Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy

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The Way of a Poem

I finished a poem last week, it was seven pages long. I’d typed it in one long paragraph from notes and lines of possible poetry in a notebook and my Morning Pages over the previous week when I was on my way to and then in San Diego

SD Air 2with my wife Susan, visiting her parents.

I’d typed the long paragraph late in the afternoon, a clear cold day with an east wind howling outside our Portland windows, and before going up the basement stairs to handle dinner I’d begun my process of hitting the “Enter” key on the keyboard to create a new line — the next line — when it felt poetically proper to do so. I got maybe a quarter of the way through my lengthy mess. During and after dinner my wife Susan and I watched four episodes of NYPD Blue Season 11, though I nodded out here and there during the last 42 minutes. So when Susan was heading up to bed (and one of my most favorite things is to get into bed while she’s still awake and look at her in the dark and giggle) I truly meant it when I said I was too tired to do anymore work on the poem and was simply going to turn off the computer.

I came back up the basement stairs out of a trance 45 minutes later, then cut up and ate my mandatory (reflux) before bed every evening apple while watching “All the President’s Men” on HBO — it feeling kind of relevant these days — and so I found myself quietly slipping into bed in the dark beside my now long-dreaming wife at 11:19. One opportunity missed — and I don’t take that lightly — and another seized — ditto.

The poem is “San Diego Say So” and the plan is for all seven pages of it to appear within the next volume of poetry I publish sometime in early 2018 (on the cheerful assumption we’re all still here).


For show and tell purposes — and maybe serving as a teaser —  within a short section of the poem, this became this:


“We’ll pass the San Diego airport which I like, the one runway, the in-bound planes approach in wide arc out over the County, in fact fly just over the in-laws home, descend in a straight line 13 miles they pass so low, eventually, over India Street (in Little Italy) San Diegans can look into oblong plane windows at the wide-eyed expressions of young boys and their parents reaching for smart phones. I’m not a native here, but I’ve been on the street and seen those faces. And, in the air, been seen as one.”

Became This

We’ll pass the San Diego airport

Which I like,

The one runway.

The inbound planes approach in wide arc

Out over the County, in fact

Fly just over the in-laws home,

Descend in a straight line

13 miles.

They pass so low, eventually, over India Street

(In Little Italy)

San Diegans can look into oblong

Plane windows

At the wide-eyed expressions of young boys

And their parents reaching for smart phones.SD Air 1

I’m not a native here, but

I’ve been on the street

and seen those faces.


In the air,

Been seen as one.


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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




There’s A Place

ccrt 3There are eight million artist stories in the city . This is mine. This is “There’s A Place”.

My sister Sandy had mentioned to me at least a few times a coffee shop she was sure I would like. It’s name was The Chocolate Sparrow. It was – and is – in Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. Just at the rear end of a parking lot on what might pass as the main street of Orleans. Orleans is the place where the three main roads on the Cape – Route 6, Route 6A, and Route 28 – all meet up for the first time and for the most part become one the remainder of the way to Provincetown, which is kind of the end of the world in the United States. Even though I had grown up in Wareham – the Gateway to Cape Cod was what the sign said in our home town – and had attended for two years and graduated from Cape Cod Community College in Hyannis, some 21 miles away, I had never really spent any time at all in Orleans. My sister and her family lived in Yarmouth and my mother had lived in Harwich and I had friends from my past life up and down the Cape, I just never found myself in Orleans. And I had been on the planet for 59 years by then.

But the summer of 2008 was different. I had been, for almost a year, the Housing Director for the Aids Support Group of Cape Cod, running their permanent housing program in Provincetown called Foley House. I had lived much of that time with my son Spenser – his mom in Florida getting a brief respite – in winter housing in North Truro. But living in a winter rental means you get booted when the rents can go up a zillion times duing the Cape Cod summer, and by late June Spenser was back in Florida and I was crashing in a spare room of my friends Andy and Jamie in Brewster. So I was commuting 30 something miles each way down to P’town five days a week, meaning I was going through Orleans twice a day. And on one Wednesday night after work, around 4:30, I was meeting my sister at The Chocolate Sparrow to say hi and spend a few minutes together and check the place out. It has chocolate in the name because they sell lots and lots and lots of chocolate there. But to me it will always be a coffee shop, now one of my two favorites on the Cape. I began spending a lot of time there, after work, on weekends, after meetings, I made a new friend there. I would bring notebooks in and sit at a small counter looking out over the parking lot and I would write down goals and dreams and where I might work next and what I might do next, and where I had applied for a new job, working with kids, and from where I had already been rejected. (by the way, 73 official rejections and 0 encouragements before I got in my car a few months later and headed west toward Portland, a babe in the northwest wood.)

After I had been at the Sparrow a few times I realized that just across the street out back was the Cape Cod Rail Trail, heading both west and east, a 22 mile paved path on the former railroad tracks running through the Cape. Certainly lots and lots of bikers, but nearly as many runners and walkers as well. So I became a walker on the Rail Trail. The summer before, crashing at my sister’s after returning from a job in San Francisco and before starting with the AIDS folks in

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My Fabulously Wonderful Ford Taurus – Writing 101


In May of 2003 I walked onto the lot at Bonnell Ford in Winchester, MA in the company of a woman named Mary, with whom I was living. I was ready to trade in my 1996 Ford Taurus SEL, the goal being to find a newer Taurus. The 2006 was what was called a “program car”, a car that had served as a two-year lease for someone, or a rental car, then turned back into Ford and sold to Ford dealerships. I was looking for another program car, another Taurus. Moving through a lot filled with used as well as new Ford vehicles I came upon a black 2001 Taurus SEL. The car was a program car and had 29,000 miles on the odometer. It looked to be in great shape, clean inside and out, the engine looked clean, not worn. I took it for a test drive and it drove great. I asked Mary about the color, not being sure about black. We had driven to the lot in her black Volvo. Duh.

My 2006 had over 150,000 miles and was giving out, surely but not so slowly. It had been a great car for me and the SEL was the top model – upgraded engine, lots of goodies like keyless entry and moon roof, and a fabulous sound system. That was the best thing about program cars. They were used goodies. I wanted another one. I came back a couple of days later, the saleman got me a really good interest rate, they offered $500 for the trade-in, and I made the deal. In May of 2003.

That black Taurus is sitting just outside, here in Portland, OR, right now, in June of 2014. Thirteen years old, 11 of them with me, paid off six years ago, with just over 131,500 on the odometer. I drove her back and forth from Lowell – where I lived with Mary – to Arlington every day for a couple of years. I drove to California to take a job in San Francisco. I drove back to Massachusetts, with my son Cameron on what I consider one of my greatest adventures – fun stories and memories from places like Elko, Nevada and York, Nebraska – Davenport, Iowa, and Erie, Pennsylvania. I drove alone on yet another journey into the unknown from Cape Cod to Portland – here. And my car has been just wonderful through it all – comfortable, quick, great gas mileage on the highways, and the outstanding sound system. If someone has told me 25 years ago that I would be the happy owner of a Ford Taurus I would have laughed. Way too unhip. But both cars, especially this one, have been great. This one has become my friend. An old friend.

A couple of Fridays ago I brought the car for an oil change at a Jiffy Lube. They proceeded to tell me the usual litany of things wrong and in desparate need of attention. Two did get my attention, brake fluid and anti-freeze on the verge of uselessness. So on the way home I stopped at a Vietnamese owned garage within walking distance from my house, a place I trust, and scheduled both of those fluids to be changed. I brought the car in three days later and an hour or so after that I got a call telling me the master brake cylinder was leaking and would need to be replaced. I told them to do it – broke struggling artist or not. I have a credit card. When I walked up to get it later in the afternoon the mechanic told me the crank shaft bearings are leaking oil. He told me it would cost around $2000 to fix it. I don’t have it so I told him no thanks. He told me is wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t continue to drive the car for a while until it was time for a new one. I looked at him and grinned and said there isn’t going to be a new one. This is my car.

So I have new oil, new brake fluid, new antifreeze, a new master cylinder, tires with pretty good tread, an interior that isn’t peeling and ripped everywhere, and a great sound system. Loaded in my six -disk player right now, in fact, are CDs by The Temptations, The Velvet Underground, Sly and the Family Stone, Blood, Sweat, and Tears, The Beach Boys, and the original Steve Miller Band. The gas mileage has dropped off quite a bit, some of the sensor lights malfunction, and what with the crank shaft leaking when I drive, I will try to not feel like an emplyee of Exxon or Enron, fouler of the earth. I’ll just feel like me, Buddy Cushman, flower child, believer of all things hopeful and magical – painter, writer, walker, dreamer. And proud owner and driver of a 2001 black Ford Taurus SEL, which, by the way, happens to have a bitchin’ sound system, and a decade filled with wonderful memories.

Prized possession? Yessereebob.




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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To control or not to control, that is a question. I don’t say that is “the” question, like in the play, because in fact, this might be “the” question: Will the Red Sox win the World Series again this year?; or this: Will the world spin backwards three times today and everyone on the planet wake up tomorrow committed to world peace and an end to hunger and poverty?; or this: Is the hokey pokey really what it’s all about? Or maybe something else. So I will, in this literary piece, just stick with “a” question, a question about control.

In most of my being an artist self-descriptions, to be found on various internet web sites, I note that I “fell” into my artist life. Like it was an accident. Certain events wholly beyond my control occurred, almost like the planet spinning backwards three times, and as if by magic I found myself with a paint brush or a pencil in my hand, staring blankly at a blank canvas or piece of drawing paper, asking myself one of the most important questions ever to be asked by anyone at any time ever on the planet.
Now what?
An accident, right?

But, just now, let’s step into the wayback time machine and set the dial for July 2008, and the place for Orleans, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. It’s a warm Saturday early in the afternoon, and I am taking a walk on the Cape Cod Rail Trail, heading east toward the British Isles, daydreaming and paying some level of attention to the scenery and sound of birds and over-the-salt marsh glimpse of Cape Cod Bay. All of a sudden this thought runs into my mind: I am moving to Portland, Oregon. Right then, and I was stopped in my tracks by this thought, because I knew it was true. I was going to move to Portland, where I had never once stepped foot (had never been north of Fort Bragg, CA), where I knew not one single person, where I had no connections, no job, no place to live, not even any plans. At the time I had recently moved from a winter rental in North Truro, was crashing in a spare bedroom of my sweet friends Andy and Jamie in Brewster, was serving as the Director of Housing for the AIDS Support Group of Cape Cod, and was ready for a change. Continue reading