Thursday, July 25, 2013

Garrett Life

It’s a struggle to carry the week’s groceries up the five flights of stairs to your cold water walk-up, that’s what we call a garret in ‘Merica, but it’s the life you wanted, the hard, unforgiving life, the artist’s life.

But you always knew it was going to be hard. Way back in Mrs. Dinglebreathe’s class when she told you to get married or join the Army or both because an artist would never amount to anything and then when you wanted to take a year off college and travel around Europe and your parents said, “NO, no and hell no!”, and then when you told your partner and they gave you that deer in the headlight stare of complete confusion and you had to explain again and they never did really get it and they still don’t and they keep interrupting you just at the critical moment and maybe you should have stayed single like all those turn of the century artists and just had lovers and affairs and drank red wine in street cafes…

But all of that is part and parcel of an artist’s life, you have to struggle and strain, strive and sweat blood, sacrifice and suffer cause if you don’t you can’t make Great Art.

But what happens if it comes easily?

Oh God! I’m a hack! How did this happen to me. I believed n all the right things, did all of the right stuff, took all of the right classes, studied with all the right teachers, read all the right books, visited all the right museums and it still comes easily. What will become of me?

You’ll manage.

I know, I know it’s just not the right-thinking, red, white and blue-blooded American way, you have to fight for what you want and if you get it without putting up a life or death struggle what can it possibly be worth?

Did the settlers stop in St Louis and say, “My goodness they have streets and schools and stores and indoor plumbing we should stay here.” No they did not, they crowded into cramped, dusty, hot, bone-jarring wagons and struck out across the barren plain braving Indians, (Now of course we know that they were Native Americans and not red savages which was surely a comfort to the guys in the Seventh Cav when they ran into that nice, friendly group of indigenous peoples intent of keeping their own land), starvation, thirst, blizzards and cannibalism. (No doubt after the first taste they came to the conclusion that blizzards were much the better than cannibalism which is why Dairy Queen offers the former and not the latter and considering the obesity epidemic it is much better to eat dairy than all that fatty meat so now you know all about why Dairy Queen offers Blizzards.)

Back to the pioneers, just look at Seattle they don’t have a Nester’s Square, no siree, they have a Pioneer Square to salute all of those brave, long suffering striving fiercely independent thinkers who settled in a place where there was no Starbucks and had to wait a hundred and fifty years for a mocha cappuccino.

So struggling to achieve is part of the DNA of being a Statie. We just don’t believe that anything which comes easily is worth a thing.

That’s too bad. There are a lot of things which come easily and we never even notice and would be devastated if they went away just because we didn’t work all that hard to get them in the first place. Don’t believe me; try watching television with your eyes closed. Sure you came by vision just by being born but that was pretty easy, at least for you, and once you had vision you didn’t have to do much with it beyond see, so why have it at all. Or how about hearing? Now there are a lot of people who don’t have the gift of hearing and they get along just fine, but having had it for low all these many years I would be howsomeever pissed off if it went away just because I didn’t have to do anything to get it.

Sure those examples are of things which are inherent to being human and don’t take any education or development to hone or perfect. So what wanna toss’em?

Not me, not for a second and not any of the other things I’ve managed to collect along the way as I aged or grew depending on who you talk to, I like all the bits and pieces and just because they come easily I don’t feel the least bit cheated.

Let’s take a look at something which doesn’t come from the factory, stock so to speak, language. Now we all learn to talk and most of us can write a bit, so long as there are no English teachers lurking about or  worse yet a close encounter with the feared Grammarian, we can manage email and twitter and even something a bit longer and we didn’t have to do all that much to get it and keep it.

Sure, there’s always a nay-sayer or two, my college Freshman English instructor opened the second semester of his class with the cheery introduction, “All of you, except Mr. Miranda will have by now managed to learn how to write a simple English sentence…” He never did take a liking to me, can’t imagine why?

But for the most part, Freshman English aside writing has always come easily for me. I can string together a word or two with the best of them and it is a huge kick and I would do it even if I weren’t getting paid, which is a good thing cause I’m not. So there is a reward or two to be had from things which come along without a whole lot of effort.

The trick is to notice, enjoy and develop them so that a gift which you got for free becomes a skill which you can rely on for the whole of your life. They don’t come often and when they do you have to grab them cause boys and girls they will certainly get away if you don’t hang on tight. And with all of the fighting and striving and sacrificing don’t you want an easy every now and then?

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