Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy

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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.




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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Oh Christmas Tree

Last Sunday morning, while driving down to a friend’s house to do some 12 Step work, I passed a Christmas tree on the side of the road. It was lying half on and half off that space of grass between the sidewalk and the street. It was waiting, waiting to be collected by one benevolent organization or another – in our neighborhood it’s the boy scouts – or possibly a for profit group. Someone who will come around in one truck or another and haul it away. To where no-longer-needed

Christmas xmastreecurbtrees go. When I was growing up in Massachusetts, hard by Cape Cod, they would haul old Christmas trees onto beaches to help prevent so much winter storm erosion. The other day someone told me, out here in the always forward-thinking west, they are dumping the trees whole in rivers and streams, in the process creating some higher value eco-culture.

Whoever picks them up or wherever they go, the fact remains that I drove by a tree laying on its side out by the street on a rainy Sunday morning, the first Sunday in the New Year. My wife Susan had prepared ours the night before, removing the ornaments and carefully placing them in their storage boxes for their annual eleven-month sleep. Then Susan and I had dragged the now bare tree out to our street, to wait for the boy scouts, an envelope tied on by Susan in the rain, containing six dollars in an annual act of fundraising tradition.

For me, the Christmas season personally comes to an end when the tree is undressed and out the door. It is always a sad day. I hear people, I have heard people for nearly all the years of my life, moan about Christmas and complain about commercialism and worry about all the stress associated with the holidays, and when I hear that I am glad I have never felt that way. Not for one moment. From some of my earliest recollections of being an active participant in the Christmas holiday – first as a present unwrapper, later as a kid with 75 cents walking down to the 5 & 10 on Main Street and buying my mother and father a few glasses and cups, at a quarter a piece – I have held a sense that there is a goodness to the day, at least to the spirit of the day. The goodness of giving. The goodness of thinking about others – loved ones, friends, family members – first, at least for a while. And it doesn’t have much to do with money. A little. But not much. I’ll tell you, I had very little money to spend for presents this Christmas, and it was still a fine time.

I make it a point, and I have for many years now, to watch Christmas movies. My definites are A Christmas Carol (the 1938 version with Reginald Owen), Miracle On 34th Street with Natalie Wood, and It’s A Wonderful Life. They all have something strong to say about people and joy and hope. I also make it a point to listen for Christmas songs. And to notice the lights people take the time to put up. The best is the Christmas tree. It doesn’t have to be expensive and the lights and decorations don’t have to be fancy. We had green, red, white, and blue lights this year. There is something about sitting and looking at them that brings me to an easier, better place. Even after the actual Christmas Day has come and gone. Which is why the tree out by the side of the road is a sad day.

There is something universal that makes the effort to stop and think about others special. I get that this is a birthday for one religion – the one I’ve always had – but beyond that is the idea of genuine thoughfulness. You don’t catch that on any other holiday, not in this country anyway. My favorite Christmas song is “Let There Be Peace On Earth, and Let It Begin With Me”. I sang that in a chorus back in high school. The music and the words spoke to me then and they always have – they still do. And that song could be sung on any day of the year. Peace on Earth. Here, listen here for a moment: www.youtube.com/watch?v=M-_Qw48KqT0\

The folk singer Melanie Safka – she of Woodstock “Lay Down Candles” fame – sang a Christmas song that she rearranged from other songs, and in it she asked twice – “Why Can’t It be Christmas The Whole Year Through?” It’s a good question. I wonder about it from time to time. No, I haven’t lost my mind, yet, and I’m not a complete ignoramous, not complete. People go on hurting and killing other people with ever-frightening frequency and efficiency. But I think, every so often, that if we could just find those best parts of Christmas, the spirit that sails past countries and religions, we might just surpsise ourselves. It could happen.

So I am always sad when I see a Christmas tree, a tree lovingly grown and cut and shipped and bought and brought home and decorated with important things and strung with lights and looked at with just a little more wonder and bliss than we usually look at things, and at each other, I’m always sad when I see a tree by the side of the street. Off on its next journey. Because it means another Christmas season has come and gone.

And we haven’t figured the peace thing out yet.

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Check Your Shoes (Before Entering the House)

There are eight million canine stories in the city. This is “Check Your Shoes (Before Entering the House).

I went for a walk the other afternoon, and just before walking I asked The Universe to supply me with an idea – some image, a word, a phThe Dogsrase, a sacred vision – for a subject for my Thursday blog post. I was walking down by Johnson Creek, and the idea came to write about walking in the woods. I also thought about the creek water, and rivers, and writing about rivers by which I have closely lived, and how they are unique, each there own. I was leaning toward that. And then I happened to look down and saw I was about to step in a pile of dog excrement. In Portland. Here. And I knew The Universe had answered. I had my tale.

Let me tell you something about Portland. There is a militancy here about cleaning up after your dog. No, I take that back. It is more like a flat-out, crazily obsessed, dogmatic militancy. You must clean up after your dog. We have ways of knowing if you do. Or – perish the thought – if you do not. Punishment will be severe.

Actually I have never seen a “punishment will be severe” sign posted. But there are signs to “pick up” posted throughout the city, certainly at walking parks. And parks that have sections reserved for dogs-off-the-leash-freeness. And there are receptacles. Everywhere. With blue doggie bags. To use for, you know, cleanliness is next to dogliness. Some are just bags. Many are blue, made of the kind of plastic outlawed in California and no doubt soon in Oregon. Others are clear. Boxes of dog bags everywhere. Some are in the shape of plastic gloves, making the grabbing and scooping and retrieving process lickedly-split quick and easy. But those boxes are only for convenience. Not really necessary. Because dog walkers everywhere in Portland carry their own bags, like boys use to carry Trojans – just to be ready, just in case. Everywhere people are leaving their homes with plastic bags, gloves, receivers and retrievers of all shapes in their back pockets. Or their purses. Because that’s the way we roll here.

So, imagine my surprise – lost in reverie about my next wildly engaging blog post of nature, rivers, spirituality – to look down as my foot was about to fall squarely in a big pile of dog shit. (Author’s note: as it is my intention always to write blog posts that are available for readers of all ages, the aforementioned dog shit will be hereafter noted as “DS”.) Anyway, the shock, the fear, the loss of breath, the……………….

Um, excuse me. That is not how I felt. Don’t tell Portland people I am saying this, but I looked down, I was about to step in DS, and I – oh my God! – moved my foot. The canniness, the stealth, the jaguar-like speed of decision making. I moved my foot, I thought I had a blog topic, and I kept walking. Here’s why. It’s a where and a when. I’m from Massachusetts and I am from back in the day. Ah, the day. That day. Back when we would go out to play, really play, run through back yards, back and forth across streets and the little grassy areas between streets and sidewalks, run through baseball fields and empty lots and parks by schools and parks by rivers and parks by the woods, and inevitably, invariably, run through DS. Like, you know, not a big deal. Like, you know, normal. If you went out to play and you didn’t come back with at least a smidgeon of DS still on the bottom of your sneaker, even after all the rubbing on grass or twisting your ankle to get it off the sides, even using a twig or stick to scrape it off the bottom, if you didn’t come back with at least a trace of the brown stuff and just a twinkle of a smell – were you really playing? Had you even gone out? Were you like, maybe, the biggest wuss in your hometown? Come on!! Live free with DS or die.

DS on your shoes was a way of life – a damn badge of honor – and I’m glad I lived in that place and that time. Because it’s not like that here, it’s not like that anymore. Now, you don’t clean up after your dog, it may be a criminal intervention, it may be a fine, possibly public ridicule in The Oregonian. But for sure it will be a seething, glowering mob mentality, a righteous umbrage at the insensitivity and, well, dogged disrespect, for the way things are. They way we do it here. The way we roll.

Sometimes, when I’m in a really “bad” mood – and by “bad” I mean to say really “good” – I make a plan to go to the local shelter, rescue some unwanted mutt, bring him or her home and feed ’em a couple of large cans of B & M beans, and then run through the streets and parks of Portland, my dog pooping and farting and fouling all of the greenness here, there, and everywhere, again, and again, and again.

Because that is how me and my dog, who by the way I will name “TheGoodOldDays”, roll.

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Press Release

Well, how did I get here? First, I got in my car in Massachusetts in the fall of 2008 and drove to Portland. Had never been to Portland or Oregon or the Northwest, didn’t know one person, no waiting job. It just seemed like a good idea. A year later I met a woman – now my wife Susan – and through her repeated suggestions to do something while she worked on her pottery, I opened her old set of acrylic paints. I was 59 years old, and had not picked up a paint brush since the fifth grade, 50 years earlier.

Some20140817_090403how, some way, the painting took over. My original work would have made a fifth-grader blush, in embarrassment , but I kept painting, and little by slow, I got a little better. I took one two-hour lesson once, which wasn’t helpful, and sat in on a free portrait class at the Oregon Society of Artists. I volunteered at the 100th Monkey Studio in Southeast as a janitor for about eight months in exchange for attending a few art therapy groups and some individual drawing lessons with owner Beth Ann Short. That is it for my formal training. What I did do right was begin checking out one art book after another from the Multnomah County Library, how-to books and books about artists and their artist lives. I’ve read hundreds. I started buying used art books and American Art Review magazines on Ebay and at Goodwills and stores like Cameron’s downtown. I’ve studied it all as best as I can with my old and soggy brain cells, and I have tried to honor the painting styles – at least a little – of artists whose work has spoken to me – Robert Henri, John Singer Sargent, Alice Neel are some. I use both oil and acrylic paints on stretched canvas or canvas sheets, each painting kind of tells me what it wants.

I have had a number of public showings of my paintings in Portland coffee shops and restaurants, with more scheduled for the fall. I was a Portland RAW artist in 2012. I have pinched myself a few times, driving by a business and seeing my art on the walls, and knowing I have a paintings in peoples’ houses across the country. Me? A few months ago I begin created a line of greeting cards, color reproductions of my paintings. I’ve had an Etsy store for a few years, since the beginning I guess, but I sold almost nothing until the greeting cards. Those have sold okay in the last few months, and I am really proud of them. The printer does a great job, the paper quality and color reproduction is outstanding, but mostly because it feels like I am taking part in some continuum of kindness. How great is it to get a beautiful card in the mail, with some words from a friend or family member inside instead of a mailbox filled with just bills and junk mail. And how great is it to send someone one of those cards? It is all about being kind, and I have heard the most wonderful stories from people about buying the cards, who they are sending them to, and why. It’s pretty cool.

I left a 35 year career in human services three years ago, signed up for Social Security, met a guy on line and wrote and produced a CD of original doo wop music, and began painting more and more. I also began writing again. I have a WordPress blog where I post weekly, and have a couple of novels in their infancy.

I have sold one painting for more than $100, the rest around $35. So when I say I am living in part on the sale of my art, that gets me a few cups of coffee a week. And a burrito dinner with my wife. But the library is free, walking around this beautiful city is free, writing on WordPress is nearly free, and I can say I own my own on-line store, and that I am an artist and a writer. Not bad for an old guy.”

You can see Buddy’s on-line gallery at http://www.67blondies.artistwebsites.com  

His Etsy Shop at  www.etsy.com/shop/musicflower67  

his blog at http://www.buddycushmanart.com    

Follow him on Facebook at   http://www.facebook.com/67blondies  

The doo wop CD can be heard at www.facebook.com/thegrayjays

Much of this story can be read on-line in the Portland Magazine Project:Poppycock, where I am a featured local artist this month.    www.projectpoppycock.com




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 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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