New Orleans, Katrina and Faulkner

I’ve only been through a hurricane once, and that was a mild one: 100 mph winds on the Connecticut coast. I can’t imagine what those folks in New Orleans and Biloxi went through. Can’t imagine what the toll in fatalities will be, but what a tragedy.

The first time I went through New Orleans I was on a literary journey of the South: Oxford for Faulkner; New Orleans for Williams, Chopin, and a slew of others; Biloxi for Biloxi; Monroeville for Capote and Lee. I’d hole up in cafes every morning and write my guts out, wander the towns in the afternoons, sleep in a tent at night. I loved it, and never guessed that years later I’d go back to do signings at places like Squarebooks and Garden District Bookshop.

I dug New Orleans best: the beauty and the seediness; the cheap food that still was good; the atmosphere of jazz, booze and sex. What a town. But everywhere you went, you sensed how low it was, and how high the levees, and you knew why they were there. The only way into that city is over miles of viaducts that cross over miles of swamps, dotted by houses on stilts. That’s mostly underwater now, as is much of the city itself, and many of the viaducts have collapsed.

When this disaster passes, and the region finally recovers, I don’t doubt that more great Southern writers will emerge. The place gives rise to a beauty of language, and story, that doesn’t occur the same way anywhere else. It’s just a tough place to be when hurricanes blow in.

Pratt Fine Arts Center / Seattle

Heard this morning that the Pratt will be sponsoring my talk in Seattle, which will be at “the biggest Barnes & Nobel west of the Mississippi,” which I gather is near the university. This will be in October. Cool. I’ve always dug the Seattle scene, and am sure I’ll dig speaking to the artists there. Visionary place.

Afterward I’ll go down to the docks at Ballard, and look for the boat I shipped out on in 1982. Halibut boat, bound for Alaska. Beautiful old schooner, 72 feet in length, 12 foot keel, rode the waves well. Worthless captain; put us up on a reef one day and damn near got everyone killed. Boat was full of fish. Miracle she didn’t break up. I heard she finally went down in a storm on the Gulf ten years ago. I’ll go down to the docks to see if she really did or not. Those guys’ll know.

(A rose is more than a rose.)

Prior to Allan Chow’s Show

Although Allan’s show doesn’t open until 9/9, we’ve already had a lot of traffic on it–thanks in part to an article featuring his work last week in Star Magazine. 6 pieces of the 20 have been placed on hold, which is a diplomatic way of saying they’re sold. Sure you’re not supposed to sell until the opening, but that’s absurd.

Many art sales, like many loves, are spontaneous; you mustn’t let the moment pass. I’m here for the artist; if a client’s ready to buy a piece before the opening, fine by me. Besides, if you start a show by marking several works SOLD early in the evening, it inspires more of the same. That allows us to celebrate at a sushi joint at the end of the evening, and allows the artist to pay rent, groceries, and put some dough in the bank. Heck yes I sell before openings.

(Water balloon at Skinny. Two in fact.)

The Redwalls

My 15-year-old son asked me to take him and some of his buds to a concert last night at the Grand Emporium: The Redwalls. Chicago band that is somewhat Punk, and somewhat other things. Good, tight performance–though I wore earplugs, though my ears are still ringing. But the boys dug it, and had a great time.

How nice, to go to a concert and not smell or see any dope. Oh plenty of it went on somewhere outside, you can be sure, but it was nothing like when I was a kid, where joints and pipes were passed up and down the rows. What a relief that we don’t openly allow that insanity anymore. How nice to see teenagers digging a concert without having to get loaded first.

Afterward we went to the old airport to lie on the levee and watch the jets pass overhead. A very good night.

Andrews McMeel

One of the editors at Andrews McMeel wrote yesterday, asking for the new manuscript. Odd, I didn’t even query them. In fact I haven’t queried any publishers yet, as I’m still doing the dance with agents. But the president of A.M. has bought art in my gallery before, and we did discuss the book, so I guess that’s where it came from.

May as well send it to them. I figure that anybody who can sell so many millions of Far Side and Doonesbury compilations, can probably do all right by me. But does this mean I’ll be found in the funny book section?

Mayor and NASCAR Sculpture

Well the Mayor has officially approved the sculpture project in KCK, which will start with the mammoth piece that Matt Kirby designed for the Kansas Speedway, or NASCAR. We’ve been two years getting everything approved. Lord. Now I just want to get started. More importantly, I want to get the mentor program in place, where I’ll be ganging teenage artists from the inner city with master sculptors and painters–on the NASCAR piece as well as the three others that will follow. Can’t wait to meet the kids. It should all start in the fall.

Vaughan Williams

Today: polished 20 pages, brokered a commission for a work in stainless steel, brokered another for a work in painted steel, accepted a new artist’s work from Indiana (John Domont, brilliant), made 20 calls, ducked some others, and planned a show for some artists in Oct. Through it all I just kept playing a compilation of Vaughan Williams’ work: Fantasia on a Theme, The Lark Ascending, Fantasia on Greensleeves… Must have have played it 10 times. Not tired of it yet.

Now? Teachers’ meetings until 9:00–but first a little gardening, and by god a game of catch with the boys. The catch will beat the hell out of all the other stuff.

6th Rewrite

This draft, the 6th, must be the last before I send the book on. I’m forcing myself to polish 20 pages a day, on top of gallery business, and I believe I’m keeping my edge, but am so sick of the manuscript that I can’t tell anymore. That’s the general rule though: you’re supposed to rewrite until you can’t bear to look at another word. Well I’m fast getting there.

Not sure who the book’s going to yet; maybe the dude at Time-Warner, maybe the agent in LA, maybe the other agent at ICM in New York. Actually I think I’ll send it to all three. As long as they’re informed, it’s ethical. On thing’s for bloody sure, I ain’t gonna sit on my hands with this thing. I’ve worked too hard for that. It’s time to rock and roll. I aim to.

American Century Sculpture Garden

Met with the curator from American Century Investors this morning. Very nice dude. No nonsense. They’re putting together a sculpture garden, and he wants some ideas. I have many. We covered a few of them, but it’s too early to tell what’s going on. First I have to make sure the money’s going to be real, since I don’t believe that artists should work for wages. He agreed. Once we get that hammered out, I’d say we’ve got a beautiful project on our hands.

Oh yeah; ambushed Skinny with a water balloon. Very funny. Pretty sure I’ll never grow up. Well, that’s a relief.

Menorah Medical Center / Artwork

Menorah Medical Center had me out this morning to discuss their planned expansion, and get a feel for what I would do as a consultant. Simple. Menorah opened in 1936, and was the only white hospital to admit non-whites, especially in emergency cases. Because other hospitals during that time–right up to the early 60s–turned away non-whites in emergency cases, many people died. I feel the new works should reflect Menorah’s openness and history of the same.

They seemed to agree.