Buddy Cushman Art

engaging stories of hope and joy


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To Go Where No Buddy Has Gone Before

If the question is – “Why a book of poetry?”

The answer, (honestly), is – “Beats me.”

I do not remember writing the first poem. It was just there. Another followed, then another. Over a short period of time – no moSusan holding Minorre than 10 days – someone who’s never had much of an inclination toward or appreciation of the written poem fell down the rabbit hole and all the way in. Quickly I found myself entirely devoted to poetry. It began to fall out, every morning after sitting meditation and with coffee in the recliner. In fact, many of the poems to be found in my first book of poetry – “Minor  Revelations” – showed up in a flash sitting in the recliner.

I have always been a Shakespeare fan, a big one. Beyond that, no friend of poetry. In fact, a couple of years ago a friend named Kate, someone with whom I’d worked years earlier in a Portland foster care program, got the idea to bring poetry into Portland area juvenile detention centers and groups homes – something she’d been involved with in Seattle – and when asked, I signed up as a volunteer. I went to a number of the poetry planning meetings and brought home the books of poetry written by the kids up in Seattle Kate gave me to read (though I never read them much). After a while, the familiar fog of guilt upon me, I respectfully resigned…..Little did I know.

Today I have a second book of poetry in the works, about a third of the planned way complete. One of the poems in that project is called “Kate, I Didn’t Know”. Kate and I had a cup of tea at the Chinese Garden downtown Sunday morning and I told her about it – my new life as a poet, the second book, the poem with her name. She laughed — with me or maybe at me, who can tell. Probably a little of both. Kate’s always been a fan and supporter of my varied adventures.

My answer, above, to the question “Why a book of poetry?” was “Beats me.” While  the “you got me”, “couldn’t tell ya”, “never woulda thought it”, all those ring true, there’s also a fabulous obsession in which I found myself immersing about a year ago with the literature of “The Beats” – Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso, Hettie Jones, Diane di Prima, Clellon Holmes. Obviously there’s a lot of poetry there and while reading everything Kerouac I began the tiptoe through some of Ginsberg as well. “Howl” for sure. Then others. The point being that it’s possible the Beat poets were reaching out from the 50s and 60s, whispering in my ear – and in my heart – “come along with us, Buddy. It’ll be worth it. It’ll be exciting. It’ll be fun.”

So far it has, a joyride eons beyond anything I considered, never mind hoped for. I’ll talk in more detail –  in my next post – just how that ride has looked as I’ve whizzed along all the road maps and signs of my interwoven life.

Here are the last 19 lines of “Kate, I Wasn’t Ready”:

…..

Though I suspect it was a game,

Always a game.

Call it hide and seek

Where I was

Forever ‘It’

And poetry a better hider.

 

So,

Then,

When Kate took my hand,

Led me to workshops,

Filled my flimsy arms with thin volumes

of the good stuff,

Explained to me as if to a child.

All that time –

All this time –

Poetry giggled

Almost silent,

Hiding behind my favorite tree.

 

Invisible.

 

 

 

 

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On My Newest Book

Minor cover

I had an idea for the cover of my new book, my third, a project on which I’ve been quietly at work. The front cover was going to be a photo of one of my paintings, the back cover a photo of me leaning against a stone wall, the wall rising some 15 feet and covered in hanging vines turned red with autumn’s imperative. But my wife Susan and I never coordinated picture schedules and times and as the deadline approached for all exterior and interior files to be readied for formatting and printing I changed my mind and decided to work with something quieter. I chose the photo above.

This photo will be wrapped around the book in its entirety — front cover, spine, and back, with title and author words on the front and spine and a quote from the one person to whom I have sent the book – in Word document – for pre-publish review. Her feedback has arrived and the boys from Bulgaria who do my covers have already placed Jamie and her thoughtful review front and center on the back. They’ve sent me the first draft and I could share it here now, but why spoil the secret. If good things come to those who wait, please wait a little longer.

Cover aside, I am most excited with what’s inside, completely new prose territory for me. If nothing ventured is nothing gained, well, I have ventured deep into the dusty, dusky inner workings of my mind.

“Minor Revelations” is the result.

Coming soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Help Me Help You

Haven’t posted a blog in a while, but that will change this week.

Frenzy. That’s the goal for this week. All out creativity activity in an effort to end the endless ennui of having days and weeks

 

 

blondie-s-pizzaand months fly by — and oh do they fly in the “senior” years — with the sadness of getting what feels like very little done.

Now I have published my first two books in the last eight months — a life-long dream come true, even if neither qualifies (yet) as ‘The Great American Novel’. I have Facebook friends and Twitter followers way closer to that reality than me. Still, two books. And I have had a couple of public showings of some of my art, both at New Seasons markets  in various Portland, OR locals. I’ve done a few new paintings during that time — and I’m still waiting on the writing/painting simultaneous thing to show up.

But the fact remains that at the end of each day I’ve been blessed with, at the end of each of those weeks, I have the distinct feeling of wasted time. Way too much wasted time. This is not me being hard on myself. This is not me ignoring easy does it. This is simply the fact, Jack.

 

So yesterday, sometime during my daily morning ritual of up at 5:30, sit for 10 – 20 minutes in a rather hilarious half-assed version of “meditation”, drink two cups of coffee while reading something useful (spiritual, inspiring, rewarding) and/or looking at a book of art, then down to the basement for three “morning pages” in a wide-ruled notebook, sometime within that period yesterday I had the decision come upon me that the next week — Sunday, today, through Saturday — I was going to dramatically amp up my creative efforts and social media involvement and general gifting to the Universe with my unique gifts and express myself, and late last night I drew up a chart I could check off and follow and visually confront myself with evidence of any slacking, which in this case translates to lying to myself. And how low is that. Or, hopefully progress.

 

 

So you’ll “see” more of me this week, here and there, and I’ll likewise be invisible and missing in (your) action for long stretches while writing, drawing, painting, brainstorming, etc, etc, etc.

But I will be back right here tomorrow with some specifics about just what exactly is in the works.

A bientot.


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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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So Many Pedestrians, …

When I moved to Portland, Oregon I had to learn a new way to cross the street. I’d grown up in Massacchildren-crossing-sign-k-7066husetts and had spent most of my life living – and crossing streets – there. Now I was living in Portland, a city of about 500,000, similar in population to Boston. The last place I had lived in Massachusetts was the town of North Truro, on Cape Cod, population about about 318. (Actually the town of Truro, of which North is part, has a population just over 2000 so I am likely underestimating – in my usual smart-alecky way – how many people live on the North side, closer to Ptown. The point is, not a lot.)

None of which is the focus of this piece. I was talking about crossing the street, and re-learning the way to take that action once I’d relocated to the Northwest. You see the title up there, up at the top of this post? It is, in fact, half of a popular bumper sticker seen periodically on the rear bumpers of cars whooshing around the Bay State. In it’s entirety it reads like this – “So Many Pedestrians, So Little Time”. If you’re a Bay Stater, you get it.

When I moved to Portland and needed to cross the street I would step to the edge of the curb or into the curb cut or even off the curb if I felt foolhardy and wanted to live dangerously – and wait. Approaching cars, somehow having seen or perhaps sensed my intention from more than half a mile away would slow down and eventually stop. Up the street from me. Being from Massachusetts, where we take it as a God-given right to actually gun the motor at the sight of someone foolishly teetering at the edge of the curb, I would wait. The car would wait. I would wave them on with my hand, cause there’s no fuckin’ way I’m stepping out there Bro. They would wave me across. I wouldn’t go. They wouldn’t go. I would feel something like frustration, like, just go you asshole. They would feel something like rage, because I was making their sensitive and kindly and well-trained in driving etiquette selves waste time, and I have little doubt that perhaps more often than not they would slide their fingers under the driver’s seat, or maybe into the purse to their right, and feel the reassurance of cold steel – locked and loaded, one in the chamber, safety off motherfucker.

What’s a boy to do? Because I know, growing up where we have bumper stickers that yearn for just a little more time, that if I step off the curb and start the dead man walking stroll across the macadam some perverted Celtics fan is going to gun that bitch and twist the wheel ever so slightly in my direction. So I don’t go and the Portland car don’t go and I wave and they wave (and sometimes you can’t actually see the face behind the wheel and it’s freaky and scary like that movie “Duel” with Dennis Weaver and the invisible truck driver, which was actually Stephen Spielberg’s very first  full-length film btw) and I mutter under my breath “dumb Portland asshole” and have no doubt that they mutter too, except in braille, with their fingers on the trigger.

And so, back to Cape Cod and without disparaging the truly lovely and inspiring town of North Truro, the fact is you’re way more likely to get gunned and runned there than with the half a million sweet automotive souls in the Rose City.

Which is mostly meaninmonday-pic-2gless – all of it I’ve just written – to this Blog post. Because this is a post about reading, about reading books, about the 50% of the United States population that continues to read books after graduation from high school, and about what I was thinking early this morning, in the blue recliner with my second cup of coffee, looking at the pile of “to be read next” books on the little wicker thingy table beside the chair, and I had this thought – “So Many Books, So Little Time.” Honest, I had that very thought. There were three books I’d just purchased at Powell’s with a Christmas gift card and two out from the library, and three old Kurt Vonnegut paperbacks and the copy of Desolations Angels I’d finally bought for myself after having read Kerouac’s book (my favorite of his) twice out of the library, and I said “Man, there are so many books to read, I’ve got to read more” and I thought “so many books” and then, as if by the magic of one bread crumb leading to another or, possibly, psychosis, the bumper sticker found on cars in Massachusetts, the one that says if I had any wish in the world – other than world peace – it would be for just a little more driving time, that popped into my head and I ran down here in the basement and turned on the computer and typed in the headline above, then went upstairs and took the picture of Steinbeck, Steinbeck, and Bradbury, had a bagel and some yogurt, looked at Twitter for a while, and then came to the keyboard – which I do quite a lot these days – and typed up this daydream about living life right, where you wait for all the cars to go by, and living life wrong, where the cars wait for you, and they’re not happy about it.

And by the way, in the spirit of full disclosure – drivers in Massachusetts are way, way, way betters drivers than drivers in Oregon and Washington and probably most everywhere else will ever be.

Word.

Stay off the road. Read a book.