Presentation / Art Teachers / Jethro Tull

Finished writing a comprehensive art-acquisition plan for a corporation that I have to give a presentation to on Monday. They’re from a different area than I, so this will involve some travel. Powerpoint, initial plan, budget, Q&A session, everything. Looking forward to it. Think they’ll be blown away. We’ll see where it goes.

Had to give a talk to 40 art teachers this morning. District administrator brought me in to inspire them. Apparently she felt the bureaucracy was muddling up the creative process, in both teaching and art creation. Hope I made a difference. Great audience anyway. A lot closer than NY too.

Jethro Tull’s playing in town tonight. Last time I saw them was in 1973, when I was 15. Ian Anderson leaping around like a madman, playing flute in his one-legged stance, the rest of the band flawless. Will I go again, now that three decades have past? I think not. Head to Lawrence for beers with a friend instead.

Farewell Boulder

The first time I went to Boulder, in 1974, I was 17. Shoulder-length hair, a nonconformist attitude, and out to discover what was hip in the Rockies with a couple of good friends. It was our first backpacking trip sans parents. I’ve always remembered pulling into town in my buddy’s Trans Am, cruising past the campus, checking out the head shops along Pearl, avoiding the panhandlers–many of whom were our age–and digging on all those lovely Colorado girls.

We stayed a day, then split for Long’s Peak, spending two days in the high country, hiking about 25 miles, coming back down, and finally camping with a bunch of California hippies in the National Forest above Vail, having one fine time there, up late every night, guitars and harmonicas. It was then that I discovered White Russians. Damn good trip, damn good memories. The guy who owned the Trans Am, Jeff, is dead now. Car wreck. Those things happen, too often it seems. The other guy, Tom, is still around, and we still are close. Still dig White Russians too.

My last signing in Colorado was at the Dairy Center for the Arts in Boulder. Very cool joint. Formerly a dairy processing plant of some sort, now it houses a wonderful gallery, a couple theaters for performing arts, several art orgs, etc. As with all the crowds in CO, this one just fine too. Attentive. Eager to learn. Easy to laugh. And of course that Boulder Politically Correct thing that they do so well.

Finished, and headed home. But as I left, I kept thinking about those teenagers heading west in ’74. Man, those were great days. But so are these.

Kerouac / Boulder / Public Radio

You don’t come to Denver without thinking about Kerouac, his wanderings in and out of this town, his digging on the rougher parts of Colfax, his drinking, dope-smoking, and endless quest for what was Beat. I could have said quest for Wisdom, but I don’t associate that with Kerouac’s oddyssy. That might have been more Neal Cassidy’s lot, when he wasn’t drinking or looking for his homeless father or making babies; or maybe it wasn’t his gig that much either. Perhaps that was the province of Kesey, except he never really came here.

But when I come here, and haunt the old train station or LoDo or the east fringes of Colfax, and dig on the Western tilt of the place, with the mountains always in view–their magnetic and breathless draw–sure I think about Kerouac and Cassidy. Most writers do. I dig knowing where they were, and passing through some of those same places. Do I try to keep up with their drinking and hell-raising? Naw. My quest for knowledge follows a different road now. I got rid of all that stuff long ago. I’d rather be alert and aware than inebriated and jazzed.

Downtown? Oh it’s different now: a sleek skyline, lots of oil money, followed by real estate money, followed by other kinds of money. New stadiums, hip galleries, coffee shops and restaurants. The whole state is different. Like California it was viewed as paradise for awhile, meaning the population went nuts, meaning that along the Front Range it’s basically one long city now, from Denver to Fort Collins. But I still love this place. Always will, both the city and the mountains.

Will I ever move here? Naw, I’m a Midwesterner. I visit places like this, but I don’t move to them.

It’s a brisk morning. Think I’ll shuffle around downtown for awhile longer, then head to Boulder. Hole up in a coffee shop and work, later do an interview on the Public Radio station, later do a signing. Yeah, it’s going to be great day.

Denver / Fort Collins

My Denver signing on Saturday was at Meininger’s Art Supply. This is one of the biggest art supply stores in the country. Two stories, 125 years old. Very kind owner and staff. Great crowd; about 50. I put out a high level of energy, and they took it right in. That’s what I dig about the whole thing: reaching that level of trust and mellow intensity. When you hit that vibe, as with any performance, they go right along for the ride. But you sure give a lot in the process. I always finish with a worn-out, hollow feeling inside, yet also one of gratitude. You can see in their eyes when you’ve inspired them.

There was no time to dig on the town. As soon as I finished, I had to boogie up to Fort Collins and another crowd there. Barnes & Noble. Each talk takes just under two hours, by the time you sign all the books, answer all the questions, grab a green tea and head out the door.

I had to boogie back down to Denver, where I supposed to attend a party in Golden. The truth? I was too slammed to go. Two signings in a row, a whole mess of driving, and too little sleep in the last few days. By the time I got back, at 8:00, all I wanted to do was have a bite, a bourbon, and hit the rack. So I did.

We’ll dig on Denver today. Plenty to dig on there too. Kerouac’s ghost still haunts those streets. I aim to encounter him.

Manhattan / High Plains / Springs

Started Friday with a meeting in Manhattan. Kansas, I mean. K-State. The university is going to construct a WWII Memorial, and need an art consultant. I talked with them for an hour or so. Gave them a hint of all that has to be accomplished in order to have a memorial that will be as timeless in 100 years as it ought to be now. They were all ears. Do I have the job? Don’t know, but I enjoyed meeting them.

Drove out across the prairie to Colorado, where I’ve got signings for the next several days. Love that drive. Watching the landscape change from Midwestern Prairie (green), to High Plains (brownish green), to Semi-Arid Plains (brown). By the time you reach eastern Colorado, after leaving KC, the elevation has increased nearly 6000 feet. This means that everything looks and feels different: the sky, the air, the grasses, the trees. I always get out for a long walk on the prairie when I hit that elevation. It’s the only way to really feel it.

Listened to In Harm’s Way on the way out. Sinking of the Indianapolis after it delivered the atomic bomb to Tinian, prior to the bomb’s being dropped on Hiroshima. Tragic story: torpedoes at midnight, explosions, the ship going down so fast, 900 guys into the water for four days, the sharks, the delirium, the dehydration, the slow deaths. Awful. Makes you grateful for what you have. Why do I always feel that I saw the South Pacific then?

Spoke in Colorado Springs last night. Could see Pike’s Peak in the distance as I pulled into town. Later went to dig on the Broadmoor. No it doesn’t look the way Maxfield Parrish painted it, but it is a beautiful joint, if that’s how you like to blow your dough. I don’t; rather spend it on bikes and people I love. Talks in Denver this afternoon, Fort Collins this evening. After that? A workout, a sauna, then a party in the foothills above Golden. It’ll be a good night for bourbon.

Monumental / Equine / Letter to Mayor

Met again with the committee for the monumental sculpture for the Kansas Speedway. This was with teachers and administrators to determine how we’ll involve high school artists from the inner city. Simple: we’ll give them an opportunity to create works such as they’ve never had in their lives.

Met earlier with a brilliant designer, Erik Beir, to review a sculpture proposal for a large retail development. The piece will be equine. Not terribly interesting, but it’ll pay a few bills.

Drafted and mailed a letter to an area mayor. She’d behaved less than honorably regarding a sculpture commission for one of my artists. At first this pissed me off. After my anger cooled, I simply worded the letter so that she would feel guilt for her trespass. This always works best.

Finished day by having green tea with a friend. We took a walk amid dropping leaves. Casual conversation. Many things unsaid. Nice way to leave for Colorado. Signings in Denver, Boulder, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. Am certain it will be a great trip. Will have bourbon tomorrow night with a different friend–one of those hellraisers from my teenage years. He hasn’t grown up, but then neither have I.

Falun Gong / Civic Sculpture Commissions

Started reading a book on the violent repression of the Falun Gong in China. Friend sent it to me. Hell the Chinese have always been repressive–regardless of the regime. Just like the Russians. Brutal governments in a brutal part of the world, yet with individual people who make our claims of wisdom and kindness seem as the knowledge of children. Still it makes me glad to be a Yank. We take our freedoms so much for granted. Human nature.

Client in from Wichita. Fascinated with the blown glass and stainless steel. We’ll see if they acquire. Another client in form Lake Quivira. Just to talk and pass the time. Also to offer me some Jujubees. He loves them for some reason, and feels I should also. I don’t, but I fake it. Besides he’s a great guy.

Submitted two artists for a major civic commission in Utah. Think they have a decent chance. Time will soon tell.

Working late again, but only until 8:00. Yes, that is going home early these days.

Typical Day

6:00: Workout.

6:45: Roust family, tease each, walk dogs, read paper. Talk with kids before school, caress wife. Kisses, out door. Protein shake while driving. Leave cell phone off.

7:30: Meet with major contractor to convince them to bring us projects. Earn trust.

8:30: View corporate collection of a prospective client, discuss enhancing. Earn trust.

9:30–12:00: Cappuccino. Play Vaughan Williams on stereo. This is normally when I write for a couple of hours, but I’m not on a book now. So: Answer emails, activate cell and return calls, congratulate a regional publisher on his NY Times article, discuss a story with a Kansas City Star writer to which he commits, discuss a story with a Rocky Mountain Times writer to which she commits, discuss a story with LA Times writer to which she maybe commits, make appointment for a sculpture consultation, follow-up with a client who is late in paying, make lunch appointment with architect for next week, check travel itinerary for Colorado leg of book tour, call old friend in KY and trade stories.

12:00-12:30: Salad and grilled chicken while reading At Dawn We Slept. No calls.

12:30-1:30: Conference with new saleswoman, help her establish goals, set agenda, timeline. Interrupt to go on floor and answer questions from a serious collector about Regier sculpture; note the look in her eyes as she considers acquisition; make mental note to call her end of week.

1:30-2:30: Work with assistant Sharon, begin formulating approach for two civic commissions and one corporate commission. Accept request to give a speech to a group of art teachers. Ask former assistant, Erin, where the devil is the digital file on Trailhead Tower? No one knows. Will find it tomorrow. Presentation next week. Check on Tombaugh sculpture for Legends project; almost done; Matt Kirby sculptor. Prepare letter of agreement on blown-glass chandelier. Check on three large paintings that were commissioned last month; Phil Epp painter.

2:30–4:00: Meet with county commissioner to discuss civic commissions. Swap stories about our disparate upbringings. Get her take on a few upcoming projects. Earn trust. Silently consider chastising a local mayor for lying about a different commission; think about how Truman always let his angry letters cool before sending them, then never sent them; decide to write letter but not chastise; it’s her karma, let her live it.

4:00–6:00: Finish preparing presentations for civic commissions. Confirm meetings for tomorrow. Check Amazon rank on Living the Artist’s Life: 8,000 out of 2,000,000. Not bad.

6:30: Home. Jog quick mile in park while letting mind go blank. Dinner. Wife. Kids. Stories. Laughter. Sit on patio steps with wife, talking about nothing, holding hands, stroking her ribs. I think how I don’t see her enough these days, or help with chores enough (though I did clean the upstairs john this past weekend and vacuumed). Remind her how beautiful and special she is. Dig on exquisite fall evening together, hush of nightfall. Dogs pester us for attention.

8:30: Back to gallery, hating to return, making hardware run on the way for lightbulbs. Catch up on paperwork. Old friend, Johnny Butler, drops by. Trade stories and laughter. To hell with paperwork.

10:00: Back home, swearing I will not work late tomorrow night, but knowing I probably will, and that it will get worse as the books succeed. But only to a point. Better than failure though. Popsicle. Watch a slice of Lord of the Rings with sons, slaying several Orcs in process. Talk about anything, which to them is mostly chicks.

11:00: Bed, read Smithsonian ’til nodding out.

Morning Constitution

There’s nothing quite like taking your dog–in my case a German Shepherd–for a morning walk, and surprising someone you love. Someone you love like no one else on earth; someone you are always grateful for having met, no matter how many years might pass, or what difficulties you might endure. There’s nothing like this, except maybe morning coffee together, with or without the shepherd. I think with.

Oh yes, art. Normally I discuss art. Well this is art of a sort: the art of loving.

Paintings, sculpture and books? Don’t feel like discussing that today. Get back to it tomorrow.


My wife and I saw Capote last night. It was everything I hoped it would be: superbly acted, beautifully written, acutely intelligent, and by turns despairing. In other words, a mirror of Capote’s life. Lord what a talented but lonely dude. Who wouldn’t have been lonely, with his particular traits, appearance, and of course that voice. Not his fault, just who he was.

Emotionally his upbringing was a disaster: from New Orleans to Monroeville, AL to New York. His ever-partying mother didn’t know what to do with him, let alone how to love him. His dad split on him young. His stepfather–Capote–tried to reach out to him somewhat. His only stable years were with an emotionally unstable aunt in Monroeville, when he lived next to Harper Lee; hence the character Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird. Such geniuses, both.

In Cold Blood. Holcomb, Kansas. The Clutter Family, Alvin Dewey, Dick Hickock, and Perry Smith. I know that region well; my father and I hunted pheasant there each fall in the 60s. I’ve passed through it countless times since. Capote knew, by instinct, that a great story awaited him there. Amazing how he fit into the town, was eventually accepted, and then began to assemble the pieces to his book, falling in love with Perry Smith in the process, drawing him out, then watching as he was later hung. Five-year journey. In a way, it broke him emotionally.

Then the unparalleled success of the book, worldwide. But I don’t think he was ever able to really enjoy it. Tried too hard to keep up with the rich; didn’t understand the importance of real love, real friendship; couldn’t keep his mouth shut at the times that he needed to. Spent all the money, and wound up broke and alone as his substance abuses slowly killed him, finally dying at a friend’s house in LA, no longer able to afford a home of his own. The friend, Joanne Carson, was an ex-wife of Johnny Carson–on whose show he so often appeared.

Literature, like all the arts, is littered with such tragedies. But by god he gave us some great stories while he was alive–against such enormous odds. The dude sure had guts.