Posts Tagged ‘art’
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“ALONG THE SHUNGA TRAIL“ By: The GYPSY
I get bored easy. Because I get bored I have to constantly be doing something which may explain my artistic nature. I create to keep my hands, eyes and mind from becoming too idle. But I do not create the same things over and over again for to do that would once again bring me back full circle to boredom. So it is that as I create I explore. I explore new ways of doing what I do best; Create art.
When I was a child growing up in Topeka, Kansas I explored not knowing that my explorations would bring about a lifelong need to see what was behind a closed door or around the next bend in the road. Growing up always near or by the Shunganunga creek which meanders through the Capitol City afforded me many opportunities to explore, learn and reach out to a world I would embrace not only as a child but also as an adult.
Long before Shawnee County Parks and Recreations conceived of a pathway following the Shunganunga there were those, like myself, that knew of and explored the many twists and turns that ran alongside the creek. Shawnee County did not create the Shunga Trail, it has always been there since the beginning of time; all they did was to cover it with concrete and put up pretty signs.
So it was as I started out to create my painting, “Along The Shunga Trail” that I sat out to explore a new path I had not traveled before. I usually will create the background for my paintings using acrylics. They are fast drying and allow me to move ahead quickly with my oils on the foreground. With this painting though I had in mind to create the entire scene using oils and a pallet knife. Unfortunately for me however that exploration led me down a path that I did not enjoy.
I laid the canvas to one side and stepped away from it, my attention drawn off on to other adventures and other artistic explorations. Then one day I placed the canvas back onto my easel and let it occupy my mind for a few days. I let it call to me, pleading to be explored and finished. Today I answered it’s call.
Forever the explorer I looked at the path I was to create and follow and thought to myself; What can I do different? Looking at the textures the failed attempt with the pallet knife had left on the canvas a solution came to mind. I determined that the best way to forge this trail was to create the scene with one brush. When I paint I usually use a large assortment of brushes to complete a painting especially when I am painting a scene. Yet this day I would attempt to explore my memories using one simple brush; a number 6 half inch flat synthetic bristle brush.
As I child I would poke and prod at the tadpoles and crawdads that inhabited the calm pools along the banks of the Shunganunga. As I had once poked and prodded at the creatures of the creek I poked and prodded at my canvas until I was satisfied that my hand had captured what my eye had seen within the flowing waters of my mind.
So without further ado I present to you my newest exploration; “Along The Shunga Trail”.
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“The Night Santa Saved Christmas” By: J.A. George
The wind rustled the plastic on the windows at 433 East High popping the artificial storm windows in and out like the breathing of some transparent rectangular monster trapped within the window frame. This was made even more unsettling by the fact that the plastic adorned the windows on the inside of the house and not the outside.
Jimmy and Patty sat on the couch, a blanket wrapped around their bodies to insulate them from the cold. The floor heater cracked and groaned but did little good to chase off the cold in the drafty un-insulated little house on Topeka’s east side. Jimmy and Patty watched the old GE black and white TV reflect back images of Bing Crosby as he, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and Danny Kaye sang about a White Christmas. Jimmy looked over at the little tree in the corner, the red, green and gold bubble lights sending their tiny endless stream of bubbles up the tubes to go nowhere and disappear in the glass tip of the cylinder. He then looked back at the black and white image of the tree behind the four singers and though their tree was gray within the flickering image Jimmy knew it was a grander tree than he would ever have.
“Is Santa coming tonight?” asked Jimmy’s seven year old sister. “Yes,” Jimmy assured Patty, “But only after your asleep. Jimmy was 13 and had stopped believing in Santa Claus when he was 9 or 10. Jimmy did pray however that if Santa Claus was real and he was wrong about his existence that he would brave this cold Kansas Christmas eve night and visit their house. Jimmy got up off the couch and led his sister to the bed room she shared with their Mother, Shirley. Tucking her into her bed Jimmy went back into the living room and curled up on the couch to wait for his Mom to come home from work.
As he watched a Cockroach scurry across the floor he prayed that his Mom would remember to pick up some bug spray when she came home from work. The roaches had been bad for the past few days ever since they had ran out of the deadly aerosol the week before. Jimmy watched the little brown creature explore the floor and wondered what went through a roaches head as they scampered to and fro. He hated cock roaches and had no remorse as he picked up a shoe and smashing it flat upon the bare painted plywood floor. Ah, thought the boy, a heel goes through their head. He chuckled at his own small joke. Jimmy left the carcass lie and turned his attention back to the old TV where the Norelco Santa was sledding down the hill on an electric razor.
Jimmy had dozed and was dreaming of dancing mice and singing slugs when the sound of the front door opening jerked him awake. “Hi Mom,” he said rubbing sleep from his eyes, “what’s for dinner?” Normally Jimmy would not ask such a question as he was perfectly capable of fixing him and his sisters meals when his mom wasn’t there but there was no food left in the house and the two children had not ate that day. Shirley looked at he son with a forced smile and said, “Tonight we are going to do breakfast for dinner.” She held up a bag that contained a loaf of day old bread and a carton of a dozen eggs.” Jimmy knew what that meant for he had to eat breakfast for dinner before. It meant mom had no money so she had scraped together some change to buy the quarter a loaf bread and the thirty five cent carton of eggs. It was the cheapest meal his mom could throw together outside of a box of Macaroni and Cheese which was also a staple in this home.
Jimmy took the brown paper bag from his mom and headed for the kitchen to drop bread in the toaster and heat up the skillet for eggs. Before he dropped the bread into the toaster he turned it upside down and gave it a shake. The cock roaches liked to hide inside the silver box to feast upon the bread crumbs on the bottom. Jimmy hated the smell of cooking roach so he always checked to make sure none were in the machine before inserting the bread.
Shirley sat down on the couch exhausted. She worked three jobs and still could not make ends meet. She would finish her shift as a proof reader then rush across the street to Pelletier’s Department store where she would assemble bicycles for rich children and wrap presents for even richer parents. On Saturday and Sunday she worked as a PBX switch board operator for answering service near Washburn University. If it wasn’t for the “Aid To Dependent Children” check she received from the state every month to pay her rent and the government commodity allotment she received she might have had to give up her children to Social Services to be placed in foster care. Sometimes she wondered if the children wouldn’t be better off.
Shirley felt fortunate to have her job at Pelletier’s especially since her and her mother had exchanged words three years previous which had led to the eviction of Shirley and her children from her mothers home. Her mother could have fired her from Pelletier’s but didn’t. Her mother was the manager of the large upscale department store. Maybe, Shirley would often think to herself, she keeps me on to alleviate her guilt for kicking me and the children to the curb. The truth of the matter was this however; Pearl, Shirley’s mother, did not feel guilty nor had she tossed her grandchildren out. She had told Shirley to leave but that the grandchildren could remain but Shirley choose, through stubborn pride, to take her children with her. Though Pearl refused to speak with her daughter until Shirley apologized for what she had said to her mother during that argument 3 years hence, Pearl kept Shirley working. Shirley was a phenomenal gift wrapper and a skilled assembly person and Pearl knew it would be bad business to fire such a person from the Pelletier’s team, daughter or no daughter.
Shirley could smell the eggs Jimmy was cooking and looked up as her daughter exited the bed room rubbing her eyes. “Mommy I’m hungry.” the little girl said rubbing her eyes. “I know dear,” Shirley said as she brushed the child’s hair from her face with her hand, “Your brother is fixing eggs.” Shirley looked at her daughter and hoped she would go back to sleep quickly after eating her eggs and toast. Shirley wanted to finish knitting a poncho that she was making for her daughter. She prayed that Patty would believe that Santa had brought it to her for Christmas. Shirley did not know what she would tell her son but she hoped that he would understand why he was getting no present this particular year.
Shirley sighed and laid her daughter on the couch. Covering her daughter with a knit blanket she had made and told her that she would call her when the food was ready. Well, thought Shirley, I better go back and let Jimmy know that there will be no Christmas presents for him this year. Shirley was standing in the kitchen at the back of the house explaining to Jimmy how it is not important to receive gifts on Christmas when the knock came at the front door.
At first it was ever so soft and could have been just the wind shaking the door when the knock came again. A little louder and more urgent Mother and son both looked towards the front door as Patty cried out, “Mommy, someone’s at the door.” Shirley and son headed for the front of the small house. Shirley was concerned for it was almost 10:00pm and she couldn’t imagine who would be knocking on her door this late on a Christmas eve. Jimmy got to the door first and flung it wide letting a blast of cold air fill the house.
Jimmy stood slack jawed looking at the box upon box upon box that filled the front porch. Shirley was speechless and could not imagine that what she was looking at, dozens of brightly wrapped packages, was real. Patty put a name to it as she scurried towards the front porch and the gifts it bore. “SANTA” the little girl cried out, “SANTA” Jimmy, his mom and sister spent the next few minutes bringing packages into the house. As they got towards the bottom of the stack Shirley discovered several boxes filled with food including one box just full of wrapped meat from a butcher shop. One box had canned goods while another had things like pasta and cereal. But the box that fascinated Jimmy the most was the one that contained a turkey that was almost as big as his sister.
The children begged their mother to let them open the presents but she told them “NO, Santa wants you to open your presents on Christmas.” But the children weren’t listening all they knew was that there were presents to be opened so Shirley relented and let them pick one package each to open. Patty’s package contained a new “Malibu Barbi” doll while Jimmy’s package contained a Zorro Hand Puppet. How did Santa know that I like puppets? Jimmy wondered as he fell off to sleep later with a full stomach.
Christmas day the packages revealed a Cornucopia of presents for the children. Dolls, Games, Slot Car Race Tracks, Hot Wheels Cars, Doll Clothes just to mention a few of the children’s items. There was also clothes for the children from socks to shoes to sweaters to coats. New dresses, new pants and new shirts galore. Shirley watched as the children ripped open and revealed their presents and she knew that Santa had, in her hour of need, visited her children. She was a little sad, thinking that Santa had forgot about her when she saw the small Robin egg blue envelope at the bottom of one of the boxes with her name typewritten across it’s face. Shirley picked up the envelope and with trembling hands opened it. Inside was a note that read;
Josten’s American Year Book, Mass Ave. Topeka, KS 8:00am Monday December 29th. Shirley E. Stewart report to Proof Reading Department for orientation. Starting Salary…..
Shirley sat down hard on the couch and read the starting salary again. It was $50.00 per week more than she was making holding down 3 jobs. She swallowed hard and began to cry. “What’s wrong mommy?” Patty asked. Shirley looked at her children in their new clothes holding their new toys and she could smell the turkey cooking in the kitchen where the cupboards were full for the first time in a long time. “Nothing,” she said, “Not one damn thing.” She grabbed her daughter and pulled her close as Jimmy stepped on a cockroach. “I wish Santa had remembered the bug spray!” the boy said as he sent the pest to bug Heaven. They all laughed together, and each in their own way, would forever know that Santa Claus was real and had visited their small home on Christmas Eve of 1969.
In March 1981 during the last visit I had with my Grandmother before she passed away the subject of this visit from Santa Claus came up. I asked my Grandmother what she knew about it and if she had a hand in it. She smiled that smile that let the world know that she was up to some sort of mischief then sweetly and innocently said, “Now Jimmy as I recall I may have said something to Santa about Shirley needing some help but it’s been so long ago I hardly remember. She then changed the subject and the matter was dropped and never brought up again until Christmas of that year.
Grandma sent a small package of presents to me, my wife and daughter for Christmas. For my wife she sent a antique silk hanky with a Parisian print on it. For my daughter, who is a Christmas miracle herself being born on Christmas eve, she sent an old fashioned small plastic doll with a knit outfit. My Christmas package from my Grandmother contained a Zorro hand puppet and a card that merely read “Ho, Ho, Ho.” I held that puppet close to my chest two months later when news came of her passing.
Is Santa real? Yes he is and I will never think otherwise for he once saved Christmas for my family.
“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”
This story is included in my Book “Blogging Kansas: Musings From The Land of Oz” Available on www.Amazon.Com
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It was a bright and sunny in Topeka, Kansas that November day of 1963. I was in first grade at Clay Elementary and I had ran the three blocks to school that morning wearing nothing more heavy or confining than my Kansas City Chiefs sweat shirt. The Chiefs were playing their first season in KC and I was a fan.
We had spent the morning in class reading from our primers; See Dick, See Jane, See Spot. Run Spot Run. At 11:30 am we had been shuffled into the combination gymnasium and auditorium. The folding tables had been set out and I sat at my assigned spot quickly eating my lunch from my Jetson’s lunch box, the sooner I got down lunch the quicker I could go out to the playground. I played tether ball with my friends until our teacher, Miss Pyle called us in with a blow of her whistle.
Miss Pyle was a stereotypical old maid school teacher. She was pushing retirement age, had never married and had devoted her entire life to the education of children. Tall and lean her austere demeanor was offset by her flower print long linen dresses, cat eye glasses and white hair pulled back into a tight bun.
After lunch Miss Pyle instructed us take out our math work books. I lifted the lid of my desk at the back of the classroom reaching into the cavernous metal well below the lid. I extracted my math workbook. The book looked old and tattered; missing a multitude of pages that had been ciphered, judged, graded, corrected and discarded. I closed the lid to my desk and sat my large pencil in the empty ink well pocket at the upper right corner of the desk. The ink well pocket was a remnant of a time past yet at seven years of age I was completely ignorant of what it’s prior use was. To me it was just a convenient place to put things.
I liked my place at the back of the room, by the chalkboard. Early in the school year Miss Pyle noticed that I was running out of paper in my Big Chief tablet long before other children in the class; she soon discovered why. I was finishing my classroom assignments quicker than the other children and would doodle in my Big Chief tablet to pass the time. Miss Pyle had sat me at the back of the classroom by the chalkboards that adorned the swivel doors of the coat closet. Her instructions had been simple; “When you finish your work doodle on the blackboard and do not disturb the other children.” So that is what I did… Doodle.
It was shortly after 12:30 pm and I was doodling on the chalkboard having already finished figuring out that 2 + 2 = 4 when our Principal Mr. Sheldon entered the room. Leonard Sheldon was tall and lean and in many ways was the male counterpart of Miss Pyle. Mr. Sheldon would one day be my Junior High School Principal at two different schools but today he was just my Grade School Principal and something was wrong.
Mr. Sheldon was usually a very stern individual, more of an administrator than a educator he looked at all things with a very analytical practicality. Seldom would any hint of emotion cross his face. To see a slight smile play at the corner of his mouth was a rare and unusual event yet now he stood in the doorway of our classroom with tears in his eyes. “Miss Pyle may I speak with you in the hall for a moment?” He choked out. Every child in the classroom looked at Miss Pyle as she crossed the classroom and exited out the door. Mr. Sheldon softly closed the door and we were left to our own devices.
Some of my classmates seized the opportunity to start cutting up and throwing waded up paper balls at each other, while others ran from desk to desk laughing and playing around as for myself I was feeling anxious and I kept looking at the door. I wondered why Mr. Sheldon was crying and what it had to do with Miss Pyle.
Miss Pyle stepped back into the room and my classmates settled down, then the room got eerily silent as each and every child saw that their teacher had tears flowing down her cheeks. Miss Pyle’s usually pale and sallow face seemed somehow more pale and sallow than I had ever seen it. The click, click, click of her sensible shoes echoed within the high walls of the classroom as she made her way to her desk.
Stepping behind her desk Miss Pyle reached into her desk drawer and removed a tissue from the box she kept there. Dabbing at her eyes with the tissue Miss Pyle sniffled, cleared her throat and squared her shoulders. She looked out over the classroom of fresh young faces and in a soft voice said, “Children, class is dismissed. You are to go straight home, do not go anywhere else, do not go to your friends house, go home. Do you understand children?” Every young voice in the classroom sung out in harmony, “Yes Miss Pyle.”
As I put up my work book and pencils I looked up at the green cardboard changeable calendar on the wall. It was the type of calendar where one of the children was given the privilege of changing the numbers and day of the week each day. The calendar let all who looked at it know that today was Friday November 22, 1963.
I walked to the door and turned back to look at my desk to make sure that I had put everything up. Miss Pyle did not like items left on our desks and I did not want to write 100 times; “I will not leave things on my desk.” Miss Pyle came to the door and said in a small voice, “Run home Jimmy, run home.” She threw the switch by the door turning off the large overhead globe lights and walked back to her desk. The large windows on the east side of the room allowed the subdued light of the fall day to flood the classroom. I watched as Miss Pyle sunk down into her chair and buried her head in her hands; sobs racked her body. I left the room and did as instructed, I ran home.
When I ran into my home at 7th and Western Streets I discovered my mother and grandmother sitting in front of our tan GE Box Television. They should have been at work this time of day at Pelliters Department Store yet here they sat crying as they watched the black and white images on the screen. My mother held out her arms to me and I ran into them to be held in close. I did not know what was wrong but an immense sense of sorrow hung heavy in the air that day.
As my mother held me close and my grandmother stroked my hair CBS News Anchorman Walter Cronkite appeared on the TV screen, he too was crying. Looking up at a clock that was unseen to the eye of the camera he said, “From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago.” Mr. Cronkite paused fighting back his tears. “Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States…”
As I sit here typing this narrative I look back on those dark days in November of 1963. I remember clearly all the images that flashed upon the television screen. The Zapruder film shown over and over again. The never ending analysis of the shooting. The suppositions of why and how it happened. Rewind and rewind of slow motion Jack Ruby gunning down a slow motion Lee Harvey Oswald and of course the Presidential Funeral.
It has been said that upon the day of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, that we as a Nation lost our innocence. The nation may have well lost it’s innocence but I gained a sense of my own mortality. The loss of a beloved President taught me the meaning of life and death.
Would JFK have gone down in history as one of our greatest or worst Presidents if he had not been assassinated? We will never know. Would he be as loved and honored as he is without a bullet ending his life? Again, we will never know. Was there more than one gunman? It does not matter. What matters is that a man died and for what reason? We will never know.
It is now 50 years since the day that I ran home from school to learn that life is fragile. I have been away from my home for a long, long time yet somehow it seems appropriate that I have returned to Topeka at this time, on the 50th anniversary of the death of a President and the birth of my awareness. And on this 50th anniversary of the senseless assassination of our nations youngest President I have become aware of one other thing; my generation is the last one that will have the actual memory of those tragic days.
Most of us look at history from the position of an observer, not as a participant. When we think about the assassination of Abraham Lincoln we look at it from a text book point of view. All we know we learned in school, we have no first hand knowledge because no one is alive that lived within that time. But those such as I that were 7 years of age, or 6 or 5 at the time of the Kennedy assassination carry with us vivid memories of that day. One day the last member of my generation will pass away and there will be no one living that had an actual memory of November 22, 1963. Upon that day future generations will only know what they read in text books and are taught in school about the death of a President. JFK will seem no more real to those students of history than Lincoln did to us.
So while I live and breathe I will share with those that care what I witnessed first hand least the awareness of how this President, no, this mans death affected each and everyone of us on a personal level, regardless of age, sex, creed, color, religion or origin. I will remember John Fitzgerald Kennedy and mourn his loss yet more so I will mourn what we all loss on that bright and sunny day in Dallas, Texas; our sense of tranquility and the dream of Camelot. A Dark Day indeed.
“Art must evoke an emotion in order to be art. If it only creates indifference then it is not art, it is garbage!”
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DANCING IN THE DARK By: The GYPSY
Rock’n music fills the air
Bikers dance without a care
Showing off in mating dance
Hoping one will take the chance
Beer flows freely within the tent
To get that buzz the money’s spent
Thousands of faces, friend and stranger
Party together and fear no danger
Smell of food lingers on the breeze
Vendors hock there wares with ease
A biker party noise, dirt and fun
Like minded people together as one
In the dark one has separated from all
Something stirs inside, he hears the call
Greasy jeans tucked in ankle boots channel
T-shirt covered with shirt of red flannel
Brown leather fedora rests on yellowish hair
White stringy beard un-groomed, he don’t care
Round glasses perch on nose bone thin
Lanky frame skinny from head to shin
Music beckons him down to Copperhead road
Old biker has heard and now lessens his load
Away from the crowd of swaying people
He has found his spot lost within the tempo
He sways he leaps his arms flay and legs stomp
Lost in his own Universe he dances and romps
This is his moment away from the crowd
His happiness not verbal but yet it is loud
Verse upon verse, beat upon beat
Life’s woes leave him drained through his feet
As the music ends he returns to this earth
Washed pure and clean as a baby at birth
And in the end what more can we ask
Than to dance in the dark without our mask