Here is one of those rare writing moments when the flood gates are bulging against the amygdala, and the bony fingers down below are quivering in anticipation of the deluge. Yesterday, I got an early birthday present, and I appreciate it’s timing. A fortunate half century is a good, round amount of time to pass before realizing true happiness and satisfaction for a job well done. Today is my first daughter’s birthday, my stepfather’s death day, and a day of life satisfaction remembrance for however many future years I push back against the gravity of our solar system.
Last night I had an art opening at the local library. I got the gig over the holidays with little time to prepare, and set up an exhibition to coincide with my ongoing art project “Throop for Congress”. I titled the show, “The Painter for Congress”, and set it up last week during a heavy lake effect snow storm. 24 paintings and a standing, painted memorial to my dear, departed stepfather. I hung up the following promotional material:
Five days later, the night before the opening, I received an e-mail by an assistant librarian:
Ron, as a public tax funded institution we cannot promote any candidate for office. May I trim the bottom of your biography poster where thethroopforcongress2018.com is printed?
I admit at first I was nonplussed, as many a hot-headed arteest can be when confronting a road block. However, I worked it back and forth with my level-headed spouse, and wrote a reasoned response.
So far, this is all tongue and cheek. It’s just an art project to raise civic awareness. That said, of course! Please marker, tape, or white out the web address. Please, if it can be avoided, refrain from cutting the paper. I will replace it on Saturday with a revised print.Hope this works. A heavy black marker (permanent) should do the trick.Thanks for the head’s up!
She expressed apology for the short notice and went into poorly argued detail why it is her job to keep politics fair and balanced in the library. Therefore, if John Katko (NY-24) wanted to have a personal, expressive art exhibit about his experience while Congressman, he could not in a library, nor any other publicly funded institution, say a skating rink, a town park, or his own, cobweb procreating congressional office downtown. Good to know, I guess. Still, I am not a Democrat, Republican, nor even a Whig, and I certainly would not have an advantage in this upcoming horse race if the library director left my website exposed (which, by the way, is the gateway social media presence to my Twitter account presently overwhelmed with two followers). Also, Katko has raised over a million dollars this year, many from dastardly out-of-state corporations. I declare zero donations in my campaign. So there is no money at all changing hands in this project. WRVO, my local public radio station (a publicly funded institution), shouts out other politician’s official campaign news quite often. Never mine though. And it’s not like I haven’t tried.
Philosophically then I must ask, if a candidate for Congress runs through the woods, and nobody sees him, is he still a candidate for Congress?
So, I let it go. Too much confusion to argue the point. I actually told her that I was thrilled to be censored. My first time. No longer a virgin to creeping totalitarianism, exposing itself in a library of all places!
Then she mentioned the memorial to my stepfather. She moved it to her office. It couldn’t stand freely for insurance reasons. It might fall on a child and the library get sued.
Fair enough. So then I asked if I could move it into the community room just for the night because it happened to be the eve of the first anniversary of my stepfather’s passing, and I hoped to talk about him and the creation of the piece at the evening’s reception.
“No,” she said. “There is an offending panel.”
“The Rex Tillerson is a sociopath one.”
Nonplussed again, and this time the internal organ somersaults… A deep breath, and then I told her how days after my stepfather’s death, I painted this memorial in the grips of memory’s very vocal keening with tears pouring out of my eyes, and the cat looking at me like it was my turn next. It just so happened that the radio was talking about the new secretary of state. So I painted him, and then I painted my opinion of him—and I would have made it meaner if I wasn’t so down and devastated with mourning that day. Because on a good day I think people like Rex Tillerson are disgusting human beings and need to be wrapped up in a village stockade for all the suffering they cause the village. Here is the panel and its original title below it:
So once again, the deep breath, and a reasonable solution. I asked if I could show the piece that night if I changed the title. She agreed. So I went home to get my paints, returned, and had a wonderful conversation with her while changing the original artwork to please the state.
Through conversation I found the director to be a very kind and caring person. She even admitted that she would not want to compromise future funding from the state senate. Part I of my Thursday ended with a light understanding of what it feels like to live in a nation with a dying fourth estate. For the time being, I have my platform on this Internet site. It gets erased at libraries and ignored by paid-for news organizations. Here I can deliver my news and be free.
Rex Tillerson, the highly protected sociopath, is gonna kill a lot of stuff.
Part II of my awesome and great Thursday begins in crushing self-doubt, then hits the sheets satisfied that I am the best man I could ever be.
After the reception, we went to dinner at my youngest daughter’s favorite Japanese restaurant. We have few international options in Oswego and the yummy-yummy is always yummy. I was feeling a bit down, as I usually do after exhausting myself in expressive overdrive. It is an honor to have friends and family support creative endeavor, an effort worth doing again and again. But there is a draining. There is always a draining time, when I remind myself of our families’ financial situation—that so much of what I do depends on the support of a loving wife and friend. Even on good days, a big bell in mind rings my economic dependency. And in this culture where I live, an art career is no career if it doesn’t make any money.
My existence as an exhibiting painter can be thought of as a kind of charity if thought about too much.
Still, I have been a competent homemaker, and have paid my non-monetary dues along the way. I have raised and helped raise two incredibly mature and well-rounded children. I bake an excellent patriot cake.
But last night I was down, as I do get from time to time. Behind us in the restaurant there was a rowdy drunken group of thirty-somethings teasing me out of my temporary despair into a “be prepared to protect” state of tension. A couple burly dudes shouting “f” this and “f” that, and “nobody better push this f-ing bear because I’ll effin’ kill ’em!” My back was to them. My wife told me it was one of the senseis at my daughter’s karate school. To be fair, he wasn’t one of the loud, obnoxious idiots, but he was playing along with his friends, and he knew his student and her family were within ear shot.
At that moment I got my early birthday present.
When attending my daughter’s seasonal karate promotions, I become overwhelmed by the ceremonial procedure that promotes her to the next level. She’s a junior black belt, and heading into a lifelong dedication to the martial art. Many positive feelings pass through during these proud moments. I look at these men (her teachers) standing in the front of the dojo—they appear so stable and upright socially, and I wonder where and when did I make that wrong turn? How can I not support my family? How is it that I am such a monumental financial failure? If I join the dojo, work hard, and become a black belt, will I finally succeed where I have failed time and again? The senseis are successfully employed—that is, they’re employed, which to me, means success. And, they have made great, personal achievements through disciplined practice.
Ha! Great, personal American achievements. There is the rub. Surface achievement only. Wealth or status first. Methods second. The young sensei hanging around bad company at the Japanese restaurant is the son of the Grand Poobah of senseis in my town. One who actually trained with Okinawan teachers and is a living ninth degree black belt.
The son is also a substitute teacher at my daughter’s high school. After last night, and more public drunkenness to come, he is establishing himself as an upstanding financial contributor to his family and community.
But he is just a frightened child, who no longer has the respect of his student who is heading to greatness. He is a small town boy-man, a follower. He learned nothing but kicks and punches from the many years training in his father’s dojo.
Just kicks and punches.
Happy birthday to me! I have received the gift of never again apologizing for who I am nor how I imagine myself to be. I will never paint over a thought expressed, nor be fooled by the ruses of lessor men.
Rex Tillerson and my daughter’s young sensei, are both protected sociopaths. One will kill an awful lot of stuff; the other might desire to, but in the end, probably just punch his way through life, not amounting to much at all.