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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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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Yesterday Once More

 

One of my joys in life is listening to “Oldies” on the radio – preferably the car radio. I’m a siIMG_1258mple guy. Much to my delight, a new “Oldies” station showed up in Portland about a year ago, with an amazing playlist: songs that carry the banner of Oldies; songs tKaren 4hat would be considered “B” sides; and songs that are clearly album cuts, many unfamiliar to my highly trained Oldie ears.

I say this as back story. The other day, late last week, the song “Goodbye to Love” by The Carpenters flowed out through my wife’s car speakers while driving home from Trader Joe’s. It got me thinking about The Carpenters, Karen and Richard, and the basket-full of hit, Top 40, mainstream, gushy, pop songs they gave radio and turntable listeners back in the late 60s and right through the late 70s, a few years before Karen’s death.

I never would have described myself as a Carpenter’s fan, back then, waaaay too straight. But, there was something about some of their songs, and Karen’s voice. Something special about her voice. And something, all along, about her as well. A yearning after something else. Maybe that’s not the best way to say it, but that’s the way it felt.

I wasn’t enKaren 3ough of a fan, even secretly, to follow them, so I did not learn about Karen’s eating disorder until after her death in 1983 — the year I got sober at age 34 — when she was just 32. Reports and subsequent features make clear that most people had never heard of anorexia at that time, which, it turns out is what caused her death, by heart failure. I learned about anorexia first hand in 1985, when I went to work at a residential treatment center in Watertown, Massachusetts, and was assigned as a counsel-ee a 13 year-old girl with a diagnosis of Anorexia Nervosa. I bought a book back then, still have it, titled “The Golden Cage”, a book considered one of the seminal studies on the subject. Anorexia is described in the book as “the relenKaren 6tless pursuit of excessive thinness.”

This isn’t a post about anorexia.You can Google it if you want to know more. It’s about the Carpenters and some of their songs, and Karen’s voice. I discovered a wonderful BBC documentary about The Carpenters on Youtube a while back. It’s a five-part series, with Dionne Warwick and Herb Alpert, Richard Carpenter, Petula Clark and Tony Peluso, many more. You can see it here, and it’s worth the investment of some 60 minutes:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=wOCk-D2fOpg

And the songs. Hard to not include this one from 1970 : www.youtube.com/watch?v=iFx-5PGLgb4    Or this one from the same year: www.youtube.com/watch?v=__VQX2Xn7tI      Or this one, released 1973:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTaWayUE5XA  Then there was this release from ’72, with a ripping, soaring fuzz guitar solo courtesy the aforementioned Tony Peluso:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=FdG-ITxL8ok

Turns out The Carpenters sold more records than Elvis. Turns out The Carpenters had more conseKaren 5cutive number one hits than The Beatles. Who knew. Doesn’t make them better or as good as, it’s just interesting.

My favorite Christmas song has always been “Let There Be Peace On Earth and Let It Begin With Me”. This song, released in 1970, holds the number 2 spot. Always will:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=YR1ujXx2p-I

In “Goodbye To Love”, the one up there above with the bitchin’ guitar, there’s a line, “All I know of love is how to live without it.” Here’s a Wikipedia blurb on the creation of the song.  en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goodbye_to_Love    Even though Karen was not involved in the writing, words and music, the line fits. That yearning thing right there. For me, at least.

Last week my Blog Post discussed Patti Smith. Next week I’m thinking about a little ditty on the musical merits of Black Flag, The Butthole Surfers, The Dead Kennedys, and X. This week, hearing a song on the car radio, I felt like writing about The Carpenters, and Karen. Too sweet?

Sue me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

the scream

Harlan Ellison, the famous writer of science, speculative, and other fiction wrote a story/book with this title back in 1967 — “I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream”.  You have to go farther back for Norwegian artist Edvard Munch and his 1893 painting of “The Scream”. For me, they both resonate too well today.

Two years after Ellison’s story was published Neil Young gave us these lyrics: “Blue, blue windows behind the stars. Yellow moon on the rise. Big birds flying across the sky, throwing shadows on our eyes. Leave us helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.”

I woke up this morning, staying up late last night with the network news, and felt that my duty – my job – was to write words of comfort. To comfort. Like St. Francis, not so much seek to be consoled as to console, that where there is despair, bring hope. That where there is darkness, bring light. I sat in the blue recliner that belonged to my mother and felt very strongly that my job for this day was to make my best effort for being a channel of peace.

And yet, it feels like there are shadows on my eyes, that my ability to see clearly, and by seeing understand and come up with a solution, is clouded, smudged, diminished. That I want to scream to stop it – everyone just STOP IT – but that I have no mouth. No mouth big enough and large enough and smart enough and brave enough to shout over the sickness, the division, the on-slot, landslide, the tsunami of bad and badder and still badder yet news that floods our collective view as a Nation, as a Planet. The horror of our everyday that leaps from the screen on ABC and CNN and The New York Times and The Dallas Morning News.

I feel like the person in the painting. Helpless, helpless, helpless, helpless.

And yet – again – I can’t give up. I can’t give in. I can’t say “No thank you” to the moral imperative that was waiting for me upon awakening. To be a channel of peace – tsunami or not.

In my case, where I’m at in my 68th year on the crying planet, I’m left with my writing and my painting. My mouths, as it were, with which and through which to scream. For common sense, for compassion, for plain old fashioned kindness and decency, for tolerance, for to each their own and it takes all kinds and we’re all bozos on this bus, for let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.

I think that is part of it, and maybe a lot of it, even possibly all of it. The let it begin with me. I knew a guy named Kevin in AA back in Chelmsford, Massachusetts back in the 1990’s. Whenever he was struggling he’d turn to one or another of a couple of older women who served as mentors and comforters to him. He’d moan his particular moan of the day and their reply would always be the same. “It will get better.” No matter his degree of discomfort and psychic pain. “It will get better.” One day, his story went, he’d had enough and confronted them both about just what this “It” was. He was told, the “It” is “You”. You will get better. You will get better, and then it will get better.

I believe that. And I believe that with the right leadership, with true leadership, and with the insistence by leaders that we come together to talk and to listen and just maybe learn something about it takes all kinds and to each their own and, yeah, all of us being bozos on the bus,  maybe then I could get better and You could get better and even We could get better. And then just maybe It would get better.

It’s possible. Harlan Ellison wrote another book, “The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”. Neil Young wrote “A Heart of Gold.” And if you look carefully at that Munch painting you’ll see a couple of figures in the background. Who knows, maybe they’re angels, honest to God angels, just waiting for that scream to yell itself out, ready to step in and bring comfort and hope and light. It’s possible.

I’ve got some ideas, some very specific ideas, about how we could begin to fix the mess we’ve become. I’ll write about them another time, soon. I guess me writing this this morning is opening my mouth and making even just a tiny noise. It’s the best I’ve got today.

 


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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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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.


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Just Following Along.

Recently I completed the tenth story in my proposed collection of 11 stories set in the small town of Astoria, Oregon. It’s title20140817_090403d “Texas Two-Step”. All of the stories in what I hope will become my first-ever published book deal with the supernatural – life on and beyond the far reaches of normal. Initially there was no book or collection of stories in mind. I was coming from back a visit to Trillium Lake with my son Cameron, daughter-in-law Alison, and grandkids Logan and Savannah, and we detoured off Route 26 somewhere between Rhododendron and Sandy to follow signs for a “trout farm”. Just to check it out. When we got there, deep into the woods, we found a rather strange setting, and on our way out were accosted by a female worker who was neither warm nor fuzzy. Back on the road we all laughed about it, and brainstormed – spontaneously – about what a story of such a place might be. A few months later I sat at my keyboard here and began writing a short story that eventually became (no surprise) “Trout Farm”.

A month or so later I wrote another short story – “Deprivation Invitation” – about what too much late-night coffee might do to a guy. This story had nothing at all to do with the first, other than this: it was set in Astoria. At some point very soon after the idea showed up to write a collection of stories set in Astoria, and to name the collection “Astoria Strange”, which is the title of the newspaper column the main character in “Trout Farm” writes monthly for the imaginary Astoria Times. Thus began the undertaking.

The first two stories totaled some 12,000 words – they’re short stories – but the third story in the collection – “Art Theft” – blossomed to over 30,000. I didn’t plan that, but a host of new, interesting characters showed up to help tell that one, and the story demanded the space and breadth to allow them their say. These characters – three homeless guys, a part-time artist, and a large African-American Sergeant on the Astoria Police Department – joined my columnist Ted Davis and his niece, and freshman at Clatsop Community College, Darcy Hendricksen, to form what would become, in the later stories, a most strange fellowship of ‘watchers’.

My initial intent, after I accepted the idea and challenge of a collection of weird Astoria stories, was that each would stand on its own, a common zip code the only connection to any other. Like the first two stories. But, it hasn’t gone that way. Against my intention, characters have returned again and again, and I have come to know them better – and appreciate them as people – more with each tale. Reading the ninth story now, “Mary Anne”, a 26,000 word ode to righteous retribution, would lose, I think, a lot, without reading six of the previous eight. They can barely be considered stand-alone anymore.

Which brings me to number ten, and the purpose of this post, which is my after-the-fact attempt to explain my writing process – or lack thereof. Like every other story, after the second, my plan was for Ted Davis to tell the story to you in first person. (The book, when it’s done, will begin with the word “I”.) But like the eighth and ninth stories, Ted never shows up. At all. That’s not what I planned, really, it’s not what I wanted. But it is what happened, which means that “Texas Two-Step” is told from a third person perspective.  The story begins with a paragraph that can be found again much later in the story. (My wife Susan, who is my primary “reader”, says this is confusing at first, cool later on.) I didn’t make this decision to bring this paragraph forward until well into the writing, and I made it 3000 miles away while watching my son Spenser graduate from his school in Florida. The real story begins next, the way I wrote it from the beginning, and without needing the designated spoiler alert, I’ll simply say that it describes a rather old woman way out in the woods of Astoria who does some very nasty things to other, unwilling participants, and the determined efforts of a stranger from Texas to put an end to her evil ways.

I’d just, myself, come back from a trip to Texas, visiting my son at Fort Hood following the birth of my newest grandson, Carson, a trip in which Cameron taught his old man to fly fish. So Texas and fly fishing were on my mind when I began this story. There was, initially, a long introduction about a guy from Massachusetts who hit on a lottery ticket and ended up buying an old motel on the Astoria riverfront, but after a few weeks I cut that out – some 2000 words – because it didn’t matter. Here’s what did and does matter, and what I hope makes a point regarding my writing process. Other than there’s a bad old woman in the woods and a guy from Texas (whose hiding his true identity and purpose) coming to deal with her, I had not one idea how this story would go – or what, exactly, would happen.

I had no clue that the three homeless guys and the artist and Ted’s niece would be part of this story, or that the main character from the sixth story – “Turnaround Place” – would return (ever), never mind take a lead role. Those things just happened. Or that Astoria Police Officer Ruthie Thompkins, a most minor character in two previous stories but a big player in the previous “Mary Anne” would not only be back, but would be a pivotal person here. It just happened, I guess, because it could. Because by now, Ruthie was real, flesh and blood to me, and because – somehow – she had become one of my favorites.

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