Friday, July 31, 2015

Two Reads For A Wet Week

A good friend recently down-sized her Florida home and offered me first pick from a stack of books headed to the library. Passing over exotic travel books and thick novels, I selected two very different paperbacks; Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris and Chris Rose’s 1 dead in attic. Only later when I began reading did I discover a connection between the two books. 

David Sedaris has made a career of making us laugh at the absurdities of life and Holidays on Ice is no exception. This is a collection of six of Sedaris’s most profound stories about Christmas. After reading “Season’s Greetings to Our Friends and Family!!!,” I’ll never be able to read another holiday newsletter with a straight face.
There is nothing funny about 1 dead in attic, journalist Chris Rose’s firsthand account of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. Rose’s collection of essays, wonderfully complemented by Charlie Varley's photographs, offers a stark and gut-wrenching look at life in The Big Easy post-Katrina. It’s also a reminder of the failure of governmental bureaucracy that preceded and set the stage for the Hurricane.

The common thread that these two books share is the often irrational and ridiculous nature of life. Whether we laugh at the absurdity or cry, what results is a kind of catharsis. And through this collective release, we are able to go on with our own lives.

photo- 1 dead in attic, Charlie Varley, c. all rights reserved

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cool Time In Hot Town

This weekend marks the 27th year of the now venerable Cool Art Show. This small indoor event has, over the years, become the gold standard for artist run exhibitions. But those of us who launched the Show in 1987 had little idea it would evolve into a major summer exhibition. All we aimed for was to make a little money in that beastly time of year when no one dared have an outdoor show in Florida.

So we forged ahead with equal parts naiveté and hope and a tremendous amount of work. The results of that effort will be on display at St. Petersburg Coliseum where 80 top notch artists gather to share and sell their art. Thinking on Cool Art has dislodged a gaggle of memories that now deserve to be shared.

For a number of years, Jack Breit brought his miniature golf clubs to the Show. He lay out a course on the exhibition floor and during slow times artists and patrons tried their hand at putting. Amazingly, no artwork got destroyed or ankles turned on errant golf balls.

One year my van blew a tire on the Bayside Bridge and I nearly crashed into the side. As I cursed and sweated changing the tire, Steve Littlefield came driving by. He slowed down, honked and waved and kept right on driving.

In 1990, with July fast approaching, we still had no venue for the Show. At the last moment, the Dunedin Fine Art Center agreed to put up with us for the weekend, and 30 artists jammed their displays into the two unfinished main galleries. It was probably the only time an art center hosted an outdoor art show indoors.

Artists can be quite testy at times, but even worse are their spouses. One late night I got a phone call from an artist’s irate wife. She demanded to know why her husband had been juried out of the Show. For thirty minutes I listened to her rant and tried to remain calm and reason with her. But when she hinted at the possibility that something might happen to me, I hung up.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Down Under Blues

In 1980 my father, newly retired and with time on his hands, decided to become an urban farmer. After time researching at the library and going through seed catalogs, he decided to go the exotic route. Over the next few years, with varying results, he planted jicama, carambola, chayote, and sapodilla. He also planted a carrotwood and a silver oak tree.

Thirty years later I inherited the old homestead and a large yard in dire need of tender and not so tender loving care. The carrotwood and silver oak trees, in particular, needed my immediate attention. They had grown into green monsters that threatened to devour the back yard.

My inquiries about them at the county horticultural office brought instant reprimand. “Those are opportunistic invasive trees from Australia. You should cut them down.”

Their candid remarks were surprising and a bit irritating. After all my father’s and later my work, cutting down trees was not an option. I would revisit that decision many times in the following months.

The carrotwood tree has proved to be a royal pain where I sit. A tropical evergreen, the tree was introduced to Florida in the 1950s as a decorative ornamental variety. Bad move indeed. The fast growing exotic produces tons of flowers and then tons of seeds. The seeds and seed casings end up on the lawn and are soon followed by a two week shower of dead leaves, a dry land deluge of epic proportions.

Turns out the seasons down under are the opposite of Florida’s. Australia’s fall is our early summer, which means I must rake up all that @%^&%$*!! leaf litter in 90 degree heat and humidity.

My father left me a lot for which I am grateful. An endless summer of windblown rained-on dun colored leaves is not one of them. Aussie go home!