/talks/j_j_abrams_mystery_box

I’m a big J.J. Abrams fan, and a favorite movie is the dramatically underappreciated and little noticed “Super 8”. What a blessing to slip into childhood again, for a little while. Here’s just a quick peek:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=G1e4MT5VhZo

The title of this post – and it’s going to be the same title every week from now on – is blondie-s-pizzaa love letter, in a way, to the work of one of my favorite authors, Dr. Hunter S. Thompson. I got to see him speak at Harvard University and again, 3000 miles away, at UC Berkeley. In fact, following that adventure – wild and crazy wonderful with my friend and mentor Dr. Doug Martin and a weekend at the  Durant Hotel, including my first ever visit to Blondies Pizza on a 1:00 a.m. roll down Durant chasing Doug in his motorized chair – it was after all that I found myself on the same flight with Dr. Thompson traveling from San Francisco to Chicago and, screwing up enough courage to introduce myself, had the great fortune to spend about an hour and a half chatting with the Gonzo man. That story can be found on a previous post in this very same blog page (“Hunter and Me”). For now, here’s just a smidge of the good Doctor’s words, a quite famous passage in fact:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=MivwinnMKhI Drawings Feb 22 001

Art for the week:

And now for a musical interlude, this week’s way cool song, a mix of music, art, and cursing:   www.youtube.com/watch?v=ejmE-F3EJyQ    Fun lyrics, wicked guitars.

Today, August 1, turns out to be, among many things, Herman Melville’s birthday. It also turns out that he bought a farm in The Berkshires at the western edge of my home state Massachusetts. The wonderful on-line magazine “Brain Pickings” published an article about him today, and a few inches down is a paragraph in which Melville describes his daily routine on the farm. It’s worth reading:  www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/30/herman-melville-daily-routine/ 

 Back next week. Hope the new format works for you.

#savetheplanet


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I’m the Eggman, You’re the Walrus

I got to thinking the other morning, after reading some of Natalie Goldberg’s “Wild Mind”, about how 20140817_090403different we all are. And I got to thinking, actually it was more wondering, how that happens. How we get that way. That’s what I was wondering.

“I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together.” Ring a bell? The sentiment expressed that there is some real degree of sameness among us. Within us. But really? Is that really the case? “We are all together” is the case. Can’t help it, we’re all stuck on the same planet. But beyond that?

Nature versus nurture. The age old question, is one more important than the other in determining who you are, who you become, why you become who you become, who I am, who I became, how I got to be – well – me? Nature, I guess genes and chromosomes and all that. Nurture, my parents sent me to bed with no dinner, my parents spanked me – or didn’t spank me – I grew up in a small town, near the ocean, racially mixed, filled with tourists. I grew up in a housing project in a large Midwestern city, racially mixed. I grew up in a housing project in South Boston, absolutely no racial mixing, or in a town north of Boston that had maybe three “black families” and all I knew about black people is what my parents and my friends told me, taught me. I had grandparents who loved me, always told me I was a gift, a bundle of joy, my grandparents were dead when I was born. I had a single mother who worked 14 hours a day, who always told me I was a blessing, a bundle of life, I had two parents living in an estate north of New York City who didn’t really tell me anything, excepting that money changes everything.

How did I get to be me? How did you get to be you? How is it that people I consider very close friends, some from all the way back to grade school, some I met in college, some I got sober with and got my life back with and shared secrets with – how is it that we can watch a news cast and have 180 degree differences on what that means for us, how it speaks to us, why it confirms yet again that things are the way they are, that things don’t change, that we get it. And after we watch the news we run over to the corner of the living room and grab our sign that says “always say hooray for our side” and rush out the front door and out into the streets, saying “See. Told ya.”

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To You Five In Massachusetts

From my Morning Pages

I realized, sitting in the recliner just recently, that today is Thursday and 20140817_090403I have a blog post due. This in addition to my commitment to write and complete a first draft for my college final – which, it turns out, will earn me no grade but a sense of satisfaction, adventure accomplished – due early next week. And I have no post ready for publication.

Not that I have a vast readership, in fact perhaps not a readership greater than five. But I vowed – to myself – that I would post a new blog every Thursday, and I have so far with the occasional Wednesday and Friday necessity-driven publication, and as keeping goal-related promises and vows to myself has not exactly been a strength over all these years, it feels important now. Really important.

All of which means I need to come up with something to say, and as it is just past seven am, and say within the next five or six hours. (You have to figure who, in fact, are your potential five readers and in what time zone do they live and when people are more likely to be looking at Facebook – where I announce my new blog post – and so for me and my goal for maximum exposure, that is somewhere around 2 – 2:30 pm. Pacific Standard Time.) – (I could live out here in Portland, in the West, on the west coast for the next 25 years and still have most of my faithful connections and friends and devoted readers be from three hours ago, back over there in the East, and mostly in Massachusetts.)

So, geography and time zones and personal living history notwithstanding, I need to get busy and try to come up with a post that is at once witty and engaging and unique. In fact the potential range of subjects is endless primarily because anything I write and post, even if it lacks any wit or any degree of engagement with my likely Massachusetts reader, will be unique. No one else could have written it but me.

I could write that it’s pouring outside now, and romantic as rainfall may be described, I’m sick of it, sick of the Portland rain. Or write how I attended my last Portland State University class yesterday and felt sad and proud and wildly stimulated even knowing I will, as an “adult learner”, receive no grade. But I remain committed to writing my final, a new short story with at least two drafts included, to be turned in by next Wednesday, and as I have planned all week to do that today and then re-write on Saturday, and as I have only recently realized I have a blog post due today, in a few hours, and do not have the strength or intelligence to write engagingly about the ongoing racial sickness and sadness in our Country – I’ll just use this

 


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I’m Not There

Writing at a small table in my local coffee shop the other day I looked over the shoulder of one of the regulars. He was sitting in one of the big, soft, comfortable chairs set up in a square in the middle of the room. He was reading the local newspaper – the Portland ‘Oregonian’ – and when I looked closely I saw he was reading the obituary page. One with full color photos.

This moment sent me back in time. In the early to mid 1980s I worked for a youth counseling place called The Drug and Alcohol Resource Program. This was in Stoneham, MA, about eight miles north of Boston. I was just getting sober then, in fact worked for that program a couple of months before I came to the conclusion that I was, indeed, one of the people the program was designed to serve, and made the decision to put away alcohol and drugs. Anyway, I was hired before the program officially opened, and with the other few staff worked to transform a small old machine shop building into a warm, inviting, counseling and resource center, with newly walled small offices and new paint and donated furniture. We also attempted to recruit volunteers to assist in the program’s efforts, and managed to find one. His name was Frank. He lived about a half mile up the main road heading over to Melrose and had an easy walk down to our office every day. Frank was a recovering alcoholic himself, and had been out of work for quite some time when we made his acquaitance.

Frank was an all around good guy. He quickly became a devoted father-like figure to our boss Maggie, and a good friend and sometime advisor to me. Frank was willing to do anything Maggie needed done and asked him to do, but as we neared our official opening thKingsburyMemorialobit1ere became fewer and fewer of those needs. So, and this went on for the next three years, mostly what Frank would do was come to the office every day, make and drink coffee, hang around and shoot the breeze with whomever was available, and read the paper. Now if you live in the greater Boston area, well actually Massachusetts, come to think of it New England, anyway, you are a Red Sox fan. It’s genetic. So you would often find Frank doing what Red Sox fans do, reading stories about the Red Sox and offering opinions how to fix everything. The other place you would find Frank when it came to the newspaper – both The Boston Globe and the local weekly Stoneham paper – was at the obituary pages. That’s where he went. Every day. All the time. And when asked why he was forever looking at those pages, Frank had this reply.

“To see if I’m in there.”

Frank has been in those pages a very long time now, but I have never forgotten him or his reply. So I thought of Frank when I looked over that guy’s shoulders and saw him reading the obits. And I wondered if he was looking to see if he was in there. And then I had this thought. “I hope I never get caught looking at the obituaries in the paper.” Not not getting caught because I am so sneaky, but because I never want to find myself there. Doing that. I would much prefer to be found reading something like the menu for the lunches at the junior high school next week. That’d be more my speed, more my place in the world, more with my peeps. (FYI – For all you youngsters, local newspapers always printed the school lunches for the following week. It was a community service. I hope some still do.)

I’ll have plenty of time to think about the Obits once I’m a member of that club. But not now. Now I want to be running with the junior high kids. Heading down to Jay’s drugstore after school, or the lunch counter at Sonny’s Pharmacy, to order a ring ding and a coke, and check out the girls. I want to head over to Royal Davis’s house and play touch or even tackle football on the front lawn, right next to Route 6 – the Route 6 that runs all the way from Provincetown, MA to Long Beach, CA . And if I’m too old and achy and slow to play football there, I want to be like the old guy I used to see walking around my hometown smoking a big cigar. Every day. Mr. Baker I think was his name. Out of the house, our from the TV, walking, walking, walking, seeing everything there is to see in my neighborhood, on my streets, in the downtown of my city. I want to be pushing paint around on a canvas,even if when it’s done I laugh and think it wouldn’t make the cut in a sixth grade art show. I want to run to my keyboard and write a story about the people who own the Astoria trout farm really being fish, fish that use humans for bait, and how an 18 year old college freshman girl becames a detective of the strange. I want to go to Pepino’s with my wife and spend $3.75 on the “El Cheapo” burrito for dinner, not just because I’m broke, but because I love that burrito and I love that place and I can look out their windows and see all the homeless folks and feel my heart bursting with gratefulness that I’m not one of them, and feel my heart breaking that they are there at all, and wonder what the hell am I going to do about it. I want to think those thoughts and have those feelings and paint my goofy paintings and write my bursting-with-life-and-aliens stories, and walk my streets and kiss my wife and call my sons and wonder how I can ever afford Christmas presents and then have all the joy of going out to buy whatever presents I can because the joy is in the buying – just like it was when I was 12 years old and went down to the 5 & 10 on the Main Street of my hometown and would pick out 25 cent glasses and cups for my mother for Christmas. Maybe out of my paper route money.

So, I do not plan on reading the obituary page ever, thank you very much. Maybe when I get there. For now I want to live and laugh and try new stuff and write stories that make people laugh and cry and want to get up and fix things, and I gotta keep running ahead of any reaper who would rather have me just sit down and wait.

Excuse me – I gotta head down the street to Royal’s, because there might be a game going on. And I don’t want to miss it. Aches and all.