Sunday, July 14, 2013

Bad to the Cuticle


 My mudpack mask had only five more minutes to dry when there was an unexpected knock on my front door. It was the UPS man. Wanting to avoid getting one of their stickers admonishing me for not being home I took a chance and headed downstairs. My face resembled a bushman’s on the hunt. Signing his electric clipboard I could tell he was trying to figure me out. He had a tattoo of a dragon poking out from a brown sock and another one on his left hand of an eyeball dripping a single tear. I had to think of something quick.
            “It’s about time these…a…dangerous weapons showed up,” I stammered out while pointing to the box that was clearly marked Your Farmer Joe’s Bean of the Month Club Selection has Arrived. He stared at me unconvinced. “I bet your wondering about this?” I said pointing to my plastered pores. “Women. What we won’t do for them, right? Honey, your package arrived,” I yelled upstairs to an empty house. He left without even wishing me the standard ‘have a nice day’.
I need a tattoo, I thought closing the door behind me. That would boost my bad boy image from Billy Crystal up to a Mark Hamill. Of course fewer mudpacks would probably help too. When I mentioned the tattoo idea to my wife she said “no you’re not,” and I dropped back down to a different Hamill. The one that ice skates. It occurred to me then that if someone tells you you can’t have a tattoo then you probably don’t deserve one.
            I always wanted to be a badass. I guess most men do. To be able to say “I’m going to get Medieval on him” and really have people believe would be a dream come true. At the most I can muster is to get Renaissance, but that doesn’t carry the same weight. Especially when you consider it consists of a scathing poem in three cantos and an unflattering portrait in egg tempera in Indian yellow. Because everyone knows Indian yellow is made from the urine of cows that are only fed mango leaves. Oh yes, it can work on many levels. Unfortunately, none of these levels are very scary or intimidating.
            But I keep trying. Like doing my Rocky impersonation while acting all pumped up. “Hey yo, that’s my cupcake.” But does my wife listen? Not only does she eat it in front of me, she uses my sleeve as a napkin.
            What has helped my persona non too greata was moving out West. People here act as if every Italian from New York is in the Mob. I for one will not dispel that rumor. It’s not easy keeping up the charade, though. I have to drive fifteen miles out of town just to get a mani-pedi. (Hmmm, I’m beginning to see a pattern here.)
            It’s not like I want to hurt anyone, but I’m convinced it is the key to success. Education, family connections, and intelligence all help, but not like raw aggression or perhaps assertiveness is more apropos. (You see? I wrote apropos. That’s why I’m not a badass. All mani-pedis aside, badasses don’t use apropos. Unless it is in a sentence like “How you like it if we step outside and I beat your apropos ass?”)
In sports, in business, and even in everyday life, there has to be a desire to succeed. The stronger the desire the more the likelihood of success, right? I’ve witnessed it firsthand in tennis when beating a superior opponent simply because I wanted it more. It could be something as simple as losing weight. “Luke, don’t give in to the Dark Chocolate Side!” (I really need to stop that.)
My wife and I have been talking about retirement lately. How and where we plan on spending the last third of our lives, those sorts of things. But the desire to create, to be part of something bigger hasn’t diminished. Even writing this blog causes me pangs of frustration. (Maybe not as much as reading it, but pangs nonetheless.)
My art professor told us that every artist, no matter how great, is frustrated by the limitations of the material and their own abilities to express what is inside their heads. Competing physically with our own imaginations is a losing battle every artist faces. And even though I’m getting to the end of my career I still have those wants much like I did after graduating school. I just celebrate with a nap after finishing a piece instead of a beer.
Maybe it’s too little too late? Maybe I should be satisfied with what I have already accomplished? However, developing a talent, any talent, only makes you want to do it more. How far can you take this thing we call art or sport or business? I might never be a badass, but maybe I can still create a badass piece of art or two before I go.


I know this ain’t it, but I’m getting there. Plein air off Valmont Road, July 4th 2013.


Addendum

Immediately after finish this blog I took my daughter down to Barnes and Noble for a book. The first one I saw (and this is true) was a self-help book titled “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life”. How oxymoronic can you get? I may not be a badass but I do know badassiness comes from within not a shelf. It’s like a Hell’s Angel having a personnel shopper. Besides, the only real self-help book is the one you write yourself.