A friend bought a 1950s stove for her 1950s home and it made me think of Betty. I made some progress on the new collages today.
It was a weird, sleepy day, unseasonably cold. I saw a ton of police on my way to my meeting with Ryan this morning, then didn’t realize until later that Mrs. Bush’ viewing and funeral are held really close to my house, so close, in fact, that I’m surprised I was able to get anywhere at all, but somehow our city is able to mange this just fine.
On my way back from Beaumont I stopped at Buffalo Bayou Park to walk the dog that has been much neglected recently. It was so beautiful. At sunset nature was very much alive! Herons flew right above us, then, as the sky grew darker, so did bats. Holly wanted to catch the ducks. I didn’t let her and I’m pretty sure she forgave me by now. I promise, in return, to bring her back soon. It is such a lovely, lovely place!
Today I drove to Port Arthur to have lunch with an old friend. Let it be known and well understood that I haven’t many old friends, and that that is by choice. I’ve changed a lot in my life. Changed location, changed my mind, changed my priorities, changed who I was. And I’ve left many people behind, burned a few bridges, turned a new page. And so, a friendship spanning over a decade is rare and special. Here is a young lady I’ve known since we were both very freshly minted adults with big dreams and ambitions, but also with a lot of growing and learning to do. It’s nice that we’ve cheered each other on on our journeys and are still in each other’s lives after a whole decade of travel, reading, painting, and other forms of self-discovery. So yes, it was a happy trip to Port Arthur, happy as the brightly colored tofu in our meal at Uyen’s, happy until it turned sad. Because after lunch, wearing half of my Uyen’s meal on my grackle shirt (It might take another decade for me to learn to eat noodles gracefully!), I wanted to drive around and see the water. And driving around Port Arthur, especially post-Harvey, is an emotionally charged proposition. Part industrial landscape, part streets with formerly beautiful houses and palm trees that have seen better days, my trajectory took me deep into a mine field of sadness. I thought of Janis and Mary Karr, but also of more contemporary outcast bohemian heroes I had the pleasure of befriending – though not for long. I thought of the loneliness of this place, of its beauty mixed with layers of darkness, similar to the air, heavy with jasmine scent and refinery fumes. I came across a beautiful mansion. I assumed it was abandoned, later found out it’s not. I drove back to Beaumont with the refineries for company. For a few hours I got immersed in work and forgot to feel sad. But then the man at Kroger brought it back to me. He was old and he stood perhaps too close to me as he loaded groceries into his cart. He was talking on his cellphone. “I’m still hung up,” he said, and I paused. There’s only one other person I’ve ever heard that phrase from. I thought it was an artifice, trying too hard, speaking in a way that nobody spoke in just to seem cool. But no, there are people around here who talk like this. It’s more than a different culture, I suppose. It might as well be a different galaxy. And sometimes galaxies collide. But they don’t always understand each other. And it’s nobody’s fault.
I’ve no idea what they’re called, the yellow flowers growing out of the sand dunes on Texas beaches this time of year, but I really love them. They’re the ideal mix of delicacy and sturdiness. The petals are so thin, they’re almost translucent, and yet these badass flowers survive the salt and wind and sunshine. They coexist happily with the rattlesnakes and turtles living in the sand dunes. With sandpipers and hermit crab, and the teeny tiny crystals that form the beach itself.
My friend went to the beach yesterday and posted this picture. It made me want to go back and see the yellow flowers and breathe the salty air. I think my dog, too, is overdue a beach walk.
Something magical happened last week which I might or might not have mentioned on this blog. I got to my Escapist studio to find AVM Hawkins working on a huge piece of raw un stretched canvas on the floor. She said that John had challenged her to go big. I stood there and watched, mesmerized. Taking up her whole studio, the canvas lay at our feet like a magic carpet. Its brushstrokes and its colors had a special energy. It turned out beautiful, and I was dying to do that too!
And so I bought three yards of canvas. I stapled them to the floor, my own magic carpet! When AVM came and saw what I was up to, she was excited for me. It was like we were both in on a secret.
I painted a scene inspired by a picture a friend posted the other day. Bucharest circa 1942. It was fun, and I think I’m hooked! I want the large canvas thing to be a frequent occurrence.
Later, during our Monday night Escapist painting party, I added color to the three new Betties sitting on the moon. I cut them out, then went and removed the staples from my big canvas. I rolled it up and stashed it in my cubby. It made me sad that I won’t see it again until Friday, but I’m still happy I got to do such a thing.
Something magical happened today: On the last day of the Mercury Retrograde that’s been definitely plunging my life into chaos, my friend Melissa came to help me organize my Escapist studio. We hung and rearranged all the paintings, created space, decluttered, but also created an order to things. We gave different themes to different walls. We decided, among other things, to group all the Betty paintings together on one wall. And as we did this, we, of course, talked about Betty. Which was surreal in the best way possible, because the original inspiration for my ghost novel came from a conversation I had with Melissa and her daughter after the hurricane. They became the main characters in the story, the daughter turning into Betty, and Melissa into Mrs Guidry. I decided it was only fitting that in tonight’s writing installment Mrs. Guidry would help Betty organize the room where she draws.
So yes, as Mercury Retrograde faded away, not without further miscommunication, and not without me banging my head against the cupboard while cleaning the kitchen, things came full circle in the best possible way. I can’t wait to paint in my freshly organized studio tomorrow!
Also, I started working on three more Bettys. Because my Betty wall needs three more little ones for symmetry.
And I forgot to mention yesterday’s strange dream: I dreamt that I had a teeny tiny ginger kitten. My kitten curled up in a glass of water and turned back into a cat embryo. Which all can only mean one thing: I’m being reborn! As a kitten.
Today was our first Open Studios event at 1907 Sabine Street and it was awesome! My friend Anthony Pabillano (also in our building!) took this picture of me and I like it a lot. After the event, my friend Lindsay and I went to Galveston to a fabulous little party in the sweet little cottage that’s been my refuge from many things during the past year. It’s been, all in all, a fabulous day.
This has been quite a day! I finally got my art hung in my new studio at 1907 Sabine Street. Come see me tomorrow from 12-7 in Studio 145. I am (almost) ready. There are still many details I want to work on, but there are paintings on the wall for y’all to see, my portfolio is present too, and I even got a table set up so I can paint during tomorrow’s event!
My mentor, John Ross Palmer, came by and gave me advice on how to set things up. I think the room already has good flow, and there is even a money plant for good luck. I’m so curious to see who will turn up tomorrow during my first Open Studios event!
Highlight of the day: Receiving a beautiful picture of my spirit bird sitting in a tree.
Useful but not as noteworthy: I did my taxes! It appears that this year I’m getting a lot of money back from Uncle Sam. Who knew that driving around so much for business would score me a more substantial refund than ever? Of course, there’s also the possibility that I fucked the whole thing up, but then again, I’ve successfully filed taxes for two decades and the software I use is pretty simple, so here’s hoping I did this right.
Other than that I’m really really tired, but tomorrow should be a fun day. I’ll have meetings with both John and Ryan, and John will actually come see my new studio and advise me on how to set it up. I still cannot believe it’s mine. Or, as Holly would put it: Mine! Mine! Mine!
It’s a season full of beauty and fragrance. The jasmine is still going strong, and now the magnolias are in bloom. My cleaning lady has returned from her trip to Cuernavaca, Mexico. She brought me coconut-scented soap, and this morning we got to visit over coffee. I had Indian lunch with a good friend, and Vietnamese dinner with another. For a few fragrant breaths under the starlit sky, walking my dog in Old Town, I felt that maybe, just maybe, life could be beautiful in Beaumont. Then I noticed a young man singing loudly as he ran along the sidewalk on the other side. He had a good voice, but his presence on the dark lonely street was surreal. He stopped on the corner, started playing a banjo. Then he crossed to our side, and with each chord that drew nearer, I hastened my pace. I ended up running, small dog in tow, and when I was safely behind my locked door, I drew my breath and reminded myself that no, no, no, this never was and never will be a place for me. The trains whistled indifferently in the distance. And I just sat there remembering how menacing the dark loneliness of this place can get, and how much strangeness there is here. Yes, I love Spanish moss and alligators, love the bayou, the trains, the dark poetry of it all, the gumbo and the music, the slight edge of danger even, but there is nothing like a possibly deranged banjo player chasing you down a dark street to remind you that such drama is best left to books and movies, not something to seek out in real life.