Monthly Archives: August 2014

More changes around the corner

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Once I finally realized that I was the only person holding myself back in life, I looked at my life differently and I felt a new sense of freedom to live my life by my terms once again.

 

Dave noticed something in my attitude one night as he walked past my work station and saw a different look on my face.

 

What’s going on Dude?” Dave asked as stopped at my workstation.

 

Nothing much,” I replied, “just thinking about my future and where I am heading,” I replied.

 

Good!” Dave said. “I’ve told you a thousand times that the only way you will get anywhere in this place is if someone gets hurt on a machine or dies.

 

You don’t want to be here another 10 years with me and Orion, do you?” Just as Dave said that Orion walked over to my machine, as usual, wanting to find out what we were talking about.

 

What are you clowns talking about?” Orion asked.

 

Jeremy is thinking about his future and doesn’t want to spend another year here working with us grease monkeys,” Dave replied.

 

Do you mean to tell me that Jeremy doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life working here like a slave every night, getting paid peanuts for his efforts?” Orion replied.

 

Jeremy is smarter than anyone working here, and he’s not married either.” Dave said.

 

Count your blessings kid,” Orion said.

 

Don’t get married until you’re in your 30’s.” Dave said.

 

What about your art? Aren’t you going to pursue it seriously?” Orion asked.

 

You should be painting full time, instead of working here for eight hours every day,” Gill said as he walked over to join the conversation.

 

I know, Gill, I just want to wait until I exhibit my art for the first time, at the Del Mar Fair, to see if I sell any of my paintings. If my work sells, this will tell me if I can live off the income from my artwork or not.”

 

The Del Mar Fair (now called the San Diego Fair) came every year and offered every thinkable display and exhibition for the attendees but most important of all it had an annual art exhibition that I entered.

 

The art exhibition was judged by a panel of esteemed artists from across the United States, the judges choose the art that was displayed at the exhibition.

 

Jeremy, you don’t have to sell your art to be a good artist, even if you don’t sell your artwork right away you should keep working on it and not let it discourage you.” Orion said.

 

I know, I won’t give up if I don’t sell anything,” I said.

 

Have your paintings been judged yet?” Gill asked.

 

They are getting judged next week. I will let you know as soon as I find out,” I replied.

 

Gill winked and said; “Just think, if you sell a few paintings, you’ll no longer be an aspiring artist, instead you’ll be a struggling, upcoming artist.”

 

“You’re on your way, Kid. I would love to get back into my sculpting, but one of my ex-wives has all of my tools locked up at her house in Colorado. She told me that if I ever wanted to see my stuff again, I would have to give up the Picasso lithograph that we bought from Francois Gilot in 1975, when we were in Paris.” “I tell you, every ex-wife is always after something!”

 

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Francois Gilot was Picasso’s most famous companion. She lived with him for over 10 years, bore two of his children and served as the inspiration for some of his greatest paintings, “Flower Woman”.

 

Did I tell you that Francois is in San Diego? I heard through a friend that she designs jewelry or something. I wish I could get her number, but I think she’s married now.” Gill said.

 


 

Gill cracked me up. He was often thinking about women and always telling me about the treasures he had lying around from his years of hobnobbing with the rich.

 

I could see how Gill could have a Picasso lithograph lying around his house and didn’t have the desire to part with it because to people like Gill, fine things are too precious to give up, even if that means working in a crappy job for money.

 

When are we going to see the Picasso art show in Los Angeles?” I asked.

 

How about next Saturday?” Gill replied.

 

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LACMA – The “Holy Land” for art in Southern California.

 

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art was holding an awesome retrospective of Pablo Picasso’s work and I couldn’t wait to get up there and absorb everything that I could.

 

I had never seen anything that Picasso had created in person so going to this exhibit was like a Christian’s first trip to the holy land. I couldn’t wait. Picasso, for me, was as big as any movie star.

 

Even though he had been dead for almost thirty years I was like an excited schoolboy with a hunger for knowledge on anything Picasso.

 

Next Saturday sounds great!” I said.

 

Mike saw us standing around my machine talking during work hours and strutted over to break up our little party.

 

What are you girls doing? Don’t you know you’re supposed to be working when you’re on the clock?” Mike asked.

 

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How come you’re head is so shiny? Do you ever wax it?” Orion asked Mike, referring to his bald head, playfully, trying to break Mike’s bad mood.

 

Orion and Mike always talked trash to each other and Orion never hesitated to get in a jab at Mike.

 

You better get back to work before I knock you out,” Mike said playfully.

 

Gill walked back to his machine and Orion followed Mike back to his office to continue talking trash with him.

 

And Dave continued to prop himself up on the side of my machine like he didn’t want to get back to work just yet.

 

What’s wrong Dave?” I asked.

 

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Sometimes when I hear young people like you talk I too yearn to do more with my life or just hop on my Harley, get on the open road and never look back,” Dave said.

 

“What’s stopping you?” I asked.

 

An alcoholic wife, slacker for a son, and a pile of debt to choke a pig in the winter,” Dave replied.

 

Dave looked a little sad for a minute as he contemplated what he just said, but then he pulled himself together into his Mr. Fixit persona when Mossy came to my workstation with an exhausted look on his face. Mossy mumbled something about a machine eating his tools and asked Dave to come with him.

 

Dave smiled and said; “Duty calls. I’ll see you later, kid.” “Now Mossy, what seems to be the trouble in machine number one?” Dave asked as he and Mr. Mossy jogged to the machine that now had about 10 confused Japanese engineers standing around it with exhausted looks on their faces.

 

Whenever a machine like number one went down, if Mossy couldn’t fix it in a matter of minutes, every Japanese engineer was working on it, lending a hand, or offering useful comments.

 

I cringed because I knew that I would probably be recruited to work overtime tonight, because, once the machine was fixed it would be producing “hot parts,” that the company would do anything to have boxed and ready for shipment the next day.

 

If we were short on people to box parts that night, management would come out from their offices to box parts, just so we wouldn’t miss a shipment.

 

The company would never change, as long as I didn’t have any say in the management decisions there would always be nights of machines breaking down, the rush to box parts, and weary drives home from work in the wee hours of the morning.

 

I kept brainstorming about my new plan of attack would be for finding another job. Where would I start looking for work? What would I find? Would the job be long-term and satisfying for me? Could I support myself and also invest my money into my art?

 

My painting was progressing at a fast rate as I spent every free hour in my studio loft above my parent’s house painting away until the early hours of the morning.

 

Friday nights were always my favorite night, because for the following two days, I knew I was free from work. And I could spend that time on my art work doing what I loved.

 

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Friday nights, after I got out of work, consisted of my regular routine of bowling and beers with the guys and then I would come home to paint and stay up all night working on my art.

 

My studio was like an automotive repair shop that always had five different cars in various stages of repair being worked on every day.

 

As an artist, I just didn’t work on the same painting every day. I used the Henry Ford assembly line approach and worked on at least five different paintings every day.

 

You can’t work on the same painting for hours a day, especially if you are working in oil paint because once you have covered the canvas with paint you have to give it a day or two to dry before you can work on it again.

 

If you keep working on the same canvas repeatedly over and over, the canvas will eventually end up looking like mud unless you’re a Van Gogh.

 

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Vincent Van Gogh was a perfect example of an artist whose style of painting was wet on wet. He applied very thick coats of paint to his canvas over and over again until he got the effect for which he was looking for.

 

Van Gogh painted like this because he was a perfectionist, and was never satisfied with the results. So he kept working on the same painting until he had a picture with about an average of 10 pounds of paint on it.

 

In my case I don’t always work in oil paint every day. I also work in acrylic paint, oil pastel, charcoal and pencil so I’m never sitting around, with nothing to do.

 

It was around this time that I started to bring my love for archeology into my art.

 

One night, as I was looking through old National Geographic magazines that featured stories of Egyptian and African art, I saw ancient cave paintings, pottery, and sculptures and with the eye of an artist I began to take the shapes and images that made impressions on me and incorporate them into my artwork.

 

I was essentially following in the footsteps of Picasso, who saw African masks at the Trocadero around 1911, and became inspired to invent cubism.

 

Cubism is the most influential style of twentieth century art, developed in Paris by Picasso and Braque, beginning in 1907. The early mature phase of the style, called Analytical Cubism, lasted from 1909 through 1911. Cubism is based on the simultaneous presentation of multiple views, disintegration, and the geometric reconstruction of objects in flattened, ambiguous pictorial so space; figure and ground merge into one interwoven surface of shifting planes.

 

As my excitement for archaeology increased, I realized that I was doing what I had always wanted to do when I was eight years old, when one day as I was riding with my parents in our old Buick Regal, family car, my dad asked me, “What do you want to do when you grow up?” I told him that I wanted to be an archaeologist artist.

 

“What’s an archaeologist artist?” My father asked.

 

I didn’t answer right away. I knew that I wanted to draw or paint pictures of ancient dinosaur, human, animal bones, art, architectural ruins to depict what they looked like during life, I just didn’t know if what I wanted to do was a real career or not.

 

My parents had no idea what an archaeologist artist did or if it was a field of study, but they encouraged me to follow it anyway.

 

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As I got older, I quickly forgot about that aspiration and that ride in the Buick Regal until one night, as I was working in my studio loft, I remembered that day and realized that I was doing exactly what I said I wanted to do way back then.

 

It always shocked my parents when they would sleepily came down the stairs Saturday mornings to see me cooking breakfast, with hot coffee waiting for them in the pot.

 

Did you sleep well last night?” Dad asked.

 

Nope, I stayed up all night working on my art,” I replied.

 

What? Why did you do something crazy like that? Don’t you know that you are wasting away your body when you don’t get any sleep?” Dad rhetorically asked.

 

I didn’t care about sleep when my art was on fire. When I was in the creative “zone” time stands still and everything flows with the development of my paintings.

 

I’m alright,” I said.

 

No you’re not sweetie,” Mom would say. “Why don’t you go to bed?”

 

Whenever they mentioned sleep that’s when I got tired and muttered something about, “This is what artists had to do when they are feeling creative,” Then I would leave the room with my black coffee in hand intended to wake me up.

 

Sometimes, sleep was my greatest enemy as I worked into the early hours of the next day, not sure when I am going to get to bed.

 

My body would scream out, “get to bed, you moron!” while my mind and my brush holding hand yelled, “More! More!”

 

Art is like a seductive woman, a tasty treat, drug or alcohol that tempts you into coming back for more.

 

Even today if I am on a hot streak with my painting and it’s 3 a.m. I’ll stay up and continue working instead of going to bed and loose the momentum that I gained.

 

I can stay up all night working on my art and fight exhaustion during the day, but once I’m back in my art studio working on my art, I have the energy to work hard again.

 

I loved my routine while I was working at the factory, but I also knew that if I wanted to grow as a person and start doing things with my friends again, like going out on dates on Friday nights the routine would have to change.

 

I was also felt the pressure from my friends who were making me feel like a monk every time I saw them because I hadn’t hung out with them in a long time or gone on a date in ages.

 

Working at night was great in so many ways, but it also hurt my social life. I couldn’t do anything at night when the average person my age was on a date or doing things that all kids in their 20’s should be doing at night.

 

I have often found when I’m at a crossroads in life, not knowing where to turn the universe does me a favor and sends me a helper to get me going in the right direction.

 

 

My helper, my old friend Cliff, showed up that summer, opening my eyes to how much everything had changed in our lives, in such a short period of time since we had last seen each other. He miraculously appeared one Saturday afternoon shocking everyone who saw him.

 

I had spent the day with my old girlfriend, Michelle, and was parking my truck in front of my house when I heard someone from out of nowhere shout: “DUDE!

 

Dude!” I shouted back, just in time for a bear hug to crush me.

 

Cliff had changed. He didn’t look the same as he did the last time I saw him. His face looked tired and weathered, and he had gained about 35 pounds which significantly enlarged his six-foot frame.

 

How the hell are you, Jer?” Cliff asked.

 

Great, dude. I’m glad you’re back.” I replied.

 

After that brief exchange of emotion, Cliff didn’t want to talk about his new life just yet. He only wanted to revert back to our old life together of fun and games. He wanted to enjoy every moment of his short time off from the military.

 

Nothing has changed one bit!” Cliff said, as he sauntered around my house, taking everything in.

 

At that moment, I realized how homesick my old friend must have been. It had been four years since we had last seen each other and the time away had not been easy on him.

 

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That night, we raised hell like we did as teenagers and ended the night sipping cokes and eating nachos in front of the old Spring Valley movie theater.

 

What happened to you, dude? I’ve been trying for years to get together with you, but nothing ever seemed to work and now here you are. What have you been up to, where have you been, how’s married life?” I asked.

 

The military sucks, married life is great, and I gained this weight because I blew out my knee in a hiking accident last year and I haven’t been able to exercise because of doctor’s orders,” Cliff said.

 

I know I look like shit. Believe me dude, I feel like shit. That’s the reason I wanted to come home, to get healthy in the warm Southern California weather.”

 

And also because my wife, Laura, was away training in Alaska and I was trapped at home, alone.

 

It sucks being alone, three thousand miles away from your wife, but she’s serious about her career and I want her to get every opportunity she can while we are still in the Air Force.

 

But let’s forget about me. How about you dude? What have you been up to? What’s new? Are you and Michelle still an item? Are you two doing the nasty?” Cliff asked.

 

I’ve been busy, no, and no comment.” I replied.

 

What’s up with you, dude? Why are you holding out? Are you still waiting for the right one to come along? Why don’t you get it over with?” Cliff asked smiling.

 

Dude, you don’t know how many times I have been tempted to do it with Michelle. The reason why I’m holding out is because I don’t want to end up like our old buddy, Tim.”

 

You remember Tim don’t you?” I asked.

 

Yeah, he was the tall lanky dude who always hung out with the stoners in high school, right?” Cliff asked.

 

“That’s right, and now, four years later he has four kids to support from two different girlfriends.”

 

I didn’t want to screw up my life over a moment of carnal temptation and pay for it for the rest of my life with a child I wasn’t planning on. You understand, right?” I asked.

 

Jeremy, sometimes I wish I had listened to you more seriously years ago instead of doing my own thing as quick as I did. I wish I had your wisdom, Dude. You always seemed to have something going for you while all of our stupid friends were busy thinking about partying or getting laid.”

 

As we kicked back and thought about the past we realized how fast time had flown by.

 

For me, everything that we talked about felt like it had happened yesterday. I felt like I had just experienced everything that we were reminiscing about but for Cliff, it felt different and it was like he experienced the same thing 30 years ago.

 

It was like Cliff had lived five lifetimes in a few short years.

 

I was still living at home with my parents and doing virtually the same things since I had always done since I had last seen Cliff so nothing had really changed for me, yet.

 

You got it made, dude,” I said.

 

What do you mean, Jer?” Cliff asked.

 

What I mean is, at 22 you already have a great career, wife, home and a destiny in front of you.”

 

I’m still living at home and working on the first steps, building my life.” I said.

 

Dude! Don’t screw around with me! I know you don’t mean what you just said! You think my life is perfect?

 

This is my life, Jer. I’m stationed in a crappy part of the country, which is far removed from California. I’m on disability because of my knee injury so I can’t do my job. My wife is on a training mission in Alaska so I won’t be seeing her for another month and last week my dog died.”

 

The most exciting things that I get to do in my day are play a few games of Dungeons and Dragons on my computer and spend endless hours in chat rooms talking with people about stupid subjects that don’t mean anything.”

 

Cliff, I didn’t mean to get you upset,” I said.

 

Whoa, hold up, dude, I’m going to tell you something that you’re not going to want to hear.”

 

Damn, Jer! You got a lot of talent! You always had more going on than anyone in school. You were always on track because you had something that you didn’t have to work at, something that came easy to you, something that you enjoyed, your art.

 

Dude you got talent! Stop wasting your life wondering what you’re going to do with yourself because, you already know the answer to that question!

 

I don’t know dude. Everyone I’ve talked to about a possible career in art always tell me how hard it is out there and that I will have to suffer for over 50 years, or die before my art starts selling.

 

“All I’ve ever wanted was a normal life, working in a good job like my dad, but I just can’t find anything that satisfies me.” I said

 

What the hell are you talking about?” Cliff asked as he grabbed my arm and pulled me upstairs to my parent’s living room.”

 

Look at this stuff! Cliff exclaimed as he pointed at my art from over the past four years that my parents had proudly hung it around the room.

 

“Dude, do you think that the average guy on the street can whip out paintings like these in a few days without any effort?”

 

If I were to try to sit down and knock out something like any of these, it would just end up looking like shit.”

 

But you, dude, you are the only person that I have ever known who can sit down and paint a beautiful picture in one night. You are the only one I know who started his own business at age 10.”

 

While other kids were still playing with their toys, you were out working for yourself, earning your own money and getting the things you wanted, without having to beg your parents for them.”

 

You have talent, Jer. It’s time to stop being scared and get out there and use it because it will only go to waste. You got to get out there and take charge now before time runs out.”

 

I remember, you said that before we knew it, we would be married, with children. Dude you were right. My path is already laid, but you still have a clean slate and its time for you to get out there and make it happen.”

 

Cliff was right. At that moment it was like I was able to see everything with a different perspective.

 

I had been trying to hide under a rock for too long, because I was too scared of failing if I went after my dreams. But now I realized how wrong I was. I had been trying to recreate my dad’s life, but was unable to make that happen because I was running away from whom I was and what I really wanted.

 

Thus, I was determined more than ever to make my dreams come true. I was going to get what I wanted and would not stop or be satisfied until I turned everything from an unattainable idea to a fulfilling reality.

 

You’re right, dude,” I said.

 

Accept it, Jeremy, and start going for your dreams before another four to five years go by and you are still struggling with the same problems. I really don’t want to come back here and kick your ass in the future but, if I have to do that for my friend I will.” Cliff said.

 

After Cliff finished setting me straight we took off for an evening of assorted fun and experiences that I would never forget.

 

We went out eagerly searching for adventures: Cliff had wanted to relive the things that we did back in high school, so for the rest of our night, he didn’t want to think about responsibility, our jobs or responsibilities.

 

All he wanted was to let loose and go carefree for a few hours and so did I.

 

Unfortunately, that night everything fun was closed for the evening or wasn’t serving alcohol. We couldn’t find any of our old friends hanging out in any of our familiar places, and setting up camp in an arcade until midnight just didn’t seem like fun anymore.

 

Cliff was bummed.

 

Damn Jer. I can’t believe how fast everything changed around here.”

 

I have only been gone for a few years and it seems like none of the places we used to hang out exist anymore,”  Cliff said.

 

I know, dude,” I said.

 

It sucked to see the places we had once identified with like the our favorite movie theater, arcade, bowling alley and Taco Bell were now out of business, empty buildings, parking lots and ghosts of our past.

 

The night was quickly fading fast and I didn’t want to let my old buddy go home on such a sour note.

 

I drove Cliff back to the hotel where he was staying and upon arrival, we talked for a while until I noticed that there was a pool next to his room.

 

Why don’t we go for a swim?” I suggested.

 

Cliff started to laugh, “Now? Dude, we’re fully clothed and your house is miles away.”

 

So what?” I replied and with that I jumped in the pool, fully clothed and began to do laps.

 

Cliff busted up laughing and jumped in fully clothed as well.

 

I didn’t want to let my best friend go home depressed about how everything had changed. I wanted him to remember our friendship as a point in our lives where both of us really experienced our youth and acted a little crazy before we officially grew up.

 

And so we lounged and talked in the warm water until the early hours of the morning. Cliff had to go home that morning and I, most likely, would never see him again.

 

And then as quickly as the night had begun, it was over. Cliff and I had spent the last night of our youth together and we knew that it was time for us to part.

 

We got out of the pool, soaking wet, shook hands, hugged, said our goodbyes and I drove home.

 

After that night, I never saw Cliff again.

 

I heard from a few of my high school friends from time to time about what he was up to and where he was living with his family, but I was just never able to reconnect with him.

 

We drifted apart into our own separate worlds.

 

I remember on the very first day of high school when my freshman social studies teacher told me, “High school is going to be the best time of your life because this will be the only time in your life that you will have all of your friends around you, every day. But after high school is over, everyone will drift apart, go their separate ways and it will never be the same.”

 

He was right, during the last four years I had lost contact with all of my friends and associates from high school and now my last link to those youthful days, Cliff, was gone and I was faced with the reality of how fast time was flying by.

 

I was finally able to empathize with my parents because for the first time in my life I had a few years “under my belt,” and I could look back and reflect and worry about an uncertain future.

 

I felt encouraged, strengthened, confident and self assured after my last meeting with Cliff and was ready to make my jump to a better job and dedicate myself to doing more with my art and live a life that made me happy.

Click here to read the next chapter!

 

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Self discovery, pain and celebration

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1999 was a year of discovery, trial and error, and good times.

 

After I had been with the company for a year, I felt like I was finally beginning to get somewhere with my life.

 

I had a good job, a decent income, and a solid base of friends like Dave, Gill, and Joe that I could rely on for inspiration and creative feedback as I worked hard on my painting, with the intention of developing a career in the art world.

 

Every day before I went to work, I passionately painted in my studio for four hours, creating the best paintings I’d ever done since I had dedicated myself to my art.

 

I had nothing holding me back; I didn’t have to adhere to any standards or regulations, or listen to people who told me how or what to paint.

 

I just painted every day because I was in love with my art and couldn’t wait to get back to my studio to see how my art would develop next.

 

Creating s painting is like a romance in the making, and I was in love for that brief time every time every day, that I could work in peace before I had to go to work.

 

Also during that time, I really learned what it was like to get into, “the zone”.

 

“The zone,” is a state of passion where creativity, imagination and spirit beautifully and freely flow, together while the problems of the rest of the world are tuned out.

 

When I enter “the zone,” physical needs like eating, drinking and sleeping don’t matter because my spirit is connected with my creative passion and I get all the food that I need from that passion while I work away.

 

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Picasso once said, “The reason why artists live so long is because they leave their body, outside the door.” That’s why artists are able to withstand so many sleepless nights and long hours of sitting and standing in weird positions while working on the art they are creating.

 

What I found really interesting about this time in my life was that I didn’t stop envisioning and creating when I went to work. Instead of going to work every night feeling like I had been ripped away from someone I loved, I started to carry my creativity with me to the factory.

 

There were always “hot projects,” at the factory each night because management in Japan always put pressure on our company to produce more, more, and more every week.

 

As I worked next to Gill one night I was feeling introspective and decided to write a simple poem about how I was feeling

 

It was just a few lines that rhymed, and after I finished it, I showed it to Gill. He looked it over like the professor he once was and said, “This is great, but if you’re going to write a poem, try to avoid rhyming because, those types of poems sound sissy and you need to learn how to make your poem sound real.”

 

“Poetry today doesn’t rhyme; it doesn’t have thee’s and thou’s in it. Poetry today is life, it’s gritty, and it’s real. For instance poetry is about a girl writing about her experiences, like loosing her virginity, and it’s about a homeless man scratching hopeless words on a box as he slowly starves from lack of food and loneliness.”

 

“Remember, Jeremy, poetry, is about life,” Gill said.

 

And for the rest of the evening, Gill told me all about his favorite writers from the 1960’s who wrote with fire for their cause. And he also told me about other poets he knew who died too young and with them, died a voice of their generation.

 

When Gill and I talked, it was like a new education for me. I absorbed every minute of it, without looking at the clock; because I knew that once I did, the clock would tell me that it was time to go home.

 

“Write about what’s in your heart,” Gill said seriously.

 

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The next evening, he brought me books written by writers from his generation like Richard Brautigan and told me to take them home to see if anything would rub off on me.

 

During the next few nights, I absorbed Richard Brautigan’s book, In Watermelon Sugar, and loved every minute of it.

 

And sure enough, a few days later, after I was put with Gill again for the evening, we started talking and writing poetry, and we couldn’t stop.

 

It was like a jam session when we wrote, even though we had to keep an eye out for our boss, Mike, who was always walking by and pay attention to our parts production so we didn’t get fired.

 

We were like two crazed monsters of creativity exploring our creative passion, anyway we could, while we were stuck in that factory for eight hours or more at a time.

 

During these restrictive times I could almost comprehend what it would be like if anyone or anything took away my creativity from me, forcing me to find ways to be creative in restrictive environments.

 

 

For example, in the movie “The Pianist,” Wladyslaw Szpilman, the famous concert pianist, was forced to hide in an abandoned apartment during World War Two to avoid capture by the Nazi’s, and in the abandoned apartment was a piano that he knew he couldn’t play because if the Nazi’s heard the music they would find him, arrest him, and ship him off to the death camps.

 

So instead of playing, he glides his fingers over the keys while the memory of the sound as his guide, satisfying him as if he were playing.

 

Any artist, such as a painter, writer or musician hungers for a creative outlet, and if they have been away from it for long and will always find a way to create.

 

Once I started writing poetry I was instantly hooked and realized that writing poetry is painting with words and another way for me to express myself in that constrictive environment, making me feel somewhat normal and fulfilled until my night at work was over.

 

Some nights I wrote one poem, other nights, five poems and after each night ended, the environment was like a beat-nick bar as I stood up on my chair in front of my friends and recited the poetry I had written, over the previous eight hours, receiving applause and encouragement after I finished.

 

Finding writing was like finding a release.

 

My friends and family knew what I had done since I graduated from high school, but they had no idea of what was going on in my heart or soul until I was able to write about it.

 

I think that this was the most satisfying and fulfilling time of my life, because I was finally doing what I had wanted to do for years and I was finally moving ahead with my life while possessing and holding onto hope and optimism for my future.

 


 

 

Here are a few poems that I wrote during this important time in my life:

 

My search

Some people are blessed with the answered questions while I’m always lost searching for the answers in the dark.

 

Blessed with freedom, cursed with freedom I’m on the road with my own worst enemy, myself.

 

Sometimes I fall off the road while searching for the answer and then friends and family are always there to bring pull me back to the road with the answers I’m searching for.

 

I always question the simplest answers and start stumbling again and in the end I’m brought back to the first place by wise old soldiers that are also friends.

 

My life

I wasn’t direct when I was eighteen; my mind took me in one million directions while I wanted to be one million different things.

The air, the sun, the sky, and the stars I fell in love with all of them passionately as I walked the path searching for my calling.

But as I journeyed farther I kept being pulled back to the beginning, to the roots I tried to cut in the beginning.

 

These next poems are about how it feels to be an artist:

 

Ecstasy Unraveled

Flashes of anger!

Joy out of the dark,

Near insanity at three in the morning,

I fight with the demon that holds my ideas.

Confused at the time for a single line I fight with frustration to get it out!

At the point of silence my hands come to life.

Passion and joy, they came back!

They give themselves over to me as I beg for more.

Furiously I work as my body cries for rest.

Revelations! Revelations! They engulf me as I laugh with pleasure.

Then neither finished nor on the run I sit back and stare at my pleasure, my painting, my creation.

 

My Creativity

It means the most to me my creativity.

Endless hours, with brush in hand for me is like being in the promised-land.

My work brings me closer to who I want to be.

When I’m painting I feel absolutely free.

 

This poem is how I feel at work every day:

 

At work

Upfront sadness my feelings assault me as my mind runs away wishing I were free.

Dying to get away and do something creative I’m confined for eight hours!

Like the tired ox I labor through my work because it’s Monday again.

Time drags by like a turtle going home before the lunch bell finally rings.

I race with temporary freedom searching for food like a hungry wolf.

In no time at all smiling time pulls me back to my sleepy tasks as I patiently wait for freedom once again.

As time drags on inspiration begins once again as the bell rings freeing me from my temporary prison.

It’s time to go home and be free!

 


 

 

Discovering my poetry, this new way to express my self is what helped me furnish my desire to keep working at the factory and survive those long nights of tedious labor.

 

I had my art and now I had writing to keep me busy every day and night. But even though I enjoyed these things, I began to see that there was something lacking in the work that I was doing.

 

The work that I did every night at the factory was very repetitive, and boring. And when I wasn’t inspired to write, or talk with Dave, Gill or my other friends, the work got on my nerves and I became irritated.

 

Even though I was a simple production worker, working on an assembly line every night, I was also someone who had been a leader in my other jobs in the past and I saw the need for better management in the company.

 

I had gained management skills from my years working on my gardening route when I hired my friends to work with me on big jobs where I needed the help.

 

I had also gained management skills on a summer job that I had worked on as a “job coach,” for people with developmental disabilities. In this position I was in charge of a crew of five developmentally disabled men and women whom I supervised as they performed gardening tasks on properties countywide.

 

At PEC, the employees around me everyday needed a voice, and I decided to be the voice.

 

Rather than letting management treat us like cattle, I stepped up and met with the general manager of the company to voice our concerns, about things that were happening in the factory. I also made recommendations on how management could better handle every day, task and projects. But my ideas were always met with the same results.

 

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Our general manager was a little guy named Gary, who wore a bad toupee that looked like a dead rat on his head.

 

This guy also always wore three piece suits, drove fancy cars, and never walked past someone without letting them know how wealthy he was. Either by talking about his latest big purchase or just by the pompous, conceited way he walked, which really annoyed the crew who were always working harder than Gary ever worked for the company.

 

We all knew that the company paid him a six-figure salary, but every time I tried to recommend a way to improve safety or production, he would say, “Jeremy you know I can’t do that. Our budget is always stretched thinner than the toilet paper in the men’s bathroom,” he said.

 

“You’ve got to trust me Jeremy, I’m in this office because I work for you guys, not the Japanese guys in the office next door. I guarantee that you’re going to see ‘big changes’ in this company within the next few months.”

 

When Gary would say “big changes“, it always meant that he bought us doughnuts to show us that “he cared”.

 

“We’re a growing company, Jeremy. Please be patient,” Gary said in his usual sarcastic manner, while looking out the window at his new BMW, wishing he were on the road driving away from the factory instead of talking with me.

 

“I like you, Kid. I was just like you when I was your age. I was idealistic and was always looking for ways to change things and help people. You can keep coming back to let me know how our employees are doing and I will try to get the owners to make some changes around here, ok?” After my first meeting with Gary I knew that he only intended to keep me satisfied until our next meeting a week later.

 

He didn’t care about my concerns any more than the owners did, and like them, he was only concerned about the bottom line. Getting him to add to the production and safety budget was like trying to catch a slippery eel.

 

Management never ceased to amaze me with the many ways they could avoid buying the supplies that we needed to make our jobs go easier, or the many ways things they did to increase production like telling the machine operators on the production lines to remove their safety guards, just to get a few extra parts per night.

 

Each week, after I finished my latest talk with Gary, My buddy Victor would be the first to greet me to share in any small victories I had gained for the employees or share in my defeat with me.

 

anthony-quinn-by-Gondo[1542]

Anthony Quinn Circa 1960’s?

 

Victor was an older-looking Mexican guy who looked just like Anthony Quinn, and even lived a life similar to the famous actor.

 

On nights that I worked with Victor he always kept me entertained with the stories of his romantic “conquests” during his younger days.

 

Well, what did the toupee one say today my friend?” Victor always asked.

 

Everybody loved making fun of Gary because he was the epitome of the “mean boss”.

 

Victor especially hated Gary because Gary had not given him a raise in pay in over two years. And Gary’s BMW, nice suits and affluent lifestyle continued to add insult to injury for Victor.

 

Victor once had a good paying job working in the aircraft industry like my dad, also like my dad he was laid off with thousands of other people in the early 1990’s due to the recession. Since he was in his early 60’s, he took the only work available to him, like my dad did, which was working for Pacific Engineering Company.

 

Victor had the same dedicated company mentality that I saw in Lazaro when I worked at the golf course.

 

He didn’t like the work that he did, but he realized that it was the hand dealt him, and he had to accept it until something, if anything better, came along.

 

Victor was the hardest-working man in our company because he knew that the closer he got to retiring he’d have even fewer job choices available to him. And he had to provide for his family.

 

Everyone on our shift knew the work that Victor did and how much he produced every night, except Gary, who seemed to take pleasure in holding good people back from the benefits they deserved.

 

Every time I told Victor about my meeting with Gary, I received his typical response.

 

“Fuck him! The only reason why he doesn’t respect you, Junior, is because you don’t have a degree or an MBA next to your name like him! I always tell you it’s a waste of time, to meet with him, don’t I?” Victor responded.

 

“I know, I know, I just wish that management would listen to me and not look at me just like another worker in the factory. I could do a lot more here if they would just give me the chance!” I replied..

 

“Jeremy, I’ll tell you what I tell my sons. You’re never going to get anywhere working for someone else!”

 

“Look at me! I’m 60 years old and still working for peanuts!

 

I should be fucking retired by now, but instead of sipping a cold one at my house in Mexico, I have to work twice as hard because I didn’t use my head when I was your age.”

 

“You got a lot of talent Kid! I’ve seen your art and it’s good; you don’t belong in this place!”

 

Victor loved my art. I had given him a couple of my newest oil pastel pictures the week before and he loved them.

 

“You did these?” Victor asked me as if he was seeing me in new light.

 

“Yeah, I did. I made these last week after you told me that your granddaughter was studying art for the first time. I thought she might like to have them,” I replied.

 

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“Thank you, Jeremy. I don’t know what to say; the only art that my wife and I have is a painting that is hanging in our living room. We bought it while on vacation in Mexico 30 years ago. Nobody has ever given me anything this nice before. Thank you, Jeremy. My family and I will treasure these pictures,” Victor said as he wrapped the pictures in plastic and carefully put them away in his car to show his wife later that night.

 

“If you spend another year in this place, with these old men I am going to kill you!” Victor said.

 

“Get serious about your life and your art, Jeremy! Because if you’re not careful, you’ll end up like my stupid son who got a girl pregnant at age 18, now the rest of his life is ruined because he has to take care of that responsibility instead of experiencing and living a full life!”

 

“Damn him! I hate seeing kids screw up, and having to spend the rest of their lives wishing that things were different,” he said.

 

“Think about it!” Victor exclaimed, right before he thumped me on the shoulder as he angrily walked away.

 

I learned fast that Victor wasn’t a guy to mess with. You had to give him his space, respect him, and leave him alone, or he would get in your face about anything he felt strongly about.

 

Victor used to be an amateur boxer when he was a young man, and he wasn’t afraid to go a few rounds with someone less than half his age if his ego was suddenly offended.

 

He especially wouldn’t think twice about knocking Orion to the ground if Orion was ever shooting his mouth off.

 

On any given night, Orion, being the arrogant Southerner he was, and Victor, being the proud Mexican could easily set each other off and get into a fight. Mike always made sure every night that they didn’t work with each other because he knew what would happen if they did.

 

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If, by chance, Orion and Victor had to work together for the night, any job that they had to do turned into a competition, where they’d try to out-produce each other while swearing at each other and threatening to kick each other’s ass the entire night.

 

After I had the chance to get to know Victor, and saw through his rough exterior, I grew to respect and admire him.

 

He was the type of guy that could easily run circles around anyone younger than he was.

 

He had a bad heart from years of boxing related abuse but that never stopped him from laboriously working with the guys, or drinking a few beers with us, even though his doctor told him not to. I had a feeling that Victor would rather die from a heart attack from working too hard than die from a heart attack doing something boring like sitting in a rocking chair.

 

His comments made me think hard about my future; and he was always right: I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life working for a company like PEC, slowly becoming institutionalized like everyone else.

 

I dreaded looking for another job. I didn’t want to start the whole process of job searching and interviews again when I had only been working for PEC for just over a year. Even though the work that I was doing for PEC was boring and mindless it brought in a steady paycheck, medical insurance and the ability to build a better life but I knew that the mundane, day to day grind was getting to me and I had to find something more fulfilling to do for work.

 

As I was getting used to the idea of job searching again, I felt like a failure as I contemplated my failed career choices and I wondered if I would ever be able to find the one perfect job, that I could settle down with and use as a stepping stone to accomplish my artistic goals and dreams.

 

One night as I was thinking about the choices I had to make I realized something that would give me the strength emotionally to move forward with my life and work harder than ever to accomplish my goals and dreams.

 

I realized that even though I had made many, good and bad, choices since graduating high school, and had worked in many jobs, this was my life path, this was how my life was supposed to be, there were no, “good and bad” decisions, only, “life experience,” that led me on the road to accomplishing my goals.

 

I knew that I had faced many ups and downs in the jobs I worked but one day I would find the right job, settle down, be happy and accomplish my goals in life.

 

Happiness was around the corner for me and I had to keep searching for it my own way until I found it.

 

Part of me wanted to continue working for PEC because it was a good, safe and secure job while the other part of me was ready to go and start searching for another job once again.

 

Security, insecurity, fear, safety, try, fail, survive, prosper, I realized that all of these words were part of life, like the Chinese “Yen and Yang,” and you can’t have one side without the other.

 

Some people spend a lifetime relying on other people to make their decisions for them and tell them what to do because facing the problems and anxiety associated with change is to great for them, and then one day they wake up, look in the mirror and realize that they are older and haven’t learned any of life’s hard lesions because they didn’t want to face them, and find out what life is really all about.

 

I wasn’t going to settle for second best in my life and I prepared myself emotionally to start job searching again, and see what life offered next.

 

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Working On It

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painting

 

After Joe and Becky returned from their honeymoon, they settled into their new married life and their new life rekindled Joe’s desire to re-enter his career and paint like never before.

 

As Joe began to seriously re-enter his art career again he painted up a storm and I joined him in his art studio on many nights working on new paintings of my own, further developing my own style and techniques for art.

 

Joe’s career had once held some promise, but after years of misfortune and bad decisions, he seemed forever stuck at the beginning of his career, unable to move past obstacles that held him down.

 

After I started painting and was beginning to really understand, what I was doing with my art I wasn’t about to let my friend’s career continue to sit stagnant.

 

“I’ll never get anywhere with this shit!” Joe exclaimed one day as we sat in his studio, surrounded by a vast body of work that he had created over the years.

 

cervantes_chilelaspalmas_series _2-thumb-630x443-24819

 

His paintings were sitting around his studio, like ghosts, constantly reminding him of what once was, and what could be again…

 

“You see this one right here?” Joe said, as he pulled out a still life of roses with colors and shapes that were so beautiful, they made you want to cry.

 

“I did this painting one night in Los Angeles, 30 years ago at a loft party, full of other artists, writers and poets. Everyone in the room was doing something creative, so I grabbed a canvas, brushes, and paints from a friend and began to throw this together.”

 

“It was like I had no control over what I was doing; it was fast and sometimes violent and beautiful at the same time. Jimmy Hendrix was playing in the background, everyone was there, the noise was loud, when suddenly, the room, became quiet.”

 

“I was on my hands and knees wrestling with this thing like I was at war, and as I was finishing I looked up and noticed that everyone was standing around me was watching my every move. And right in front of me stood a guy who turned out to be one of Picasso’s art dealers. He was watching me paint while screaming, ‘yes! Yes! Yes! I’ve found the next Picasso!”

 

“He came to the loft that night, from New York, by invitation from a friend to check out another artist’s work whom everyone was raving about. On his way out, he walked past me and stopped.”

 

Picasso was still alive and even at his age continued to hold the respect of everyone in the art world as the greatest living painter, but people were also wondering who would take his place when he was gone? And we wondered what the next major breakthrough in art was going to be, and where it was going to come from?

 

“The art world was looking for the next incarnation of Picasso like Buddhist Monks look for the reincarnation of the next Dali Lama. Everyone in the art world was ready for the next big painter, art school, style, or movement to knock everyone off their feet and take the art world by storm.”

 


 

 

“And here I was only an eighteen year old kid, still in art school, working on this painting that night, when that guy started calling me, the next Picasso.”

 

pablo-picasso

 

“I looked at him and said, ‘me the next Picasso?’ I could barely afford to pay rent, eat, wash my clothes and get to school every day when this guy is comparing me to one of my hero’s that I had loved and respected my whole life.”

 

“The next night, I invited the esteemed art dealer to the space where I was working and after he looked over my portfolio and the new stuff I was working on at the time, he offered me a contract and promised me that he would get me shows in New York and Paris.”

 

“So what happened?” I asked.

 

“I didn’t sign with the guy because I told him I wanted to look everything over before I made a commitment. We agreed that I would call him in New York the following week and that I would sign with him then. The next week I called, but never got through. Every time I tried to reach the guy, he was always out or busy with another client.”

 

 

“Out of frustration, I finally gave up, loaded up my Volkswagen bus, drove to the Monterrey Pop Festival with a bunch of other hippies, got mixed up with that crowd, and here I am”

 

“After I traveled around the country, living the hippy life- style and seeing some great rock concerts like Jimmie Hendrix at Altamont, I got tired of living off the kindness of strangers and I called my mom and asked her to send me enough money to come home.”

 

andy warhol

 

“I later learned that the art dealer I met that night, soon after he discovered me had fallen in love with Andy Warhol’s work and decided to represent him, instead of me.”

 

“How come you didn’t go to New York, find that art dealer and demand that he represent you like Warhol’s? I asked.

 

“I was young and stupid. I got mixed up with the wrong people who were into different types of drugs, I met my first wife who got pregnant fast with my son, and then after he was born, she walked out on me. I was just a kid raising a kid, I had no money coming in so I had to get a job to support my son, my art took second place in my life, and the rest is history.”

 

“That really sucks man but even though that happened it’s time to move on with your life. You can’t live in the past, even though you have gone through pain and a lot hardship in your life.” I said.

 

“How can I move on with my life?” Joe asked.

 

“With faith, you have to have faith in your heart that you still have the same talent now that you did when you were younger. You’re still the same artist, you just forgot who you really are because you’ve been away from it for so long,” I said.

 

“You’re right, Jeremy,” Joe said. And then he picked up his brushes, put away his past and got back to his artwork.

 

“I know I’m right, let’s paint!” I said.

 

“Where do you get your hope and optimism? Anytime I’ve tried to hope or even dream of living the life I want someone is always there to take it away from me!” Joe said.

 

“Damn, Joe, you’re depressing me! Stop wearing your pain on your sleeve! Life is too short to continue on blaming everyone for your problems. It’s time to stop and move on with your life!” I said to him, getting angrier by the minute, I just didn’t see the point in his depression because it always ended up depressing me.

 

“What the Hell do you know? You’re just a kid! You haven’t lived!” Joe replied.

 

As usual, when Joe got like this, I ended by demanding that he get up. Then we walked outside, put on some old boxing gloves and pounded the hell out of each other until I knocked him down.

 

“Feel better?” I asked as I pulled him off the grass after knocking him down.

 

True to form, we usually laughed, shook hands, and went inside his studio, where his sister, who came over often, had food waiting for us. We then devoured it and then went back to our artwork.

 

I don’t know why things ended up like that some nights, but the important thing was that Joe was seriously working on his art for the first time in years. And that those painting sessions would be memorable for years to come.
picasso and braque

 

We were like Braque and Picasso, always checking on each other’s latest works and providing each other with criticism and encouragement to take our artwork to the next level.

 

During these months after I finished a new painting I also brought it to work for Dave and Gill to critique and provide feedback.

 

They loved my work and gradually taught me to accept my own style; they made me realize that I was copying the latest trends and had to be true to my own artistic vision.

 

“Those artists Downtown, produce nothing but crap!” Gill said one night as we were eating lunch.

 

“I was invited to a show at one of the galleries Downtown San Diego over the weekend and didn’t see anything that even resembled art!”

 

“What did you see?“ Dave asked.

 

“Nothing but the type of painting and sculpture that is hot today, like crosses submerged in large vats of urine and garbage lying on empty beds,” Gill replied.

 

“A lot of artists love using urine in their work. It seems like every kid today is getting their inspiration from listening to Marilyn Manson,” Dave said.

 

“You’re right, Dave. I hate Marilyn Manson too!” I exclaimed.

 

“That stuff will never sell because it only looks good in a gallery with lots of people staring at it. Do you really think anyone would want, a vat of urine with a cross in it sitting in their living room?” Gill asked.

 

“Not me! If someone back home did that sort of thing, they would end up in the loony bin with the weirdo’s!” Orion exclaimed as he returned to his work station.

 

We all laughed and agreed with him as we went back to work.

 

“Your work is good, Jeremy. Keep it up! You’re going in the right direction. Sometime soon, I want to introduce you to a few art people I still know in Los Angeles. Maybe I should be your agent instead of an artist,” Gill said laughing.

 

Even though it seemed like Gill was far removed from the art world in Los Angeles, he still had friends there who invited him to parties and openings up there. This added to Gills mystique.

 

And even though Gill worked and lived on crappy wages like everyone else in the factory, he was always going to places and involved in events respectable enough to be broadcast on T.V.

 

Gill also had a sense of style to go along with his mystique. For example, he was able to buy a used 1970 Jaguar that he drove to work with pride every day. I later found out that it was actually the body of a Jaguar with a Ford engine in it.

 

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