(The third in a series of shameless self-promotion)
I was at my friend Darrick and Nancys house last night. We get together once a week write songs. It's always a good time. We let the world disappear and just play some fun music.
When we're done playing, we sit around and listen to what we came up with. We pick out snippets of songs that we want to keep and laugh at the parts where we screwed up.
I was just about to leave when Darrick asked me about the gallery. (I'm opening an art gallery) We talked about it some. I remember saying "It's a big chance. A big risk. What's the worst thing that can happen? I'll either crash or get punched in the head".
I thought about what I said for a second.
It was then I realized - exactly - what - I - really - was - saying.
It was a blast from the past.
Those words made me realize that where you've been has a direct impact on where you are.
Lets go back to the 1970s.
I was about 12 years old. Once a week my dad would drop me off at the Oak Lawn Roller Rink. (and then he would hit the tavern) Yep, I went roller skating... and it rocked. It was a total 1970s roller rink, with Ballroom Blitz blaring from the speakers. There were cute chicks with feathered hair that would skate the slow songs with you (bonus points if you could skate backwards as you looked into her eyes... oh yea). I loved that crappy little roller rink. It was an escape from everything that I had to face on a daily basis.
When the roller rink closed there would be a group of us kids standing outside waiting for our ride home. I was always the last one picked up. The other parents would roll down the windows of their wood paneled station wagons and ask me "Are you sure someone is coming for you?" I would just nod yes and tell them "I'm OK".
(As I write this now I realize I said that a lot back then.)
My dad was at the tavern
If I did take a ride home from one of those concerned paernts... Well let's just say I would get my ass kicked nine ways of sunday for the next week or so. One thing I learned at a very early age is that drunks don't like surprises. You were where you were supposed to be... no matter what the time.. or the temperature. You waited. You were there... Nowhere else.
After sitting outside for an hour or so you'd see the lights of the pick-up truck bounce over the curb as he pulled into the parking lot. You open the door and the greeting was always the same. "Didja have to wait long?" and a big drunken grin. You never said anything. You knew better. Besides, you had the drive home to deal with.
"Dad!" You say it loud, but not too loud. He's drifting across the median into oncoming traffic. He lifts his chin from his chest and loudly says "Huh?" . He turns the wheel just in time. He looks over at you and grins. "You're a good co-pilot". You smile back grimly. You know there's two more miles to go before you can run to your bed.
He turns up the radio. Hank Williams Sr..... Jambalaya... He mutters the words and starts nodding off again. I look up and we're drifting into the oncoming lane again. I say "Dad" loudly but not too loudly. Too loud and you get a punch in the head. Um...we're really across the line. "DAD" louder now. It's getting bad. No response.
The truck is halfway over the yellow line. It at this point where you have a decision to make. You see, if you grab the wheel and steer the truck back into your own lane, the motion of the truck will wake him up. At that point he'll see your hand on the steering wheel. In his world, that's a major offense. What happens then is that you get a punch to the head. Not a swipe, not a swat. A punch that will knock your head into the passenger window.
I learned there is a timing. Sometimes I could time it out and he'd snap out of it and steer the truck back himself.
Then sometimes.... you had to make the decision to save your own life.. but get punched it the head for doing so. I made that decision many many times. I survived.
Like I said before, where you've been has a direct impact on where you are. Last night when I said those words to Darrick... I had no idea what I was saying until after I said it.
It made me realize a couple of things.
All my life I've taken chances. I've seen things and done things that most people will never get to do. I've traveled. I've lived in many different cities. I've up and moved at the drop of a hat. I've never been afraid to love. If the question is do it or not... most of the time I say "What the hell" and go for it.
I like chances.
I'm going to open this gallery. Yea, I'll make sure it doesn't drift over the line.
This time I know who's steering.
(The second in a series of shameless self-promotion)
My friends, I have to tell you something. I've enjoyed running Bighappyfunhouse all these years. It's changed my life. It's made me realize that I'm part of the world and not alone. None of us are. Not ever.
There are times when you have to take chances. There are times that call for change.
This is one of those times.
It's because of you that I'm able to take these chances. I feel like I have your support. I can't see you. We don't really know each other... but yet... I know you're there. It gives me great comfort.
I've wanted to do this for the longest time... so here we go.
I'm opening a gallery dedicated to vernacular photography.
It's going to be called
American Vernacular Photography
I'm having an opening party at the beginning of April (details soon). I hope some of you can attend.
After all, you're the reason it happened.
OK enough. I'm over this "winter" thing already.
They tried taking the picture in the living room.
"The light's not right" the photographer said
"Lets try it outside"
Pavel protested "My violin. She does not like the cold"
The photographer said "I'll make it quick"
Marek picked up his accordian
"I hate the damned cold. It makes my fingers hurt"
Again he said "I'll make it quick."
They went outside.
The snow crunched under their shoes.
Pavel posed... and waited.
The photographer said "Can't you two smile?"
Marek looked at him and said
"Just take the damned picture"
Last sunday was the Graylake antique market. It was a pretty good show for the middle of winter. Lots of dealers... lots of good photographs to buy. I ran into Nick from Square America. We stopped at a friend of ours booth and the guy pointed to a massive tub-o-photos. He said "I think you've seen most of those but... hey, you never know". Nick and I walked over and started diggin through the pile. It was a competition of sorts... each one of us holding up interesting photographs for the other to see. Lots of banter. We traded some photos back and forth. It was a good time. I came across this photo and for some reason or another it struck me. I showed it to Nick and he said "Nice". I added it to my keeper stack.
On the way home from the antique show I stopped at a diner. I was wiped out and needed some coffee (and pie) for the ride home. I pulled out the big bag of photos from the show. I was going through them when I felt someone watching me. I looked up and the waitress was staring at this photo that I had on top of the stack.
"Is that your grandmother?" she asked.
I was caught off guard and didn't know what top say.
I just said "Uh... yea"
The waitress poured my coffee
I ordered a slice of coconut cream pie
When she came back with the pie, she said to me
"You know she's up there watching you"
"Who?" I asked
I looked up from my pie and smiled at her
We stared at each other smiling like we both knew a secret that the rest of the world had yet to discover.
Today is a good day
I'm moving Bighappyfunhouse into an actual
Bricks and motor gallery space
This is going to be fun
I asked my friend Darrick to make the Bighappyfunhouse Myspace page more obnoxious.
He's really outdone himself....
It does need a unicorn or two to make it perfect.
(I really still want a glitter trail to follow the mouse pointer...ahh someday)
I am a collector. A crazed obsessed collector. I cannot pass up an estate sale sign. I actually feel high when I’m shopping an antique show. I get the same feeling looking through a pile of old photos as a junkie does when the needle hits the vein. The happiness cannot be registered.
It’s who I am.
I got it from my grandmother. Her name was Dorothy but everyone called her Dot. She ran snack shops in bowling alleys. I remember going to visit grandma and watching her sling hamburgers and hot dogs to hungry bowlers. We would sit there on the counter stools... sipping our Green River (with crushed bowling alley ice)... watching our grandma do her thing. She was an artist. Grandma would move behind the counter like a dancer. Every customer got a smile and most left laughing from something she said to them. She’d always catch our eye and give us a wink. She loved us.
Grandma drove a big blue station wagon. It was her flea market mobile. The car was constantly full of all kinds of crapola that she had found in her travels around Chicago. Grandma would be driving all us kids to Zayre and she’d see something in an alley. She would jam on the brakes and pop it in reverse to see what it was. Grandmas eyes would squint as she peered down the alley. It was like watching those appraisers on The Antiques Roadshow. She could tell if there was “good stuff” down there. There usually was. She had the eye.
“Ronny, go get me that lamp” she would say. Your heart would sink. You were only a block from your house and god help you if any of your friends saw you garbage picking. You’d never hear the end of it.
“Aww gram do I have to? We’re right by the house”.
“I’ll go get it” That was my cousin Kathy. She always wanted to be the one to go get the stuff. I gave her a ‘thank you, thank you” look and Kathy went out to get the lamp.
She brought the lamp back to the car. It was a huge 1930s floor lamp with an oversized shade. Kathy also ran back and got some other boxes of miscellaneous stuff. It was quite the haul. We all got out of the station wagon to see what Kathy brought back. Grandma came over to help load everything. She spent the next ten minutes rearranging the crapola that was already inside station wagon. Pots, pans, antiques, mystery boxes full of costume jewelry... all got crammed into newfound nooks and crannies of the station wagon. Then she loaded her brand new “finds” on top of the old crapola. Grandma was really really good at this. I think she would have been an excellent Tetris player.
Finally she was done. Grandma looked at us and said “Get in”. We all looked at each other and finally I said to her “Where?’”. The inside of the wagon had just enough room left for her to drive and none left for us to sit anywhere.
“Just get in” she said.
Ah, how many times in my childhood did I hear those words. Usually they were associated with going to the dentist or going to the shoe store. Bad things. This was much much worse. There were things in the back of that station wagon that could seriously hurt you if the load shifted. I didn’t want to be the kid who got killed by a box of flea market crap crushing him to death.
Grandma gave us “The Look”. Things were about to get serious if we didn’t do as she said. We started getting in the station wagon.
It was right about then that a group of the neighborhood kids walked by. They were watching the whole exchange. You could see the smirks on their faces as they watched us try to climb up into the station wagon full of crapola. There was all kinds of stuff clanging around and cardboard boxes crushing. My grandmother was yelling at us to “be careful with the stuff” “don’t break anything”. It was right about then that I figured out how they got all those clowns into the little cars at the circus. My grandma went there and told them all to “Just get in”