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Friday, August 28

liquid sunshine

As I said on facebook (yeah, they got me. It's a cult, I swear), in the past I would get bummed if showers were predicted for a show weekend. Now I'm grateful if they don't tell you which corner of the basement to hide in.

Elmwood is tomorrow, one of my favorites. A few blocks from home in a neighborhood I love. It's gonna rain. Oh well.

This show is not terribly affected by bad weather. People come out anyway, and it's supposed to be "passing" showers. Yeah, like Lewiston with its passing monsoon. But, that weekend, as soon as the storm passed the folks came out from wherever they were hiding and filled the streets. Crazy. Good crazy.

I have half a day to finish up all the stuff that's almost done and then my last Summer show. Seems impossible. I swear it just started. Wasn't I whining about applications just a few days ago?

So, the goal is to earn enough to pay for our coming pilgrimage to the land of the children. I'm sure that will happen. Then I need to get stuff ready for the show in Oregon. No sweat. I promise not to whine that the roads through Nebraska and Iowa are boring. I swear I will enjoy the hours of inactivity. Corm fields are good for reflection and inner peace.

But first...yep. The attic.

Monday, August 24


Someone called out that they heard screaming, so Firefighter "Chip" McCarthy ran into a burning building to search for someone in trouble. When his oxygen tank was used up, he came out, got a new one and went back in.

The floor beneath him burned away, throwing him to the basement. He radioed that he was down. Jonathan Croom ran in to save him.

We toss around the "hero" word so casually these days. But this is what a hero does. He runs into danger for the sake of others when every instinct he has is telling him to run far away.

Chip and Jonathan ran in. And a few hours later, their fellow firefighters brought them out on gurneys, an American flag over each body, a line of men and women in uniform saluting their passage.

In a few days there will be a funeral with representatives from all over the East and Canada. We've seen this before. The ceremony, the coming together, the praise and gratitude. The sheer numbers will be awe-inspiring, the long processions, the fire trucks.

But the real tribute was this morning. when firefighters converged on the scene, hundreds of them, to escort and protect the men they lost. To bring them out with honor, hands raised in salute, some still covered in soot from fighting the fire that claimed their comrades. A human chain of respect and grief.

The men each ran into the building alone, but they came out in the arms of their brothers.

Rest in peace, our heroes.

Saturday, August 22

the power of positive thinking

Some friends of mine in the business keep trying to help me believe in the law of attraction. If you see it, believe it, practice it, you will be rewarded. I get it.

But see, here's the dilemma. I always believe I will have a great show. I always picture being able to actually, oh, save a bunch of the proceeds because I was so successful. I always picture lines of people waiting to pay me, waving paper money and plastic cards. I always picture sunny skies, temps in the 70's and a gentle breeze.


Maybe that's wrong thinking after all. If I wasn't so believing, I would have booked a few extra shows. Remembered the rain curtains. Held off on a couple of extravagances.

If I didn't believe so much, I would have worked more hours at my part time job.

So, I'm thinking there is a fine line to walk between magic and reality. I'm thinking you need to believe in both.

Picture sunny skies but bring the rain curtains. Imagine lines of customers, but save before you spend. Envision streets crowded with people, but book enough shows to make empty streets less of a problem.

I'm also thinking maybe I need to believe AND prepare more. That seems to be the key difference between us. My friends always have tons of things with which to keep restocking their displays. They prepare for the success they imagine. I create enough "stuff" for my realistic expectations.

Sometimes the cartoon light bulb over my head blinds me.

My last Summer show is next weekend and it's one of my favorites. It is also the show that needs to be a good one so we can have our vacation.

I will believe and, because I believe, I'm gonna be ready. What a concept.

I'm picturing the scenic roads through the Rockies. the ferry to my son's house, the vacation house we rented.

I'm picturing the attic and the work that awaits.

First things first.

Wednesday, August 19

Hammondsport Festival of Craft

I enjoy doing this show, even though it really isn't terribly profitable for us. It is a very traditional show with stuff like hair bows and doll clothes and baby bibs and stuffed pumpkins being the "meat" of the show. Nothing wrong with that. I've been known to own a stuffed pumpkin or 2 in my time. But it doesn't bode well for my rather obscure craft. There are some more "artsy" things there, too, but this basically is not an event at which a lot of people will spend 20 bucks or more on a blank book. You can get 5 stuffed pumpkins for that.

I know this about Hammondsport, but the show is run by a couple of really high energy, savvy people, there are worker bees in yellow T's swarming the grounds to help you set up and take down.

Some good friends do the show and we spend the night at one of their homes. The rambling chatter in their sunny kitchen is worth the booth fee. Saturday night is a traditional get together for this group at a Mexican Restaurant. I have my annual alcoholic drink there, a margarita. Or 2.

So, what I'm saying is that I booked this show mostly to pad the gas money fund for our upcoming vacation and to feed my soul. I had realistic expectations.

The trip there is just under 3 hours so we hit the road at 5 and we were rewarded with a Disney sunrise for several miles.

Set up was smooth and when we first saw our spot I thought it would be a good one. Next to the gazebo, in the shade. But as they say in the NFL: upon further review....

The booth was set 8 feet off the path, between 2 food vendors. On my left, frozen wine slushies. On my right, hot fudge and jam. Both were offering samples. As you can imagine, the wine was the more popular attraction. And what that created was a mini wine garden with people slurping slush and chatting amiably in the shade. In front of our booth.

It was hard enough to get people off the path, but when a gaggle of wine slushers obscured us, it was impossible. I rearranged my booth, bringing more product and color to the front. We chatted up anyone who wandered by. I sampled a slushie or 2 myself.

Did I mention it was over 90 and sunny? Upstaters don't do heat well. We are snow people. By 1, crowds in front of the booth were no longer a problem.

I began to look forward to our Mexican dinner.

That was fun. Best Mexican food in New York is found in Bath of all places. San Carlos on Rte 54. Go there. I'll wait.

Sadly, the owner was still waiting for a liquor license for the new location, meaning no annual margarita for me. No matter. We laughed and told stories and there was even a table-hopping magician. My spirits were lifted.

That night we settled in at Leah and Ken's house. Living in the city as I do, the silence of the country is a novelty to be savored. I was lulled by the silence, by the way the moonlight broke through their stained glass panels. It would have been a perfect night had I not made a 3AM trip to the bathroom. Tiptoeing back to bed in the dark, I felt a softness against my ankle, thought it was one of the cats, realized too late it was a footstool, and proceeded to swan dive, grazing my head on an end table, landing on parts of me that should not be landed upon, ending up crumpled between said end table and a chair. I swear, there was exactly enough space for me to fit and that's where I landed. 6 inches either way and I would have really been hurt. That guardian angel of mine is working OT.

Russell sat with me until we were sure nothing odd was going to happen, that I was just bruised and feeling stupid. In retrospect, the best thing would have been for me to jump up, raise my hands over my head, bend one knee forward and declare "Superstar!" like that old SNL skit. I'm too old and bruised for that. The best I could come up with was "The Russian judge gave me a 9"

The next day, hot and sunny again, began with more laughter in Leah's kitchen, bagels and fruit at a sweet cafe in the Village, high hopes. We sold 3 things.

Three things.

Lots of wine slushie mix was sold, though. At exorbitant prices.

People: all you need to do is mix wine, water and OJ. Freeze, scrape or blend. Free.

Anyway, I made enough for gas to Chicago, but we had a nice weekend and it wasn't a show I was counting on or anything. That's next week.

You have to look on the bright side, and the company of friends is very bright indeed.

Tuesday, August 11

Lewiston Art Council Show

I took this little iPhone video Sunday, thinking it would serve to show the worst of it. Oh, silly me.

But let's start at the beginning. And remember the man in the white cap watching the rain.

Lewiston, NY sits near a couple of Great Lakes, the Canadian border and Niagara Falls. It is a vibrant area, to say the least. The town makes much of its historic roots and the main street, Center, is lined with charming shops and Victorian homes. So far, so good. I have wanted to try this show for a while. It had a good reputation and it fell on a weekend that is normally available for me. Well, the 2nd Chautauqua show is that weekend, but what are the odds of being called off the wait list for that show?

So, of course, Chautauqua calls me Thursday night. There's been a last minute cancellation. Can I do the show? I told them they were breaking my heart, but, no, I could never be ready by morning and, besides, I was committed to Lewiston. I hoped I was making the right choice.

Set up went smoothly. We had a nice spot, good neighbors. Rain was predicted and it came but it was light and didn't seem to affect the show much. I was content.

Sunday I was going to be doing the show solo. Russell was expecting a guy to work on our house, so he dropped me off and, after settling me in with coffee and a muffin, headed home. My photographer neighbor was watching the weather radar on his cell phone.

"There's a big one coming", he announced, showing me the alarming red blob on the radar heading in from Toronto. As if on cue, big drops of rain started and I pulled all my things behind the tent under cover and settled in to wait it out. The fat drops turned into a heavy rain (see video). My spirits fell. The rain slowed. I got happier.

The couple that had taken refuge with us ventured out, but the man stayed. And stayed. It was OK with me. He was chillin'. My neighbor waved his cell phone at me. "That wasn't it", he said, "the big one is coming now!"

OK, I thought I'd humor him and went to pull my front panels closed. And walked into ..I dunno..Hell? The Wizard of Oz? Sudden pounding rain and hail , blowing into the tent horizontally, the winds so strong I couldn't open my eyes to see what I was doing, the flaps of the tent blowing in and, before I could grab them, straight back out into the street. I was soaked through, my clothes clinging to me (not a pretty sight), my hair plastered to my head (equally unpretty). I couldn't quite reach the top of the panels to pull them closed and then a hand reached over my head and pulled one panel to the center and called "hold this!" and then the man in the white cap pulled the other panel to meet it, trying to zip it, but the wind and the rain made it impossible.

"Your stuff is getting ruined, get it, I'll hold this!" he yelled and so I did, piling everything on the middle shelves to keep the rain away while he tried to hold the panels together. When I was done, I reached up and was finally able to zip the front of the booth closed.

Now we were out of the storm but we could hear it raging. A river ran through the back of booth. Thunder pounded. For the first time ever at a show I felt fear. What if this was a tornado? But the man in the white cap was calmly peeking over the top of the curtains, watching the spectacle and that was reassuring. He didn't look scared.

Then I saw my books. Soaked and already started to curl. Looked like a total loss to me. I was dejected.

From inside our little safe haven, I could hear traffic on the street. That was odd, the man said. I wondered if it was emergency vehicles. He peeked over the top again, but couldn't see. When the rain and wind finally slowed, we opened the front and saw vans lined up, packing up to go home. I looked up and saw blue sky coming. My neighbor came over, cell phone in hand, showing me that behind that scary blob, coming at us now was...nothing.

"I'm staying!" he said, and I said I was, too.

Oh, there was a rumor going around that there was more coming and we were supposed to pack up, but it was just that. A rumor. Some people had no choice. There were canopies destroyed, art work ruined. But many of us took a deep breath, looked at the promising blue sky and regrouped.

My guardian angel took his leave after making sure all was OK, waving off my effusive thanks. I would have hugged him, but that would have only served to make him wetter.

I put my small journals in the rack meant for my ruined, large ones. I spread the rest of the stuff out, trying to fill the gaps.

The minute we opened the flaps, customers came and they continued to come, even as more artists brought their vans to the street and packed up.They were happy to see we were still there. And I was happy to see Russell coming with dry clothes for me.

In the end, we had pretty good sales, all things considered.

But, I swear, if this had been our first year doing outdoor shows, Monday morning there would have been a new posting on Craigs list:

For Sale, used art canopy and display racks. Cheap. Slightly damp.
No offer refused.

But, it's not our first year, it's maybe our 10th or 12th. I know that, as Annie said, the sun will come out tomorrow.

Now if I can just make it come out on a weekend.

Monday, August 3

bob and me

I am tending my friend's cat. Well, "tending" is not quite the right word. I am on duty should he need me. Cats seldom need anything, but Bob is an 'indoor/outdoor cat and although he has 6 toes on each paw, he still can't open the screen door. So, like it or not, he needs me.

I was his doorman a few weeks ago and it didn't go well. The first morning of my watch, I saw him in the early, dewy morning light, preening on the picnic table in the back yard. I called his name softly, opened the door and stepped aside. He sauntered in and headed to his food bowl, stopped, stood still and slowly turned his head to see who had let him in. I was not who he was expecting.

After that, it was a battle of wills.

If he saw me coming, he scooted away. If I held the door open for him, he refused to come. I tried many things. I am a long time cat person. I propped open the back door and tossed food bits onto the steps and hid out of sight. He approached from an angle, the better to see if some stoopid human was trying to hide. He would see me and freeze. We stared each other down until I got tired and put food on the step for him.

Then I tried the open door/food thing but I would hide in the bathroom across the room, peeking through a teeny opening between the door and jamb. My plan was to watch him walk in the house then dash out of the bathroom, across the room and hip check the door closed.

But he only came in as far as the threshold and froze, staring at the bathroom. My legs got tired and I got a stiff neck from crouching over the knob, hand in position. I stood, pulled the door open and said to him that he won, I was going home. He retreated to the picnic table and I put food on the step.

It was July 4th and the fireworks were loud and constant and I was worried that he was frightened. I called to him, searched the yard, looked to see if he was hiding in bushes. Nothing.
I thought about him all night.

In the morning, I saw him in the driveway. I casually walked up the steps to the porch, opened the door and left it open, sat on the couch and picked up the paper and waited.

It took many minutes for him to enter the house in slow motion, but he did come in. I stayed motionless on the couch until he was far enough away from the door that I could push it closed before he could scat. But he wasn't interested in escape. This time he wanted to be where he was and he allowed me to pretend it was my idea.

So, this time around, I decided that since it was Summer and good weather and he had many porches to sleep on and food already on the step, that I would not worry so much, that I would not resort to absurd machinations to get a 9 pound animal to bend to my will.

I spotted him sitting on the porch railing, observing the neighborhood with hooded eyes. I nonchalantly walked up on the porch, opened the door and said "Bob?"

He looked at me, hopped down, brushed against my legs and went in. Each day it was the same, I would call his name, and in he'd come. He let me pet him. He even purred.

I don't know how he knew that he had trained me. I'm not sure what test was passed.

I'm just glad I didn't have to hide in the bathroom again.