Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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Rap-sody in the Rain

I was on the phone with my main man Provincetown Keith the other afternoon. He was in a van with his squeeze Sally, tooling down US 287 west out of Lawton, Oklahoma with a destination somewhere around greater Amarillo, TX in mind. Keith is one of my three spiritual advisers (which include him, head East Bay drug czar Gavin O. in Oakland, CA, and my wife Susan, currentlyLawton upstairs doing something healthy and useful.) I’d called Keith because I was in need of spiritual advice.

I was out on a walk and it had begun raining — well, here in Portland, perhaps I should more accurately say it had resumed raining — anyway, water was oozing down from the sky and I was attempting to protect my non-waterproof smart phone by holding it up somewhere between the collar of my raincoat and the brim of my Red Sox baseball cap, my right arm curled up and around in some Dali-like abstraction of human anatomy, and still keep the microphone end of the phone pointed toward me because I was in need of spiritual counseling, I was in need of comfort — comfort from my own anguished thoughts and — what I was about to admit — escalating resentments.

So I laid it out for Keith, after perfunctory “what’s ups?” and “good to hear your voice Bro’s”, I’ve published a new book, it’s my second book of poetry, it’s my fourth overall, and I’ve sold just three copies (not counting the eBooks my wife and I both ordered on differing electrical devices) and what do you have to do, how much begging will be enough, and yes, okay, I did quote from Rilke the question of whether or not I would die if I didn’t write, which feels strongly like an affirmative for me so, yeah, the writing’s the thing, and also asked, as a devilish advocate, if you write a book or write anything for that matter and no one reads it, like what’s the point? And Keith, and he’s good at this, interrupted repeatedly through his laughter saying “Dude, you’ve got your own answer”, and me firing back then why don’t I just write, say, the greatest book of poetry ever written and then run out to the backyard and set the mother on fire, and Keith said “Come one man, please, seriously?” and I said I know resentments are bad, but still, and Keith said “Ah, there….there in the ‘but still’….there’s the disease.”

It should be reported here that Keith and I met way back in the fall of 2007, just when the Red Sox were ramping up their second World Series run, at early morning meetings in Provincetown out at the tip of old Cape Cod where a whole bunch of people — who’d gotten up early to do so — spilled their guts about pain and struggle and joy and release and, yup, resentments and even feeling free at last, and pretty early on we — Keith and me — figured out we were spiritual buddies, and over these last 10 or so years we’ve taken turns at the spiritual nourishment thing depending on who needed it the most on that particular telephone call — and a sad fact is that we have not laid eyes on the person of each other since the summer of 2008, being only phone advocates of abundance and joy…..

Then I nicked the wrong thing on the side of the phone or they passed through a cell phone dead zone or a chuckling God farted or something because the phone went dead and I trudged home in the rain and they, I presume, kept motorvating west, and when I arrived home I texted Keith and said okay, I got it, that feeling of self-pity is leaving me, I get it, and the next day, maybe two days later, he messaged me and said as soon as he and Sally landed somewhere they felt like hunkering down for awhile — so as to have an address — he was gonna order both my poetry books on line and he was so proud of me and I was like a hero and other cool spiritual nourishment and comfort statements.

Meaning mostly I was comforted in the not selling any books thing because, like the men (Rilke and Keith) said, I wrote the damn things. And how cool is that.

Then, 20 minutes ago, I read a quote from Samuel Johnson in the preface to Mary Karr’s “The Art of Memoir” which said this —  “No man but a blockhead ever wrote for any cause but money.”

Which may necessitate another call to somewhere in the southwest.

Some day

I’ll fall back

Into the pattern of the world.

I’ll still be free

On the Orleans rotary.

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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.


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I’m With Emma

Gender equality.

Joseph Campbell, that wonderful storyteller and author of “The Power Of Myth” said this: “I even have a superstition that has grown on me as the result of invisible hands coming all the time – namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be,”

Do you think, when Joseph Campbell said this, he was talking only to men? “Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid.” Was he offering this advice to only men? In fact, the next chapter in his book, following the above quote, is titled “The Gift Of the Goddess”. I doubt if Joseph was just thinking about men. Or this quote, from another writer: “To be or not to be. That is the questionwatson23f-2-web.” Do we wonder if he meant only men get “to be”?

I like Twitter. Better, even, than Facebook. I have a twitter account – @BuddyCushman – and when I go on Twitter the ‘tweets’ are brief, you can fly through them, and there are always amazingly interesting links to almost anything you can imagine, depending on who you follow. One of the people I follow is Emma Watson. She of Hermione Granger fame. Among other things. Lately one of those other things is the cause of feminism. Gender equality. Very recently she has given a speech at The United Nations on the subject. You can see it here – www.youtube.com/watch?v=p-iFl4qhBsE

I came across her speech when I clicked on a tweet at #HeForShe. “He For She” is a campaign that was launched at the UN by Emma Watson and its jist is this – men worldwide are encouraged to speak out against the inequalities faced by women and girls. To stand up and be counted. Yes I support equality. Yes I support equal pay for equal work. Yes I support equal opportunity.

That women have the same right “to be” as men. That women have the same right to “follow their bliss” as men, to have the “same doors opened”. That they get to pick who they want to marry. Where they want to go to school, in fact, that they be allowed to go to school in the first place. What clothes to wear. That they do not worry about parts of their bodies being cut away simply because. Of who they are. Of their sex.

Why doesn’t everyone on the planet have the same opportunity to “follow their bliss”, whatever that looks like, “to be”, however that is. Who can say it shouldn’t be that way. Deal everyone the same cards and let them play them however they will, and then whatever happens happens. That is more in line with life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Driving home from our anniversary dinner last night my wife told me that when she walking the day before in Tryon Creek Park, a state of Oregon nature area not far away and one of the real sacred places for Susan on the planet, she was very aware of being alone in the woods, and the possibility of attack. She tried to keep her attention on the song of birds and the glory of the forest, but the thought returned and lingered. I suggested to her, rather cavalierly, that keeping her thoughts on joy and the natural experience would, through the law of attraction, tend to bring her more of that, and vice versa. But that was crap. I’m not a big guy and I had more than my share of worry time about bullies and ugly drunks and someone just looking for a fight growing up, but never the worry that a woman must feel alone in the woods. Alone on a bus in New Dehli. Alone walking to a day school in Jalalabad. Alone walking out to the parking lot after the second shift at St. Luke’s Hospital in New Bedford. Alone raising a daughter. Who am I to give advice like that?

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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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I Think I’ll Take A Walk

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “I Think I’ll Take A Walk.”

Another post for my so-called “Art” blog is due tomorrow, Thursday, as I sit here in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon – unemployed, under-inspired, uninvolved, and under no illusion that I have much, if anything, to say. But, here is someIMG_6634 good news. I heard on a newscast the other day, as I was scrolling by with the clicker, that there are 64,000,000 blogs in the world today. So the chances of anyone suffering because my blog isn’t up to snuff this week seem pretty minimal.

My wife Susan, step-daughter Marie, and I returned from four days and three nights at the Oregon coast yesterday, the temperature ratcheting up by 20 degrees or so as we moved inland, over the coastal mountain range, and back to the big city. They were both happier to get back than me. Too much time away from normalcy – email, Facebook, visiting friends, work, social plans, the things people rightly miss after a while. For me, other than the fleeting hope that I would see a new painting or greeting card sale notice on gmail, and of course the chance to catch up on four days of fun Red Sox tid bits, that list of things to be missed didn’t apply. I wanted to stay at the beach. I always want to stay at the beach. I will say it again. I always want to stay at the beach.

Originally I was going to write a blog post called “Different Light”, because I mentioned to Susan yesterday morning before the depressing packing and cleaning time that the light is different by the ocean. There is a different quality to the light. It sparkles in some kind of reflective, brilliant way, a light that cannot be found inland. Even in places with large rivers, like Portland. Maybe this is a looking through artist eyes. It is well known in the artist community of the country, probably the world, that Provincetown, Massachusetts, at the very tip of Cape Cod, has long been a draw to artists because of it’s light. That is wonderful for artists living in Ptown, as it is called, though when I was running a permanent housing program for the AIDS Support Group in Ptown I wasn’t an artist, not a painter anyway, so I didn’t have all-the-way artist eyes to look through.

But this isn’t the point, because I decided against a “Different Light” post. Over the last couple of weeks, actually, I have been thinking a lot about the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. A lot. And I thought I would write this week’s post about that – about the state of our states in these United States, about race relations, about how we live with, or don’t live with, one another. About what our goals should be, instead of what they always are. I was going to start that post like this: “At the risk of alienating family and friends…..” because that is just what would have happened. I have family members who I love dearly with a far different view from mine. I have friends, especially lots of folks on Facebook, including a bunch who have helped me to live and stay sober all these many years, who just don’t see things the way I do. Some of that I have found out on and through Facebook. I guess, ultimately, I decided not to write my piece because I don’t feel ready, the right words and phrases and images haven’t shown up yet. I’ll have to get to that when they do.

So, instead, I have decided, only a few moments ago as I sit here in the Portland heat, a long summer hanging on, to write about a walk I took Sunday afternoon, just above the high tide line north of Pacific City on the Oregon coast, at a little community called Tierra Del Mar. Most of my long walks while at the coast were during low tide, when six hours of ocean pulling back left a football field wide expanse of packed sand, easy to walk on. But Sunday afternoon, when I was so moved, the tide was high and almost all the sand was soft, and I found myself walking right next to the ends of waves, one leg slightly lower than the other on the tide going out incline. So I walked to the edge of the Pacific and headed

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I Just felt Like It

There are eight million artist stories in the city. This is mine. This is “I Just Felt Like It”.

Walking past the dining room table this morning I saw a book sitting near my wife Susan’s chair. This is the name of the book: “A Year Of Living Consciously”, written by Gay Hendricks. The sub title is “365 Daily Inspirations for CreatMarch art sale 003ing a Life of Passion and Purpose”. On the back of the book there is this statement: “’A Year of Living Consciously’ teaches us to relish the journey that results in greater self-esteem and emotional literacy, achievements that can only come from leading an examined life.”

Sounds good. An examined life. Self-esteem. Emotional literacy. I should probably read it. Maybe open to today, read today’s entry, see what emotional literacy may be waiting there for me.

Gay Hendricks has a PhD in Psychology. It says that on the back of the book. That’s cool. I know a number of people with PhDs, some in psychology, some in Marriage and Family Therapy, a bunch from San Francisco I got to hang out with, even “supervise” a few years back. I, on the other hand, do not have a PhD. I do not have a Masters. I do, I am proud to say, have a Bachelor’s degree, and as it took me seven years to earn it I hold onto it proudly. Well, I hold on to it figuratively because I abandoned the actual piece of paper in an old girlfriend’s basement in Lowell, MA during a quick move from a painful brake-up. Yes, it is obvious I do not have an advanced degree.

What I do have, however, is an inclination toward living unconsciously. Truly. (That is an expression my old Lowell girlfriend used often – truly). Anyway, for about 20 years of my life I leaned toward mental numbness with the assistance of alcohol and various pills, powders, and pieces of psychedelic-enhancers. But that didn’t do much for my self-esteem, and I believe nothing for my emotional literacy. Answering “Duh” to every question asked of me, while drooling slightly, leans toward emotional mental midgetry. That’s okay, though, because a little over 30 years ago I left that life behind. Especially when people started saying this to me: “Your best thinking got you here.”

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Coin Flip – Writing 101

Those brown, shiny coin-like things that I use to hold down my greeting cards – after chasing wind-blown cards darting and dipping across the street one too many times – I get asked about them a lot. This is what I tell people. “They are sobriety medallions. The number on the coin indicates a number of years of sobriety. You get them on those anniversaries. I was going to use small stones to hold the cards down, but I thought these were more interesting.”

Sunday mid morning, behind the Red Fox vintage store, in a space rented for $10 across the street from the farmer’s market. My 4 x 2 table is set up, covered with a beautiful purple cloth borrowed from my wife. The cloth mostly covered by the 15 original art greeting cards I sell, or hope to sell, reproductions of my original paintings. Not blowing off the table in the on-again off-again breeze that finds its way behind the building, anchored by the large gold coins.

“Your cards are so beautiful.”
“Why, thank you. How’s it going?”
“Pretty good. Have you sold many?”
“No, not yet.”
“Hmmm, I don’t see why not. I think I am going to buy some. I didn’t bring any money with me but I can go home and get some. How long are you here?”
“I will be here until two o’clock.”
“I love this one. Where is this supposed to be?”
“That is from a trip I took to visit my son in Alaska last summer. This is from a photo I took when we climbed Mount Healy, in Denali National Park.”
“I love it. These coins are really cool too.”
“I was going to use small stones to hold the cards down, which I learned the hard way chasing them down the street a few times, but I thought about these and decided it would look better. Do you know what they are?”
“Yeah, I think so, these are your AA coins right? You have talked with me about being in AA before. I think I have seen some of these in the past, a friend in Virginia had some of these.”
“I kind of thought that in addition to holding the cards on the table it might spark a conversation with potential buyers, maybe another reason to stop and look. In fact I had a woman tell me yesterday, out of the clear blue, that her mother was sober 29 or 30 years.”
“Wow, that is so cool…….I have been thinking about going to a meeting.”
“Really?”
“I think about it. It seems like I am drinking more and more lately, and it is kind of the opposite of how I am trying to live my life, doing things that feel really important to me, meditating and organic growing, community stuff.”
“Well, I can tell you where some meetings are in you want to know. There are different kinds of meetings and some might work better for people checking it out. I would take you to a meeting if you want.”
“Really?”
“Heck ya. I would be happy too.”
“Okay, I’ll think about it. Well, I’m outta here now but I will be back before two for some cards.”
“Okay, thanks. See ya.”