Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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A Laugh and A Tear

 

Hunter 1

Hunter Thompson is one of my favorite authors. These are my Dr. Hunter S Thompson books, most of which I’ve owned for a very long time, as evident by the covers, in this case by which you can judge the book.

I’ve posted about Hunter Thompson here in the past, and an opportunity I had one night on a cross-country airplane to hang out and talk with him. You can search my past posts for “Hunter and Me” and read about it there. This brief post speaks to something else.

Recently I picked up and began reading again “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas“. You can see the bookmark there, about halfway through. Back a ways, in Part One of the book, is a passage I’ve always considered my favorite of his — among so many favorites. I’m going to quote it here in its entirety.

“My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe 40 nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L.L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder’s jacket…booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end…but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was. No doubt at all about that.

“There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning.

“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave.

“So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

For me that is beautiful writing, and I feel this passage deep in my bones, the certainty that we had something then that we have no longer. What? Righteous belief? Pure hope?Universal love? Musical and colorful joy?   “Those days are gone forever”, Steely Dan sing in ‘Pretzel Logic’, “over a long time ago.”

I got to meet Hunter Thompson and talk for some 90 minutes in the back of a plane due to my most fortuitous entanglements with two men named Bob Zimmerman and Dr. Doug Martin. That’s explained in the previous post.  Sadly Bob and Doug and Hunter are no longer with us on our tattered planet, and its the planet’s great loss – and certainly mine.

Bob gave me a present back in 2006, the copy of “Hey Rube” up in the picture on the middle left. Hunter was one of the ways we connected – along with Doug – in what we considered “the main vein”. Plugged in. Turned on. With it. Bushel-full of personal faults (especially me) or not. Bob signed the book in his only-Bob way.

Hunter 2

Only way to be.


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Oh My Head

A ditty on the near-psychotic state into which I’ve fallen post and pre-publication of my first two books.

I spent various stretches of time within a two and a half year period writing and completing “Ring Around The Rosy”. Make that three years, and even more time/life devotion in the research and writing of my forthcoming “Astoria Strange”. (And when/if it will be forthcoming is a story I’ll get to in a moment.)WB_Cushman_Front

I’ve stated in a previous log that when it comes to understanding and following directions related to anything with even the slightest hint of technology – see, creating PDF files for book covers, formatting to meet print and eBook requirements, assembling a yoyo — I’m lost. And useless to myself.  So I have to find who can do those things and pay them to do them for me and then hope they are done correctly (which I’m discovering is almost never) when I submit them in the hopes that a book will, as if by magic, appear.

Eventually these issues/struggles/headaches were worked out with my first book and my “Rosy” saw the light of day. To date some 50 people have bought copies, for which I am exceedingly grateful, one small step toward my goal of 10,000 copies sold. However, only 20% of those purchasing people have, subsequent to reading it, gone over to Amazon and left a review – and I’m talking three or four lines, not the Gettysburg Address. I don’t know why that is, I honestly don’t, though a dark cloud of suspicion trails behind me and whispers that many if not most of the buyers never bothered to read the book. Seriously. Maybe they bought it to be nice, to be friendly, to support a first-time author. But they didn’t read it because, as has been noted in a previous post on this Blog space, 53% of everyone over 18 years of age in the United States never reads another book – not a one – after leaving high school. Which, I am coming to believe, sadly, includes my Facebook and email and Twitter friends and followers. Like, before this, I thought my friends had to be hipper than the general population. But.

What’s an author to do? I have begged and cajoled, reminded and revisited book-buying friend after friend to take four or five minutes and leave an Amazon review. Because I’ve learned that there’s something called an algorithm, and for Amazon books that magic number is 20 reviews. Twenty reviews pushes the algorithm and that pushes the book in front of a lot more people. And please let me be clear here. Short of a terrific Stephen King endorsement or a call from Stephen Spielberg, he’d like to purchase the rights for his next film, this isn’t about making money. Full disclosure reveals that for each paperback I sell on Amazon I clear a hefty $2.78. For each eBook it’s $2.02. To date my expenses to publish and then minimally market “Rosy” are something around $396. That includes a number of paperbacks I’ve bought in bulk, to sign and sell, and on those I make a little more.

The point is, it ain’t “Show me the money.” What it is, and I’m betting this is true in some manifestation or another with every author, is having the book seen/read by a whole bunch of people. Because I believe in it, think it’s good, think it has positive things to say about life, human qualities we need to be reminded of now more than ever.

This will be true for “Astoria Strange” as well, and in fact, because the number of words are much greater than in “Rosy” – more than three times greater – the book will cost much more to prinfront_covert and I will have to charge more for each book, and after all that make even less per book, like $2.44. It’s not the money. As Salem State (MA) College professor Jay McHale once said — “The tissue is the issue.”

I will have published two books in my 69th year on the planet, and my preference is that people read them, at least those among the 47% who actually continue to read after their 18th birthday. I say “will have published” because this morning I received the proofs back from Amazon’s CreateSpace publishing company for the final check before they become real, tangible, hold them in your hands things, and lo and behold, the “A” in Astoria was sliced in half off the front cover.  Maybe the book should be titled “Storia Strange”, maybe there’s an alliterative spell to be cast. Hopefully they can fix it, I like it the way I wrote it.

The writing is hard, in a way, and also incredibly thrilling – it’s beyond a mescaline trip to watch as things happen completely on their own, and characters show up never before considered. Like three homeless guys in (A)storia, and a junior high girl named Elsbeth Dowd. Never mind detectives from other states that show up in the quaint Oregon coastal town and jump right into the middle of all the hooptedoodle. Yes, there’s magic in being a writer.

The technical stuff, the half-assed attempts at marketing, the chronic begging of friends for support – I’ve come to learn that part of being a writer is what it is. Add it all up. At least for me, it means a self-publishing, rushing toward 70, left coast yippie finally living out this particular dream.


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I Am Not Your Honkey

Obligation.

Please keep this word in mind.

In the last week my wife Susan and I have watched three movies, two in the theaters and one on a DVD at home. The movies were, in order, Hidden Figures, Moonlight, and I Am Not Your Negro. Each presents, in its own way, a view of the black experience in these United States of America. You already knew that. Moonlight, clearly, and I Am Not Your Negro, less so, also shine their light on the experience of growing up gay in the USA.

Honkey 1Last night, driving home in the cold Portland rain, having just watched the James Baldwin penned I Am Not Your Negro, Susan and I took turns discussing how we felt about the movie. You’ll have to check with her about her opinion. It will be worth your time. For me, as I sat in the nearly all-white audience in nearly all-white Portland, I was reminded of a thought I had had earlier in the week. Regarding my writing – my fiction. And I explained the connection to my wife as best I could.

I have been trying to market my first published book – “Ring Around the Rosy” – and I have been actively promoting it on Twitter, with, realistically, poor results. In terms of sales anyway. I’d been thinking, earlier in the week, that I was getting very little response from the many LGBTQ and Trans folks I follow on Twitter, and to whom I fairly regularly comment and like and retweet and do all the twitter things to do. Then I had this clarity – why should they? There are no gay or lesbian or trans or questioning characters in my novel. There are characters with what are considered disability – down syndrome (2) and cerebral palsy (1), and as such I have had a some positive response with folks connected to that population, and have sold some books. But, in Rosy, there was and is no gay/lesbian/trans character to be found.

Then I began, the middle of last week, thinking about my second book, currently in what I hope will be its final editing stage and therefore ready for self publishing within the next four to six weeks. That book will be titled “Astoria Strange“, an interwoven collection of 11 stories that live in the genres of supernatural and horror. honkey 4And, lo and behold, narry a LGBTQ character there either. I am neither gay nor trans but this isn’t a case of the admonition to write what you know. It’s me not coming to my writing with what I’ll call “Big Mind.”

Anyway, last night on the drive home I told my wife of the earlier-in-the-week conversation with myself, the smallish “aha” moment, and that sitting in the theater I was feeling that feeling again. James Baldwin’s crystal clear conclusion – the trouble in the United States is race trouble – and it was and is therefore everyone’s responsibility – No, the word was Obligation – it was and is everyone’s obligation to work hard at understanding the other experience. Or else. That was how the movie ended – You have an obligation, white people, to do everything in your power to commit to and thoroughly understand the black experience in America. Or else.

And for me, sitting in the theater, I had the clear awareness that, as a writer – certainly as a Blogger like right now, but as a writer of fiction – I have the obligation to be more expansive, to write with Bigger Mind, to read and study and learn and hang out with and experience and do everything I can do to know more, within the reality of my white skin and heterosexual template, and to get that more-ness into my writing.

It’s my obligation.

I am happy to say, well, it makes me feel better somewhat, that my “Rosy“, within its 14 characters, has three who are black – Marvin, his mom Bonnie, and latecomer Greg. That’s better than no gay, lesbiaJames-Baldwinn, or trans characters. And three characters with disabilities. And that the forthcoming “Astoria Strange” has as one of its primary characters, a black man – Sergeant Rennie Moss. As does my story/novella waiting for me to get back to it – “Bennie’s Berkeley“. Plus, thinking about my obligations, and I shared this with Susan, I am going back into stories in progress, including a collection of short stories and one not yet complete novella, and see where I can be more inclusive, more expansive, more commited to my obligations to help the planet, and in particular help my badly bleeding Country, and to do that the best way I can now, in March of 2017, with my writing. My stories. The stuff of life I sit here and make up out of my imagination and therefore, in a rare instance, have virtually complete control over to create whoever and have them believe and do whatever, whenever they feel like it.

Because it’s my Obligation – capital O – to do my part, to shine my little light, to keep my eyes on the prize, to hold up my sign that says “I Am Somebody (and so are You)” and keep marching to the freedom land.

I’m a writer. I write. I’m a published author. I publish. And I can make a difference.

I might be a straight old(er) white guy, but you know what? I am not your honkey. I can bring Big Mind to my otherwise White writing and do my best to be part of the solution.

Because not trying to learn more and understand more and be your best at empathizing more means something else – that you’re part of the problem.


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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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A Day, A Daydream

spoonful-1I awoke one day early last week with these words on my lips: “There’s something special ’bout six o’clock.” They were just there, no reason to be, I have no explanation. Then a couple of days later someone commenting on a previous Blog I’d written about The Byrds said this: “I was a Byrd’s fan, possibly as an extension of The Lovin’ Spoonful, my high school heroes, taking “Magic” and “Darling Companion” to a psychedelic level.

Hmmm. Two distinct Spoonful flashbacks out of the clear blue on an anonymous week in September. Where else to go, but here.

First this: “Darling Be Home Soon”   www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXjzOpz4Cyw

There was something very special about the music playing through radio speakers and on turntables when I was a kid. Maybe everyone feels that, I suppose they do, some type of ‘imprinting’. Our open to experience, fresh ears, big eyes, the dancing, the singing along in a friend’s car, gunning it through back roads, cranking up the sound in the beach parking lot. Summer days, radio days, good days. That’s how I remember it, and that time and place and the scene with all its sensory input, it comes back when I hear those sounds. Those songs. And how could you ever go wrong, or failed to be thrilled, with the songs of The Lovin’ Spoonful.

Listen: “Daydream“, “Summer in the City“, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice“, “Rain on the Roof“, “She Is Still a Mystery“, “Did You Ever have To Make Up Your Mind?“, “Darling Be Home Soon“, “Do You Believe in Magic?“, the aforementioned “Six O’Clock”.

John Sebastion, Zal Yanofsky, Steve Boone, Joe Butler – They burst on the scene in 1965 with “Magic” and were done as a foursome with 1970s “Younger Generation“. Do you know that last one? “And hey pop, my girlfriend’s only three. She’s got her own video phone and she’s taking LSD.” Like them or not, those lyrics could never have been written in any other time. If you’ve never heard this wonderful song, here’s your chance:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbPiWwNeiKE 

Two songs reached #2  in the Billboard 100 – “Daydream” and “Make Up Your Mind” – and one made it all the way to the top – “Summer in the City“. Maybe of interest or not, but for a fun reference and blast from the past, here are the top 10 songs in The United States the week ending August 13th, 1966, when “Summer” took the top spot: 1) Summer in the City; 2) Lil’ Red Riding Hood – Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs; 3) They’re Coming To Take Me Away, Ha-Haa – Napolean XIV; 4) Wild Thing – The Troggs; 5) The Pied Piper – Crispian St. Peters; 6) I Saw Her Again – The Mamas and the Papas; 7) Sunny – Bobby Hebb; 8) Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones; 9) Somewhere My Love – Ray Coniff and the Singers; 10) Sweat Pea – Tommy Roe. The Spoonful’s “Summer” held the top spot for three weeks that summer, and was joined in the top 10 during that time by “I Couldn’t Live Without Your Love” – Petula Clark, “Sunshine Superman” – Donovan, “See You in September” – The Happenings, “You Can’t Hurry Love” – The Supremes, “Yellow Submarine” – The Beatles, and “Summertime” – Billy Stewart. You remember that one – Bdddddddddddddddddddd  Ha!  www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2J5FjopWqM

spoonful-2So, here:

You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”  www.youtube.com/watch?v=9iyBhPzuZZc

 

Do You Believe in Magic?”  www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGCVwk6bgeo

 

Anyway, this began with me waking up the other day with some Lovin’Spoonful lyrics the first thought I had, 5:35 in the morning, on my way to the chair and the coffee pot and the recliner and the books and the morning pages and all of it.  This song:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTGTOHeegDo

What’s your favorite Spoonful song? Please leave anspoonful-4answer in the Comments.


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Bread Crumbs

The guy behind the counter was playing jazz when I took my coffee to a chair in the Just Bob Coffee Shop on Alberta in Northe20160916_142455_hdrast Portland last Friday. It was just after two in the afternoon, and while there was the occasional customer lining up at the take-out counter, most of the seats in the shop were empty. Mostly I didn’t hear the jazz music playing, and when it would intrude into my consciousness every once in a while, I’d ignore it. Jazz is not my thing. It’s funny, my non-appreciation of that purely American music form, because it was a favorite of The Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, one of the writers I most revere, and try to borrow from as a writer. He wrote like jazz, these long, often connectedly discombobulated riff of words, sometimes making up new words to suit the flavor of the riff. Like jazz.keruoac

Which isn’t really the point, other than saying I love Kerouac and don’t like jazz.

There was a woman sitting in one of the three stuffed chairs in the shop — I was in another, facing her — and she was reading a paperback book, a softcover to be exact, and squinting my eyes I could see the title of the book was “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together In the Cafeteria?” She herself was a black woman, young, maybe mid 30s, and was taking notes in a bound notebook like the one I carried in. Mine was for recording any ideas I could brainstorm for the 11th and final story in my collection of Astoria, Oregon tales. (None happened to arrive while I was there.) So, I shifted tasks, and asked The Universe for ideas for future Blog posts — like this one — and the thought came to me to play detective — Buddy Cushman, Coffee Shop Sleuth — and follow the woman’s book wherever it would lead me.

When I got home, it took quite a while from NE way down to SE where I live, with Friday afternoon city traffic, but it was sunny and hot and I was playing, very loudly, one Tower of Power song after another, so the trip was not only tolerable but, in fact, a wicked blast, rolling, singing, howling, party on wheels (think The 52s “Love Shack” www.youtube.com/watch?v=9SOryJvTAGs ) Anyway, at the computer dr-tatumI googled the book from Just Bob’s and learned it is a highly valued thought piece on race and race identity and relations in the Country, collective experiences and perspectives written by Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, the President of Spelman College in Georgia. Here is a ten and a half minute review, very thorough and interesting, of the book and its author. It’s worth a look and listen:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=y_l5bO9KZrY&list=PLlFqqfHxQmjOGUX3oN6On3kJW253lUGRx     I now have the book on order from The Multnomah County Library system.

What can be more important than how we live with, and value, each other?

The woman with the book left before me, and I sat there looking at the sun stream through the multiple front windows of the shop. At some point the barista behind the counter changed the music and I instantly recognized the opening descending bass and violins of The Left Banke’s “Walk Away Renee”. Hard to imagine anyone doesn’t know the song, and certainly anyone who grew up in the 60s. I mean, the empty sidewalks on my block are not the same.

I was struck, wleft-bankehen “Pretty Ballerina” came on a couple of songs later, about the so-often-highlighted black and whiteness of the world — of the day. The woman and her book, it’s black title, and now a thoroughly ‘white’ sounding pop group from 1965 New York City. After another song I walked up to the counter and asked the guy what exactly he was playing. Turns out it was a “best of” collection by The Left Banke called ‘There’s Gonna Be a Storm: the Complete Recordings 1966 – 1969’. A
couple of songs , white poppy little things, stood out to me — I’d never heard them, shame on me, especially working in a record store most of those years and holding The Banke’s debut album in my hands many times. So here they are, for your listening enjoyment, and maybe they are long-time favorites. “She May Call You Up Tonight”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZSlF2AkrS4   and “Let Go Of You Girl”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=POdiO1xOg-E

Way cool. And maybe all this matters not a wit to anyone but me, Buddy Cushman – Coffee Shop Sleuth. Oh well. And by the way, as Oakland’s Tower of Power — a strong example of what glory we can get when you combine black and white — since they helped me along my way home, I’ll end with one from them. Thanks for showing up.

“So Very Hard To Go”:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9BRqGpppJw

tower-of-power-19731


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Dancing Barefoot

I’d like to talk about Patti Smith today, in this space so neglected, so necessary, so personal.

I wish I knePatti 3w Patti Smith better. Her art, her music, her writing, her photographs. Paths of this life in which I myself have ventured, certainly without Patti’s skill and life force and fame and following. But I’ve taken those paths, and my successes are as real as that painting of a cow on the living room wall, the boxes of unsold doo wop CDs on the spare room floor, the photo with my mother of the Atlantic Ocean from the Chatham Light, and all the words piling up within the memory space of this very instrument, on which I now type, stories that await attention in the perpetual heat and with the spiders that grace these basement walls.

I recently had the very good fortune to order a copy of Smith’s “M Train” from the Multnomah Library, and read it straight through , entranced by — as John Gardner describes in his “Art of Fiction” —  the ‘vivid and continuous dream’, the profluence of travel on the journeys with her: from faraway island grave sites to the wreckage of Super Storm Sandy. I followed that book immediately with the National Book Award “Just Kids”, which flat out knocked mPatti 5e over and made me want so badly to go back and do much of my life over again, to become one with , as Kerouac said, “the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, the ones who…burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles.” That’s what I wanted reading “Just Kids”, because that is how Patti lived, and continues to live.

While she may be most famous, musically, for “Because the Night”, my first fatimes_squarell into the spell of her musical potion came with “Pissing In the River”, which I heard during the movie “Times Square”. It is a remarkably beautiful and powerful song. When I think of it, hear it in my head, I’m drawn in to all the angst and struggle and the urge to “burn, burn, burn” of young life. Please take a listen and see if you agree:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhDJZm_HyXY&list=FLr7ouFpiNMcW1mERvyEcKaQ&index=1

Then there’s the remarkable song from which I borrowed this post title. Here:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcbuG2w0Kzo&list=PLWx9FOPbDxsLKUa1DUobV_qRVTyqstOty&index=3

Patti’s two years older than me. We shared some times, separately, but we shared some times. It’s taken me longer than it should have, way, way longer, to get to know her better. The way she navigated through, and in the process, influenced the world we shared, miles apart. And now I’m better for it.

In her own voice, this is an interview with Amy Goodman at Democracy Now, where words are music, and a musician makes music with a pen. www.youtube.com/watch?v=TseiQePbDpo

This weekly blog likes to conclude with these words – Save the Planet. Here’s one more Patti Smith song, about doing just that:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPR-HyGj2d0

Patti 7

Thank you Patti.

#savetheplanet