Friday, July 17, 2009

Road Trip

My wife and I, along with 2 of our dogs are on a road trip. I used to like the adventure of travel, when I was young, but not so much anymore. Every year it seems more trouble than it’s worth.

I haven’t been on a plane in 9 years. When I first started traveling by plane the flying was part of the vacation. There was an exotic quality to it. Comfortable seats, drinks, and food that was even somewhat palatable. When my wife and I started seriously dating she lived in LA and I was up in San Francisco. The fares were cheap enough that I could hop on a commuter flight Friday evening and return on Sunday evening. I always sat in the back of the plane, in the smoking section, and drank a double scotch on the rocks. I only drank scotch, for some unknown reason, when I was on a plane.

Now flying is a chore. Airports are frustrating and their parking lots are a nightmare. When I go through the metal detector I always set off the alarm. I have a surgical steel knee. I can tell them about it and show the 10-inch scar but I am always told, “Step over to the side, sir.” I always smile as they pass the wand over me wondering if this is the time I’ll be strip-searched.

Traveling now means getting in our van and driving. I installed a platform bed in the van. One of us can rest and sleep while the other one drives. When it is late and we are both tired we can pull into rest areas and sleep for a few hours. With 2 dogs, one weighing 90 pounds, and a 12-gauge shotgun we feel pretty safe.

I do love watching the landscape unfold in front of us. The landscape has long had a spiritual and mystical sensibility for me. I am much better at being a passenger so I can just sit back and watch the scenery roll by me. When I have to drive I get easily distracted and very fatigued. I could never be a long-haul truck driver.

Because of my obsessive nature I have been known to drive up to a 1,000 miles in a single stretch (it took me 20 hours). It is the OCD. I don’t like being away from my life and I miss my stuff. I miss the rituals and routines that give a rhythm to my daily life. It may sound funny but all this daily sameness gives me a certain freedom, especially with my painting. The “sameness” is a discipline.

This trip is a little tougher on me. We are not taking the shortest route. We made a deliberate decision to avoid the main highways and to drive the smaller side roads as much as possible. We have been going through real “Bubba” country. The small towns that are true “Americana.” And I forgot to bring my bib-overalls.

This trip has a few different purposes. The main objective was to visit our daughter who lives in San Diego, who we haven’t seen in over a year. It also gives us a chance to see some old friends from LA that we haven’t visited with in over 3 years. The other reason was so that we could visit the town of Paducah, KY.

Paducah is a small town that has fallen on hard times. They are trying to reinvent themselves by recruiting “working artists” to relocate to the town. They are offering artists houses at below market prices and even empty downtown lots for free if you put up a building as a studio and gallery. Paducah seems to know that where you have the arts and artists eventually the economy becomes strong and vibrant. When I first visited Santa Fe, NM about 30 years ago it wasn’t much. Artists came for the scenery and the cheap prices and decided to stay. Now, Santa Fe is a Mecca for artists and a thriving vibrant city. So thriving that it’s tough for artists to be able to afford to live there anymore. So, if you’re an artist thinking of relocating, you can find more info on Paducah’s program at

The first image is of my bobble-head Jesus that I have on the dashboard of my van. For me it’s a throw back to the 1960’s when good Catholics everywhere had little plastic statues of Jesus on their dashboards. As the song went, “I don’t care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus, sittin on the dashboard of my car.” My van died just outside of Tucumcari, NM and we spent 4 hours in the hot sun (104 degrees) before we got towed into town. Tucumcari is on old Route 66. The next image is from a new series that I am playing with based on the idea of boundary barriers. The last image is based on looking out my bathroom window. The trees and the brush form interesting patterns. Both of these paintings are done using artist crayon on paper. With both of them I am re-exploring the use of deeper, richer, and more muted colors.