Saturday, November 19, 2011
Thursday, November 10, 2011
If it’s not too soon I’d like to apply for Andy Rooney’s old job. It’s not like I can’t find enough things to complain about. Even Andy was running out towards the end. Chocolate chip cookies? Really, that’s your problem this week? I’m essentially doing the same thing now, just without the lucrative paycheck. Which brings me to my first complaint. Where is my lucrative paycheck? I wait everyday for an executive over at CBS to call or write saying “These clever remarks of yours are certainly worth their weight in pithiness. Do you prefer check or cash?”
And by starting at a fairly early age, I still have decade’s worth of gripes in me. Most curmudgeons don’t start until they have grandchildren or other things that grate on their nerves and ruin the linoleum. It may just be a case of reverse ageism. Who says a person can’t be crotchety before sixty-five? Given the chance I can act like an emotional Benjamin Button! I’ll throw tantrums as if I was Tim Tebow throwing a pass, which is likely to end up anywhere. I’ll even stop using my online thesaurus so everyone will get the opportunity to appreciate what my problems are. Here, I can prove it…
You know what I don’t like? People who mess up a bed. Many of us toss and turn until the whole thing looks like a scene from that silent movie whose name escapes me right now, but was a big hit when I was in high school. You know the one. Why can’t they lie down like I do, as a living mummy. This way it makes it so much easier for the person who has to make it. It’s just a common courtesy, like only keeping your dentures in a glass reserved for houseguests and in-laws. And when that one day comes when you can’t get up, it becomes less bothersome for the paramedics. And isn’t that what life is all about? Making it easier for people that have to deal with you.
See? Perfect, right? This stuff writes itself. And what’s more impressive than someone complaining about complaining? In closing this open cover letter to CBS and Sumner Redstone I just like to say that unlike Rooney I can be used for your cross marketing platform with parent company National Amusement in order to perpetuate your entertainment packages and help support such fine programming as “Jersey Shore”, (psst, Snookie is my fact checker).
Still not enough? Well, stick around. The holidays are approaching and I’m sure I can find something there. Besides, 2012 is an election year. And speaking of 2012, what is the problem with the Mayans? Can’t they have a normal calendar with cute puppies or hunky firemen or even hunky puppies as firemen? What did we ever do to them? Oh right.
Studio piece from a plein air study.
Friday, October 14, 2011
For some reason I feel the need to toughen myself up. Now I know what you’re thinking “Jamie, we already consider you a man’s man now”. I thank you for your silent accolades. However, there is this spot deep inside of me that is either a primal need to become one with nature or a death wish. It’s hard to tell it’s so dark in there.
So I decided to ignore these warnings posted at the trailhead, and go against my better judgment that states you shouldn’t hike alone on such trials and forged ahead. I asked a local that has been here for some time “Those warnings are just to keep the tourist from wandering off the trails, right?” “No, not really, “ he replied in a matter-of-fact tone. “They’re out there. The rattlers like to sun themselves on the trails this time of year, and bears are getting hungry for winter. And you know how cougars get?” I nodded as if he was telling me about which nozzle on the vacuum to use when cleaning the couch cushions. “Best pay attention to them,” he added.
Rangers. What do they know? They’re just mall cops surrounded by trees.
So off I go. If you recall the last hike was a bit too strenuous. So I chose a new one called Hogback Ridge, which is slightly less elevated, and about the same length. I figured I could handle it. I’m as good a hiker as the next man. Providing the next man is Michael J. Fox. The only problem was I wasn’t on Hogback Trail. I took the wrong turn and found myself on an old miners trail. The Native Americans called it “Crapawa Meoka Hey” which translates to “I Just Soiled My Buckskins”. You see other hikers on the designated trails all the time regardless of the day. No one was on this one.
I went about a mile and a half down the trail and wondered when it would start to loop around the ridge. As it wound its way, turning down into ravines ever so often I realized how alone I really was. I figured I would give it another half mile or so and then head back. I hate not finishing a trail loop once I start it. I looked ahead and saw a rather large ravine, overgrown with brush and bramble. As I got closer I thought, “If this was a movie it would make a good place for an ambush.” As I entered the hollow a small chipmunk ran past. Out loud I murmured, in case it helped, “I guess it’s safe if you’re here, eh?” And then I heard it, only once, but clear, a low, deep, growl. It had to be only a few feet away. It had that staccato sound which you often hear in house cats. But this was deeper and I wasn’t in a house.
I looked deep into the brush but couldn’t see a thing. I raised my walking stick like I could actually do something with it and wished my dog Daisy was there. Not that she could defend me, but I would make my escape while she's being devoured. I slowly backed out, while always peering, straining to see through the branches. A few more steps. Did I really hear it? Yes, I know I did. Now about twenty yards away, I picked up two small rocks and tossed them into where I thought the sound came from. I waited. Nothing. I just know that thing wants to bite my head off. That’s where all the fatty goodness is stored. I picked up the pace, turning every once in a while, expecting to see something leaping after me, but nothing came. When I got back to the trailhead I thought I’d never do that again. At least not for a few weeks anyway.
Saturday, October 8, 2011
Halfway around I was reminded of the 1964 film “Robinson Crusoe on Mars”. It starred Paul Mantee with a brief appearance by Adam West as Colonel Dan McReady. He should have been named McAlready since he died in the first fifteen minutes. As you probably guessed it’s the story of an astronaut stranded alone in a hostile environment where he soon discovers his man Friday. Not a great career move for Friday going from slave to pack mule for an alien. In a white-centric society I guess they thought this progressive at the time. Paul Mantee may not be a big Hollywood name but he did appear in a number of television shows from “Dragnet” in 1959 to “Seinfeld” (he played a health inspector in The Pie).
Anyway, back to me. It wasn’t the strange landscape that reminded me of the film. Nor was it the fact I could have used my own Friday to help with carrying my pack and someone to talk to since I took the trip solo. It was something else in the film. To compensate for the thin Martian air Mantee’s character was given oxygen pills that he could take whenever he needed a little extra O. (They used M&Ms in the film) You see this hike wasn’t flat like my feet but went rather vertical like my stock portfolio in my dreams.
I can’t blame my huffing and puffing on the fact that I’m at 5,500 foot (or is it feet?) altitude anymore, because it has been over a year since I landed. It has to be the poor physical shape I’m in. I feel pretty healthy. That is until I come across one of these human dynamos out here. This one woman hiked past me, stop to answer her cell phone than ran passed me again repeating this scene two more times. I finally told her “Look, can you just go pass me and stay there? I feel bad enough as it is.” She mentioned something about her grandkids but with the blood rushing into my ears I couldn’t make out what she said.
I moved along the path as if underwater while everyone else went scampering and frolicking away. Dogs, kids, old people, they were all leaving me in the proverbial dust. In all fairness to me it does have an net elevation gain of 1,323 feet and is rated “moderately strenuous”, but that don’t mean Jack when you’re laying on a rock, crying as if in a scene from ‘Saving Private Ryan’.
I did make it to the top and now I had a different problem. As mentioned earlier I do indeed have flat feet and when going downhill my knees begin to feel as if locked in a vise after only a few hundred feet. I still had a mile and a half to go. Each step the vise got tighter and tighter. I grabbed a fallen branch to use as a walking stick since I decided to leave mine in the car for some unknown reason. I hobbled along looking like Gandalf the Grey. “YOU SHALL NOT HAVE MY GRANOLA BAR!” I yelled to myself.
There are a good number of people in great shape out here. Over 12% of commuters bike to work, the highest in the country. And with so many beautiful days people can take advantage of the weather.
So I have two choices. Either work myself harder to try and get into better shape or start hanging out with the guy on Pearl Street with the sign that reads: “Will work for pot”. I’m not making that up. That is a man with a mission. A goal. My only question is what kind of work does he do?
Latest plein air piece “Grove of cottonwoods”.
Monday, September 26, 2011
The other was a quick plein air painting at sunset. And I mean quick. Start to finish was about 15 minutes. You have no choice when the colors change so rapidly and the light is fading on your paint. My average for a painting study is around two hours which includes prep time.
Monday, September 12, 2011
Doing some quick calculations, I discovered that the surface of the Earth has moved over ten meters in my lifetime. So if you think candles on a birthday cake can make you feel old, how about being able to measure your life span with that of the Earth’s? And the good times don’t end there. My kids love reminding me about the number of stars on our flag when I was born (forty-eight if you’re counting), or the fact that the first satellite had just been launched. Were they the ‘Good Old Days’?
This past month I took my wife up to Cheyenne, Wyoming for her birthday and we stayed at a historical Bed and Breakfast. The Nagel-Warren house was built in1888 and hosted quite an impressive list of dignitaries including President Taft, Theodore Roosevelt (although he wasn’t president during his stay) and one of the Vanderbilts (with so many of them there should have been a rabbit on their coat of arms).
Inside the hotel was old Wyoming with its stained glass, porcelain tubs, and a mock tin ceiling made of cowhide. Outside was a different story. Situated in the older part of town near the train depot, lay a number of bars, pawnshops, and title companies. Deep down I was wishing for the good old days of the West and that’s when I realize a simple truth. This was the old west. Instead of pickup trucks barreling down the street playing loud, cheap radios and waking up the neighborhood, they had horses and honky tonk pianos with people spilling out of saloons. Hollywood westerns make those days look like a hoot of fun, but the reality is they must have been just as annoying. I’m sure if I lived back then I would have worn a path to the sheriff’s office asking if he could do something about the noise coming from the hookers and drunks or the drunk hookers.
I guess on the flip side of things, maybe times do change but our perspective stays the same. Maybe I’d be a complainer no matter what era I lived in. Well, I guess we know the answer to that riddle. When people ask me “If you could choose a time period to live in, which one would it be?’ I don’t have a quick or easy answer. Romantic images aside, who wants to live before indoor plumbing? Or supermarkets for that matter? Or antibiotics? Then again nuclear threat is no fun time either. And forget about pollution and global warming. I guess it comes down to whether our memories are chaff or wheat filled? How do we want to remember the times we live in? Maybe these are the good old days and we should just be happy with what we have?
New plein air oil off Cottontail Trail near our home.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Saturday, August 6, 2011
It’s coming up to our one-year anniversary regarding our move to Colorado. There are a few things I learned about Boulder since last summer. For instance, Boulder has the highest percentage of people living on trust funds than any other part of the United States. One out of every four adults has a PhD. Degree of some kind. The climate is also a haven for retire Olympic Athletes and attracts many in the entertainment industry. Even the guy who owns the local pizza parlor is a retired astrophysicist from NASA. I guess you do have to be a rocket scientist to run a business around here. This, by the way, is all coming from second hand sources, which could mean it is either true or else we also rank number one in pathological liars.
The other quarter not belonging to this group are those receiving ‘medical’ marijuana supplements. They are a friendly bunch and are usually employed as wait staff and gardeners. It is easy to recognize this type when you hear “Bread? Oh right, right, sure that’s cool,” when you inquire about your basket.
Either way my path is clear. I am doing my best to be a pimple on that bell curve by not being exceptional at anything with the possible exclusion of annoying friends and loved ones with incessant literary (indulge me here) meanderings. For once in my life I thought my New York background and egocentric upbringing would lend me an air of superiority. Instead my self-esteem is in our low-flow, ecologically friendly toilet.
This leaves me with no other choice than to be as mediocre as possible. I can do that. It is this mediocrity that will let me stand out among the high-level achievers, Type A personalities, and refugees from a Lost Generation. By simply being me I am unique like no other.
I could improve my grammar or spelling, but then my thoughts would be just as coherent as the next guy’s. Who needs that? I could get a prescription for a fathom pain I get whenever my mother-in-law visits, but I don’t think I can spare any gray matter at this point. I did attend Art school in the seventies if memory serves me. I am not signing any petitions to save something that needs to be explained to me. The only cause I am getting behind is the Leave Me Alone Cause. It’s basically a movement of not doing anything cause I don’t want to be bothered.
So, am I adjusting to life out West? I can say emphatically yes. In the fact that I have not changed at all and will stay this way no matter how nice the people are, no matter how beautiful the weather, no matter how much my life has improved. There is always something horrible around the corner. We just can’t see it because some idiot has put up a Welcome sign.
My quick count of animals we’ve seen in our first 12 months in Colorado (not counting the farm animals such as cattle, sheep, llama, pigs, ponies, donkeys, horses, alpaca), most were on trails or near our home.
big horn sheep
red tail hawk
red wing blackbird
great horned owl
soft shell turtle
hard shell turtle
Friday, July 8, 2011
While at a July 4th bar-b-cue, I heard a guest mutter that all too familiar phrase “It stinks getting old.” It can in many ways stink, but we often forget the nice perks that come with seniority. There are small ones like discounts, but there are many more if you just know where to look and if you have your graduals on.
For one thing, my age has finally caught up to my attitude. Now when I sit around and complain it’s accepted as the ramblings of an old man and I’m mostly ignored. That’s a good thing since my fighting days are over. The downside is I developed a repetitive motion injury in my arm from shaking my fist at other drivers. Why are they always going either too slow or too fast?
I also started lying about my age and it feels good. In fact, I generally ADD about ten to fifteen years, which is then greeted with a big smile and “Wow, you look great for someone in their sixties!” This can backfire so you have to know your audience. Lately, I have had to add more and more years to get my desire results.
Also, no one asks me to do any heavy lifting any more either. No more helping someone move into an apartment or push a car out of a snow bank. Even lids to jars have become a non-subject as I so often have gotten a look and a shrug that means “I’ll just run it under hot water.” It’s not that I’m overweight or weak looking; at least I don’t think so. I think the asker is worried about giving me a stroke or heart attack and seeing his insurance premiums go up like a hot air balloon.
My kids have started treating me better too. Like getting me things when I ask on the first go round, such as my glasses or oxygen. It helps when I give them the sick look and pretend I can’t make out their faces. I keep my hand on my chest as if I’m about the recite the Pledge of Allegiance. This gives them the subliminal message I’m not long for this world.
The older you get the more you can act like a spoil child too. And that basically is what old people are, wrinkly, gray, ugly children. They don’t listen; they make a mess, are demanding, and say the darndest things (see I am old quoting Art Linkletter). But instead of getting annoyed or upset we should see the joy in them. It’s all part of the circle of life. When they make a mess while eating their strained peas, don’t yell. Just grab the camera to capture that precious moment. “Whose daddy’s big boy?” Some raspberries on their tummies while changing a diaper can turn that frown upside down. And isn’t that what’s life all about?
Let’s face it, every age has its ups and downs, the dependencies of childhood, the awkwardness of puberty, the demands and stress of adulthood. And while old age may not be the most exciting one of all, we can still have some fun while we’re here. Remember, juries are very sympathetic to the elderly. My father had a saying in his office that read ‘I considered the day lost if I don’t catch hell for something’. Not the most inspiring words you want your child to live by, but then again who’s to say it was for me?
Monday, June 20, 2011
Well, my wife and daughter returned this week from their six-day rafting trip with the Girl Scouts. Even though I missed them terribly, within fifteen minutes I was wondering when their next trip was schedule. (Mid July if you’re playing at home.) This isn’t a reflection on them. It is an announcement of what a persnickety old man I have become.
I’ll never forget the words of that great Queen of Egypt, Pharaoh Phawcett, when she said, “Clean up your mess. It’s starting to sphinx in here.” (ba dum bum). How can two demure and delicate little flowers turn a place that would make Oscar Madison cringe in so short a time? I know how much of a klutz I can be also. I mean I can trip over a shadow. So when I have to walk the gauntlet of shoes strewn about the living room like fish on a dock after a good catch, I’m taking my life in my hands, or should I say feet. I could only imagine what the campsite looked like when they were through with it.
I admit I was a little jealous when I saw the pictures they took and heard about everything they did. Usually when I’m home alone I think of all these wonderful things I plan on doing with my free time. The restaurants that no one wants to try, or maybe the movie that only fits my taste. The truth is once they’re gone I loose all interest. It was like that with my older two children as well. I would think, “I’m going to try that new Scandinavian-Nepalese place over on 63rd,” but would wind up watching Turner Classic Movies and making Chicken Quesadillas for ten people and having it everyday for the week. As much as I like good food and cooking, when I’m by myself I eat like a terrier, gobbling up whatever is thrown in front of me. Are all husbands and fathers this way, or only the contented ones?
Here is my second plein air oil. I’m much happier with this one. Onward, and hopefully, upward.
Thursday, June 9, 2011
My apologies to those that enjoy reading this diatribe, for I have been neglectful of late what with my daughter getting out of school a month earlier than in New York. For those that don’t enjoy reading it, additional apologies for starting up again.
As mentioned, my youngest finished school in May and has kept me busy with fishing, tennis, biking and complaining that there is nothing to do. She left this morning with my wife on a six-day rafting trip. They are going down the San Juan River in Utah through Moab. It sounds like a wonderful trip through a beautiful part of the country. When my wife asked me to go along I did considered it, but declined. Now before you pass judgment on me for being an unsociable boring old man there are a few more details I need to relate. That ‘s not to say I’m not an unsociable boring old man mind you. It just doesn’t apply here.
The trip is with her Girl Scout troop and of course their mom’s. That’s ten twelve-year old girls and five women in menopause with not a wet bar or mall within 100 miles. The weather will most likely be in the nineties and they are not allowed to bring electronic games of any type. Mathematically speaking that is a female equivalent to a perfect storm. As they were packing my daughter picked up a package of feminine products and asked my wife “Why do I need these?” When my wife answered, “Just in case you start getting your period, sweetie. All the girls are taking them,” I knew I made the right decision to stay home.
Although, the line for the men’s room would be short, the downside is there is no men’s room. Going that long without hot water is not my idea of a vacation. Besides, there won’t be a line here either. To give you some idea how I like things I have an embroidered plaque above the door to my austere bathroom. It reads, “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures”. You can pick up film at the ranger’s station. Not that anyone ever has.
I enjoy the comforts of my home. When we were away last winter I thought of treating myself to a massage while everyone else was skiing. One of the typical packages read like this:
“The Outdoorsman: 100 minutes
Whether you just climbed a fourteener (that’s fourteen thousand feet for you coast loving people), spent a day on the ski slopes or played a round of golf, this rejuvenating package is just for you.”
But I don’t do any of those things and I really wanted a massage. Even when forced into playing mini-golf I only do nine holes. So I decided to try “The Couch Potato”, which was more my speed. They spend 45 minutes working my sorry ass and the last ten on my remote control arm. Finally a massage that's just right for me! They say you can’t go home again so I’m thinking I better not leave.
We haven’t caught any fish yet, but my daughter spotted this guy hanging around. That’s a bull snake, which is loved around here because they kill rattlers. I also included my first plein air oil. It's a little flat but I’m okay with the results.
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
After about eight months writing this Blog I am getting the well-deserved reputation of a curmudgeon. Some readers have suggested I re-title it. So far “Old Guy Complains” and “Captain Killjoy’s Corner” are the top runners. In light of that I’m going to try to be a little more positive this week. This promises to be a short piece.
I think I am finally getting the hang of things out here in the Emerald City. I don’t hunk my car horn when it is obvious we can both make the light and I started buying my clothes at the hardware store. They have a sock aisle to die for! Dare I say it but I think I am beginning to mellow out.
And why not? This is a beautiful place. And since spring arrived a few weeks back it is even more spectacular. Don’t get me wrong. I loved spring in New York, but it was different. Back east it is the gardens that make it so. It’s the first crocus that sets off the alarm. The dogwoods, magnolias, that filled front lawns with pinks and whites after grey winters. There are beds of peonies, irises, and daffodils that accent walkways, driveways, and garden paths.
Here, it is nature or let’s say a more bucolic version of nature. Creeks that ran dry through the winter are rushing again. Animals have come out of their winter dens. The farms around our house have calves, colts, and lambs to show off as they run around pastors on young legs. Along Cottontail Trail, a path not a mile from our house, an old cottonwood tree is home to a family of Great Horned Owls. We stop by in the evenings and see the two fledglings cuddled inside the stump while their parents stand watch in a nearby tree. A garter snake with a brood of five are an oddity to our dog, but harmless.
Last week for Mother's Day we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a sunny eighty-four degrees, but in many spots there still laid snow. My daughter called it Swinter-time as the ice cooled our sandal-clad feet during our hike. Gangs of elk walked about not seeming to care or notice the visitors or their cars. Traffic came to a halt as drivers got a close-up look at a few of these beasts, which can weight over 1,000 pounds.
My wife said it was just a perfect way to spend Mother's Day. Belated but sincere, I hope all the mom's out there had a perfect day too.
Below is a oil study I just finished and a watercolor of a poison dart frog I am adding to my portfolio.
Sunday, April 24, 2011
As much as I complain about Boulder or just about anything, I forget how beautiful it is here. Flying back to Minneapolis this past week was like going back in time to a winter in the Middle Ages or how I would imagine the Middle Ages would be if it had The Mall of America. The cold air hit my face the way my fingers would hit a slant six engine block while ratcheting out a rusted spark plug in January.
It was my mother-in-law’s eightieth birthday and we flew out to celebrate with the family. I like my mother-in-law and she happens to be a wonderful woman, but she still smokes. I became rather sensitive to cigarettes while growing up with a smoker. It has gotten to the point where I can pick out which drivers are lighting up even with the windows closed while doing seventy on the parkway.
We were staying at her place for the weekend. I was just getting out of the shower and I grabbed a clean towel lying next to the sink. But the more I dried myself the more I could smell cigarette smoke. Where was it coming from? With a look of horror I realized it was third hand smoke. Third hand smoke is the residue left behind by a smoker, and is usually trapped in fabrics. Even though the cloth may be washed several times, in this case towel, it still has remnants of tobacco in it. I was slowly coating my epidermis with a veneer of tar and nicotine. I’m such a hypochondriac I pictured myself getting skin cancer and I had to re-shower several times. It was as if I was trying out for the Meryl Streep’s role in the Broadway production of “Silkwood”. When I asked my wife for a roll of paper towels to dry off she thought I finally lost my mind. That all changed after her shower. But the worst part is I became addicted to the towels and found myself with a two and a half showers a day habit by the end of my trip. If I stayed any longer I probably would have stolen a washcloth to keep in my desk.
Italians are a rarity in Minnesota along with much of the mid-west. As such people felt like that had to serve me pasta at every meal in order to be polite hosts. It’s mid-west pasta though, which means egg noodles with white cream sauce, chicken, pork, seafood, and three types of cheese. I know I must sound like an ingrate. I don’t mean to. It was very generous and thoughtful of everyone. Between the nico-towels and the heavy sauce, however, my weight was up, my blood pressure was up and my life expectancy was down. It was a matter of survival to get out.
This past weekend my son came out for a visit from New York. I dropped him off at Denver Airport for his trip back and I headed home to finish this piece. The first thing that crossed my mind was “Thank God he doesn’t write a blog.” I could only imagine the horror stories he is telling his friends about his visit with me. I don’t think my fragile ego would handle all the public complaints with any amount of grace or dignity. Of course by next week my fears will be a dim memory and I’ll be back writing, maybe with a little more compassion. I know I start with good intentions, but by the end of the week I’m once again an apoplexic mess.
Anyway, here is the watercolor I gave the old gal for her eightieth birthday.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Sunday, April 3, 2011
We recently returned from a trip to Hawaii and getting around there was a small miracle in itself. (Are you surprised I have something to curmudge concerning Hawaii? When, or maybe if, I ever get to Heaven I’m sure I’ll have a few things to correct. “You mean we can have anything we want? Great, more decisions I have to make.”) I asked a local Hawaiian woman, a large flowered moo-moo wearing with a huge smile and hair to match kind of woman, where the local beach was. You wouldn’t think it would be too hard to find a beach on an island, right? Except, the Hawaiian language, to my ignorant ears anyway, sounds as if the Gerber baby invented it.
“We have many beaches. Which one do you want?”
“I’m not sure. Which would you recommend?”
“Well, you could go to Kaopectate Kove. That’s right next to Poopoopkaki Park. But there’s a lot of flooding. Onomatopoeia is popular.”
“That has a nice ring to it. How do I get there?”
“You take Wiamea Highway that way (she points to her left) passed Wianothima, then turn that way (points to right) by Monopoly Piece. Make a right at the rock that looks like Tiki god and a left at Tiki god that looks like rock. Go straight much further until you see Hocuspocus, it’s right next to Hoipolloi, and you’re right there.”
“Can you say that in English?”
“Take Highway 19 and look for the sign.”
“You want to buy some pearls? I have the best prices around.”
“No thanks. I already filled my quota of getting ripped off this trip by staying at a hotel where the hotdogs are fourteen dollars. Maybe next time.”
We finally made it to the beach and it was spectacular. That’s my trip in a coconut shell.
Yesterday was a record 82° here in Boulder, followed by 90MPH winds, a wildfire, and today they are expecting 1-3 inches of snow. Yes, it’s springtime in the Rockies. When we got back home a miracle was waiting for us. Miracles come in all shapes and sizes, of course. Such as my wife passing up a shoe sale, or my sister picking up a check at a restaurant (sorry D.B., but when you do the writing it gives you carte blog to say what you want.). But this was a bona fide ‘face in the toast’ kind of miracle. Our two male finches, Steve and Mark, somehow were able to lay four eggs while we were away. Who says gays can’t have children? Isn’t that just lovely? While my wife and daughter were beside themselves with joy and expectations, I was looking up recipes to make the world’s smallest omelet. “Can we keep them?” my daughter asks. “Of course,” answers my wife. “And why not?” I ask. “It’s not like I enjoy a clean room, or peace and quiet,” I said to deaf ears. I think anyone who has read this blog knows how I feel about pets and all that they entail. So I am less than thrilled. Although, bar-b-que season is upon us. The only problem I see is the little fellers falling through the bars on the grill. The only problem my daughter sees is that we need a new name for Mark, our cross-featherer. Since all this happened while on our trip, I was thinking of naming them after the Hawaiian phrase for happy couple: Martini and Rossi.
Below are a few quick sketches I did while away on away of the local flora and fauna. That’s Fauna on the right.
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
There was a story that hit the local television stations last month. Apparently, a brown bear and her cub took up residence under the community hospital here in Boulder. They were discovered by a maintenance worker when he went to make some sort of repair. The hospital is located in a residential area so it was decided the two interlopers needed to be removed. But this is Boulder and the Boulder fourth commandment says "Thou shall honor the wild beast of the field".
So instead they decided the drive the bears away (and this is the truth) by playing country and western music. It did the trick. The two ran off and are now living comfortably in a quiet den. I knew that noise was good for something.
Below is my latest project, four pieces for the Wizard of Oz. This time it is set in Colorado and the characters are more pro-active. Hope you like them.
Monday, February 21, 2011
What I would wish for is that dynamite worked the same way in life as it does in cartoons. Now hear me out first. Dynamite would be as common to have in your house as milk or eggs. The Holidays would be an exceptionally busy time for manufacturers as families buy stockpiles to release some long held hidden hostilities. Therapy and mood altering drugs might just become twenty-first century dinosaurs as people cope with their feelings openly and honestly.
Take my neighbor for instance, and the real crux of my story. He’s a nice enough guy I guess. I have only talked to him on three separate occasions since we moved in six months ago. According to the homeowners association we are not to have any commercial vehicles on our property visible from the street at any time unless making a delivery. Yet his truck, his dirty filthy smelly truck, is parked in his carport every day, which is visible from my dining room window. I want to be a good neighbor, but I also desperately want to blow that F’n truck to smithereens. Why can’t he just obey a simple rule and be courteous? What’s even more annoying is the fact that he put up three posts for a fence that would block us from seeing it and yet has done nothing to finish the job. So we can’t blame ignorance on his part.
And we all have had neighbors that do this sort of thing. Perhaps it’s racing a car up and down the street, or playing Mariah Carey or some other annoying record loud enough to hear from your back porch, little pet peeves that drive us crazy. It all depends on how lucky you are with the Real Estate Lottery. But wouldn’t it be great the next time it happens you turn to your spouse and say “Of course you realize this means war!” and proceed to hand the annoying bastard a cake with fourteen sticks of dynamite on top instead of candles. Oh the joy that would bring. I don’t wish him any harm. I just want to see a huge explosion and when the smoke clears see him standing there in ragged clothes, burnt hair and waving a white flag. Is that too much to wish for?
PS: Here's a recent oil painting I finished this week and something I hope never gets blown up. However, I'm going to touch up that marque.
Friday, February 11, 2011
I haven't written lately because I have had a touch of bronchitis. The bad part is it touched both my lungs at the same time. I get really maudlin and rather morbid when I get sick also. But I have been able to draw and paint a little so I thought I would just post them.
As I laid in bed hacking up lung snot feeling sorry for myself I thought of my dad. Smoking two and half packs of cigarettes a day for thirty years left him with emphysema that lasted over ten years. Towards the end, his days were filled with constant coughing fits and a decreased lung capacity. How can the human body tolerate such punishment for so long? After just a week of this I was asking my wife to pull the plug on my humidifier. Why is it that it takes a sickness or injury to appreciate how fortunate being well really means?
I just hate being sick or laid up. When my time comes I would rather it was from an animal attack than a prolong and chronic ailment. Well, not any animal. Not a shark or bear because they bite pieces off while you're still alive and then come back for more. A big cat would be fine, such as a mountain lion, or leopard. They strike from behind and most cases you don't even know what hit you. Snap goes the neck and there you are, predator take out. A poison dart frog would probably work. The curare in their skin gives a hallucinogenic affect that might be sort of cool. But I don't think they attack too often. Did I mention how morbid I get when I'm sick? Why don't you just look at the pictures? Good health to everyone out there!
Monday, January 24, 2011
Friday was the arrival of two new pets. Not the two new gerbils. This is newer still. I would not mind all the nighttime wheel running or the sawdust overflow if I was able to at least name one of them Josef. In so doing I realize I might alienate all my Jewish friends, but then again they may have seen that as a fitting end to such a rat bastard.
No, these two new pets are society finches. It seems my wife is creating her own ark, piece by piece. Maybe she knows something I don’t! Society finches were specially bred so pet stores could double their sales by convincing unwitting customers how they need company to live. “What happens when one dies?” I asked my dear spouse. “Does the other commit avian suicide by diving head first into the bottom of the cage?” Even though she convinced me the cage would remain spotless, Dr. Cleanlittle did not take into account how these little intrepid fliers would zoom around the cage causing their droppings to do anything but drop as they are propelled through the bars and onto the polished oak floor. If this keeps up one night I will serve the world’s tiniest drumsticks for dinner.
Sunday arrives. It is a quiet morning. A little classical music is playing softly while I’m lying supine on the couch, coffee in hand. My dog Daisy is on my chest and I’m scratching her ear (see I’m not totally heartless). It was all very calming. I know Daisy was especially relaxed. For in a few minutes there was a warm tingling sensation all over my pants. I lifted her up and sure enough the little monster had let her bowels get carried away to Debussey. I jumped up and ran to the back door, threw the offender out, and jumped in the shower with my clothes one while my wife’s laughter was heard throughout the house. I felt so dirty I even brushed my teeth again. Why can’t they put money into animal research and come up with a pet that only goes once a year in the neighbor’s yard? That I would buy!
This may night be the most opportune place to segue but I've just updated my website with a great deal of help from Mel Cassio, my web guy. Thanks Mel. Go to jamiestroud.com and check it out. It's the least you could do after what I've been through.
January 19, 2011 Davidson Mesa Park
Monday, January 17, 2011
Out of all the post-season football games I managed to pick every one wrong. On the plus side, I’m picking all the right contestants on this season of “The Bachelor”. Coincidence? Anyway, in case you are interested, which I doubt, it will probably come down to Ashley S., Emily, or the evil Michelle.
Back in reality…
I started doing some watercolors on site to warm up for some plein air oil painting. I usually don’t do this sort of work and landscapes have never been my specialty, but with so many beautiful areas around here I think I would be remiss not to try. Although, when I finish I may have committed a crime against nature. We’ll see. I also wanted to post some early examples to chart my progress.
In the meantime…Go Bears and Ashley S.!
Monday, January 10, 2011
Since it was the end of the year I wanted to write something really profound for the holiday season, but to be honest nothing came to me. So this isn’t one of those pieces about looking ahead, or remembering friends, or waxing nostalgia. Instead I am going to be my usual curmudgeony self and complain. Hey, when all else fails, stick to what you’re good at.
We bought our youngest daughter a Wii game this Christmas. Actually it was an Ussue (pronounced ‘youse’). “It’s just as good,” said the man standing outside of Best Buys next to a white van with a bumper-sticker that read ‘my other car is a mafia staff car’ and “only half the price”. He tried to get me to buy the extended warranty but I wasn’t born yesterday.
Apparently, I wasn’t born a whole lot of yesterdays as I was more than just a little bewildered on how the thing works. With the help of my two oldest children it was up and running in hours. It would have been sooner if it wasn’t for all the duct tape wrapped around it. We played mostly racing games and I managed to hold last place the entire week as my family sat around sipping hot cocoa waiting for me to cross a finish line.
One of the games my daughter received was some sort of dance competition. As we went through the catalog of songs I realized many of them were from the 80s, 70s, and even earlier. My time had come. Here was my chance for revenge, I mean victory, I mean avoiding total embarrassment. Those classes I took back in 1973 to learn the hustle, foxtrot, and cha cha would finally be paying big dividends. The contest began.
Soon I was shaking past the coffee table and sliding around the ottoman. It was like watching an octopus on crack. My arms flayed around the way cut electrical wires fling about during an ice storm. I was on fire, or at least that’s what I thought. For below the pounding of “Jungle Boogie” I could hear the laughter of loved ones. I just assumed it was for what passed as graphics on the screen, but in the TV reflection I caught a glimpse of a six-foot-two, fifty-three-year-old man, huffing and puffing, trying to keep a beat. I’d like to chalk it up to old age or just being out of practice, but as I danced about, visions of the past crept into my head.
People always thought my dancing was hysterical. No matter how serious I tried to be, it just made people laugh more. I really believed I was a good dancer. I’d be out there on the floor for hours, thinking ‘I could do this for a living’, and yet I was perplexed when the offers never came in. It happens with my writing as well. Every once in a while I try my hand at a serious piece. As I begin a reading, the snickers grow like Sea Monkeys in a Mason jar. Well, I guess I won’t be the next Fred Astaire and no one will ask me to sing Danny Boy, and the great American novel I’m writing will never be published, at least I can say one thing. It feels good seeing a smile on someone’s face, even if it was put there to the tune of “Staying Alive.”