RACHODON Literature • Art • Artisan Culture • Summer/Fall 2010
4 14 16 20 24 33 35 40 page
A story by Jo Ann Heydron
By Chris Dombrowski
“Part of the Process”
An essay by jewelry-maker Amy Tavern
A gallery of Amy Tavern’s work
“Bumpo’s Honey” A story by Tom Weller
Two Poems By Taylor Altman
“Welcome to the Free Zone” Wesley Middleton on Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass
A column by Katey Schultz
Independently published twice yearly in Saint Helens, Oregon
Our mission . . . Is to print the best of contemporary lit, art, and nonfiction about artisan culture in a small, handsomely designed journal, with a nod toward the “little” magazines of nearly a century ago; to stand behind our publication and our contributors by constantly seeking to increase readership; to present the stories that need telling—in ink, on paper—because they’re worth it.
Our vision . . . Is to make each issue recognizable but unique; to create a quality periodical that can be read in one sitting; to put enough of ourselves into it that the journal will become something more than just another recyclable.
Our website . . . Serves our mission, and helps us achieve our vision, with news and updates, submission guidelines, subscription purchasing, and advertising rates. Our blog “Cheek Teeth” features contributor profiles, interviews with the denizens of artisan culture, literary ponderings, predictions, and rants. Come and see what a dinosaur can do online.
(TRACK-oh-don): a dinosaur of a little magazine
Issue 1, Summer/Fall 2010
Editor & Founder John Carr Walker Associate Editor Katey Schultz
TRACHODON PO Box 1468 Saint Helens, OR 97051 email@example.com www.trachodon.org
TRACHODON welcomes submissions of fiction and nonfiction during the months of April-May and October-November online. Poetry is currently by invitation only; poets are free to query with a bio statement and description of work. Note that essays, articles, profiles, and other journalistic works should be about craft movements, antiquated processes, or artisan culture. Nonfiction writers are encouraged to query first. Fiction may be any style, on any theme or topic, up to 6000 words in length. Please read our expanded guidelines by visiting our website or mailing us a stamped, self-addressed envelope. Published twice yearly. Subscription rate: 2-year: $34; 1-year: $18. Canadian addresses add $3/issue, other international $7/issue. Sample Issue $10. Canadian $13. Other international $17. Limited backlist available. Please make checks payable to John Walker. Visit our website for special offers, to place orders, and pay by credit card. ÂŠ2010 TRACHODON
Printed by Bemis Printing, Saint Helens, OR.
John Carr Walker
Editor’s Note Since January of 2010, when I founded TRACHODON, a print magazine of lit, art, and artisan culture, I’ve heard three questions over and over: 1) Are you out of your mind? 2) Is there a nice, quiet place I can take you until the trip wears off ? 3) What is a Trachodon, and why are you naming your lit mag after one? For now, I’ll tackle the third question. Trachodon was a dinosaur that in all likelihood never existed. People thought it existed: extensive fossils were discovered in Montana, and a skeleton was even assembled and displayed publicly in New York before the taxonomy was called into question. Eventually, it was considered nomen dubium—a dubious name. In other words, what they thought was, wasn’t. I suppose I’m a sucker for honest public mistakes. There’s something innocent and idealistic about forging ahead with what you know now. The foundations of knowledge are built on things that seemed right at the time. After all, secondguessing is the start of serious inquiry, and there can be no second-guessing without first-guesses first. In the case of Trachodon, however, too much had already happened to lay the name to rest, dubious or not. One of the first complete skeletons to be found and assembled on American soil, the fossilized remains caused a stir far beyond the realm of serious paleontology. The beast, as originally hypothesized, was an enormous vegetarian with gnashing “cheek teeth” and a duck bill, at once nightmarish and cuddly—the kind of dinosaur you wouldn’t mind having a beer with, but not one you’d want to meet in the pub’s back alley. There were Trachodon toys, and they sold up there with T-Rex and Triceratops. By the time science called foul, the story had grown too large to be derailed by mere facts. I’m an even bigger sucker for stories, particularly when damning the vicissitude of facts. Trachodon was no longer a mere dinosaur, but had in fact become a story. It had gone from noun to narrative. A series of events to a collection of scenes. As a writer and editor, I know that stories, whether fictional, factual, or poetic, aren’t so much made as they are allowed to become. In my case, one word gave me the name for my lit mag, suggested its aesthetic, defined its mission, and embodied the kind of process—that is, hard work meets cosmic accident—in which I take such delight. I want TRACHODON the magazine to tell a nice parallel story to Trachodon the dinosaur. I want it to be this weird, sort of impossible thing. Something that’s up for debate because it’s always leaning a little toward the unreasonable. And, maybe, to be something that’s never quite finished. Being a print journal in this day and age gives us a head start on the unreasonable. But all I can do now is work toward whatever this dinosaur will become. Consider this your invitation to join me in seeing where the story goes from here, be it honest public mistake or mythological force. Summer/Fall 2010 • 5
Jo Ann Heydron
Shoebox I stood behind the espresso machine, filling orders and trying to get Daniel Vo to ask me out. Ray Charles sang “Georgia on My Mind.” Starbucks was promoting his CD that week. To keep Daniel talking, I said, “I wish we could play our own music.” “I like this song,” Daniel said. “It makes me feel good.” “Why? I mean, is Ray singing about a state or a woman?” “No idea. But he sure likes it. Her.” In a few minutes our shift would be over. So would my sister’s, in the stockroom of the drugstore across the parking lot. She’d wait next to my car, and, if she’d had a bad day, beat on the hood. I sneaked a peek at Daniel at the register. We were supposed to dress all in black, but he wore new red and black-checked Vans. “Great shoes,” I said. “You want some? My uncle always gets a few free pairs of the special colors. What size are you?” He sidled over and placed his shoe flush along my black high top. The knuckles of our little toes touched through the canvas. “Looks like you’re about two sizes smaller than me.” Now he would ask me out. He had to. But a jolt of electricity shot up my leg, and I pulled my foot away. I couldn’t help it. Daniel blushed, amber to peach, stepped back, and gazed out the window. My sister tramped toward us, leaning into the November wind, waving her hands, and passing my car. She clapped once, shrugged her shoulders, pointed sideways, and burst through the door. “Today I’m 25!” she announced. Our Starbucks was shaped like a piece of pie, service counter at its narrow rear, tables and a few armchairs arranged along a wide arc of windows. At the crust edge, Lynn stopped inside the door, her six feet shooting up like the trunk of a pine, her body so thin and her skin so pale that she looked anorexic, though she ate mountains of food. Her latest hairstyle involved ten plastic, little-girl barrettes—one pair each in red, purple, yellow, blue, and white, each pair book-ending her center part. I helped her with the last, white pair, but no matter how hard I tried to leave some slack in those frizzy hairs at the nape of her neck, she always shrieked. She liked shrieking. “There was a cake for me at work, Jessie. It was pink! The cake and the icing. So I said, ‘I hate pink.’ My boss said I could take off. That means go home. But I told him it wasn’t time yet.” I ran around the end of the counter, but because Lynn was a head taller, I couldn’t shield her completely. “Mom’s at home making your birthday dinner, your real cake,” I said. “Go on to the car. I’ll be right there.” “Happy birthday, Lynn,” Daniel called out. “You’re three years older than I am.” He’d met my sister once or twice before, said hello, and ignored her. Most people believe that’s the kindest thing. “I’m three years older than he is,” Lynn said, glancing at me to see if that was TRACHoDON • 6
something to be proud of. I leaned my head to the right, my signal to turn down her volume. She said more quietly, “Twenty-five years is a quarter of a century.” “So it is.” Daniel walked toward us with his hands stuck under his apron and into the pockets of his jeans. He did that when the espresso machine broke down, or the next shift was late, or there was a pop quiz in the history class we were taking at the community college. Lynn pulled a quarter from the pocket of her brown cords. “And this is a quarter of a dollar!” She was blinking. Her hands trembled. Her right hand flapped toward her shoulder, paused there, and fell hard to her side. It flew up again, then down, the rhythm erratic, then regular. This involuntary motion would calm her down—eventually. I knew better than to interfere. The quarter sailed into the air. Daniel yanked a hand out of his pocket and caught it. Lynn snorted, giggled, then fell silent, hypnotized, it seemed, by Daniel’s nose stud. When her hand slowed, Daniel grasped it, dropped the quarter into it, and closed Lynn’s fingers. “No, Daniel.” I stepped between them. He wouldn’t look at me, but he let go of Lynn’s hand. “How about a pumpkin scone, Lynn?” he said over my head. “Thanks!” She smiled wide, her teeth crooked and gray. The five-to-midnight shift hadn’t arrived, so when Lynn sat down with her scone, I started washing dishes. Hot water relaxed me the same way Lynn’s hand motion soothed her. Daniel stood beside me, quiet. “Did you finish your paper on Stalin and the kulaks?” I said. He wasn’t going to ask me out, not today. “What’s a kulak?” “My sister might have hit you. When you put the quarter in her hand. When someone she doesn’t know touches her, sometimes she gets scared and hits.” “But she does know me. Your mother brought her in the day she got the job at the drugstore.” Lynn and my mother had stayed only a minute, Lynn too excited about her new job—sorting merchandise, checking that barcodes were readable, shelving—to sit still. She’d been miserable at home alone since her adult day program closed. “I watch how you are with her after work,” Daniel said. “How you give her a chance to talk before you start the car. I hear what you say when you call her on your cell.” “I’m eating my scone,” Lynn called out. “It’s de-lish-us.” “Jessie,” he said, “would you want to go to a movie? Maybe Friday night?” I backed away from the sink, dripping sudsy water on the floor. “It was all right to ask, wasn’t it? I know I’m your boss, but—” “Yes,” I said. “Yes.” I grabbed a pen and a Post-it note from the counter. “Here’s my number.” “It’s on the shift roster. What movie do you want to see?” I handed the wet, ink-smeared square of yellow paper to Daniel. “This is my cell Summer/Fall 2010 • 7
number, just in case.” The old Sentra my dad gave me coughed at the stoplight. Across the street, Daniel’s uncle’s shoe shop, recently painted, dressed up a rundown shopping center. “I love her,” Lynn said, pointing to the life-sized Virgin of Guadalupe on the door of Mary Queen Nail Care. “I know you do,” I said, dreading Saturday afternoon mass. Lynn always lifted the kneeler up and down with her toe. She tried to strike up conversations in the communion line. I parked the car in front of our apartment building and Lynn and I climbed the back stairs to the third floor. Mom waited at the door, all three hundred pounds of her. “Happy, happy birthday,” she said. “They had a cake for me,” Lynn said. “What a surprise!” My mother winked at me. “The cake was pink, Mom.” When she called the stockroom manager, she must have forgotten to mention the color taboo. For dinner Mom served roast beef, mashed potatoes, starchy gravy, and soggy green beans; but for dessert, German chocolate cake made from scratch. In past years, by the time we’d lit the last candle, Lynn had started blowing the others out. This time she waited, then blew all the candles out in one breath, no spitting. I raised my hands to clap, but decided against it. Sometimes praise hurt her as much as criticism. She opened Mom’s present first, a blue and white polka dot blouse with a big bow at the neck, and a loose white cardigan. Our dad sent an enormous make-up kit shaped like an artist’s palette. Lynn had asked for it, and he must have known that Mom wouldn’t buy it. Lynn had requested a cell phone, too, but we all knew that she’d call us constantly, tell us every single thing that happened. I gave her a coin sorter. “Oh my goodness!” she said. “She doesn’t know what it is,” said Mom. I grabbed a few coins from my purse and handed Lynn a dime. “Drop that in the slot on the top.” Lynn deposited it, and, two satisfying clicks later, it fell flat into a clear, dimesized column. “Try a nickel now,” I said. “She knows her coins,” Mom said. “She can count money. Can she even get her money out of there?” “I like it,” Lynn said. She stood up and threw her arms around me, knocking my forehead against her collarbone. I cleared the table while Lynn played with the coin sorter. Mom settled in her recliner with a bottle of sweet sherry and turned on the TV. She’d lived in our twobedroom apartment for thirty years, first with Dad, then alone with us, her bare feet and bright red toenails crossing and re-crossing the dirty green carpet. I would be out TRACHoDON • 8
of here in ten months. I’d already been accepted at Berkeley for next fall. “This has been a good birthday,” Lynn said. “I love my presents.” I thought she’d mention not getting the cell phone, but she didn’t. “You should call your father and thank him for the makeup,” Mom said. I poked my head back through the kitchen door and crossed my eyes. Lynn giggled. Mom tended to breathe on us while we talked to Dad, then grab the phone away. After she hung up, she couldn’t remember what he said. He’d been gone since I was eight, but she still hoped he’d change his mind and come home. “I’m good at my job,” Lynn went on. “And I have a new boyfriend.” “Well, Lynn, that’s exciting,” Mom said, peering around the side of the recliner, her puffy forehead striped with worry. “Jessie knows him,” Lynn said. “I do?” “He’s Chinese,” she added. I returned to the sink and filled it with hot water. “No, Vietnamese.” “Oh!” said Mom. The TV buzzed off and I heard her heave herself out of the chair. “He has a gold . . . earring,” said Lynn. “No, it’s a nose ring. No, it’s not a ring, just a tiny round button. He has a gold button in his nose. Doesn’t that hurt, Jessie?” “Maybe at first,” I said. “How do you know he wants to be your boyfriend?” Mom asked. “He smiled at me. He said, ‘See you soon.’” “He says that to everybody,” I said. “He bought me a pumpkin scone.” “Lynn, he really just gave it to you for free.” “He held my hand. Jessie, you saw.” I walked to the kitchen doorway and stared at my sister. “I did, but—” “You don’t want to believe it.” “I think you misunderstood what Daniel meant. That’s all I’m saying.” “Jessie, I can tell when a boy likes me. You’re just jealous. You’ve been out on maybe two dates in your whole life. I go steady. I kiss boys.” I pictured, sweet as the sugared coconut on Lynn’s cake, the lift of my arm, the back swing, the low-pitched clap when my hand hit Lynn’s cheek, the blaze of red I left there. Because she was right. At her day program, and even in special education in high school, boys, men, had cozied up to her for a day or a month. She kept her distance at first, but she liked being touched enough that she gradually figured out how to handle it. First she okayed a shoulder tap, then a fingertip brush. Holding hands followed easily, almost on its own. Putting an arm around her was hard because she was so tall, and kissing her was even harder. But three or four guys had managed it, and that was more than I could say. My cell phone rang. Lynn handed me my purse. “I thought I’d use this number you gave me,” Daniel said. “How can I help you?” I said, like I was at work. I headed for the bedroom and closed the door. Summer/Fall 2010 • 9
“Uh . . . did you think about which movie you want to see? How about Benjamin Button? It’s playing downtown.” “That sounds great. I can’t wait.” I sounded ten years old. “Well . . . do you want to go tonight instead? I have that history paper to write for tomorrow, but—” “No, I’m really looking forward to it is all. The movie.” The floorboards in the hallway creaked. Lynn was outside. “I have to go.” “What?” “Don’t worry,” I said, and hung up. Lynn opened the door. “Who was that?” “Someone in my history class. She’s a little harebrained.” She opened the top drawer of the desk we shared, drew out a notebook with a yellow fur cover and a shiny golden angel glued in the middle, and leafed through it. “How do you spell that?” “H-a-r-e,” I said. “A hare is like a rabbit.” She wrote the words and handed me the notebook. Lots of hards were listed on the H page: hard-core, hard-nosed, hard-line, hard-boiled. Then something that everyone had said in high school—hook up. I’d been afraid it would get Lynn into trouble. I turned the pages. At the top of each one, Lynn’s printing was stiff and heavy, some letters just big ink spots. Toward the middle, over the years, she’d switched to longhand. Her grip on the pen had relaxed. My own writing was loopy, then angular and disjointed, my grip tightening. Defining harebrained was a struggle. I couldn’t write dumb because we didn’t use that word. Not because it described Lynn. It didn’t, although kids at school had thrown it at her like a rock. I wrote, “Not thinking straight, sort of crazy,” and handed the notebook back. “Like me,” she said. “Nothing like you.” “Are hares crazy?” “I don’t know. Someone must think so.” I reached across the two feet separating our beds and closed the notebook in her hands. “Lynn? What do you like about Daniel?” “About who?” Lynn asked, throwing off her clothes and pulling her nightgown over her head. Her breasts were shaped like tear drops. I looked away. “Your new boyfriend, Daniel. What do you like about him?” “Oh, Daniel. Lots of things.” “Well what, exactly?” She hung up her shirt, folded her pants away in the chest of drawers, and tossed her underwear into the hamper. “I’m tired, Jessie.” “I like his hair,” I said. “His buzz cut grows out like grass—thick, black grass. When he runs the register, the air from the ceiling vent parts it. Then the part changes direction when he turns his head.” Watching this was like scanning an orchard from the freeway, glancing down one diagonal row, then another. TRACHoDON • 10
Lynn lay down facing me but closed her eyes tight. “I like how nice he is, and funny,” I said. “You’re older than he is, Lynn. Mom says that the boy should always be older than the girl.” “Jessie, you don’t care what Mom thinks.” “Daniel knows how to do things, like snowboard. You and I don’t.” “Jessie, be nice. You should be happy. You’re going to be a doctor.” Mom told everyone that I was going to be a nurse—you don’t want to brag—but Lynn was sure I’d be the best doctor ever. “And I’m going to marry Daniel. Jessie, I’m sleepy.” I tore off my clothes, threw them in the corner, and climbed into bed. On the nightstand I kept a picture of my father and me taken the summer I was 14, when he asked me, only me, to stay with him at his place at Lake Tahoe. That first afternoon, after we’d floated near the shore on air mattresses, not talking, having no idea what to talk about, he asked some stranger to take a photo of us. The man backed up so far that what he really photographed was a gravelly beach with some yellow plastic in the foreground, and the blue, blue lake. My father and I were two miniature figures with our feet under water, exactly the same height, holding hands. I thought now that he must have taken my hand. I couldn’t remember reaching for his, what it felt like, whether it was rough or smooth, cold or warm, or what I was thinking while I stood there next to him. I turned out the light and thought about the moment I pulled my foot away from Daniel’s. I held my small breasts in my hands. “Are you okay?” he asked at work the next morning. “Yes. Sorry I was weird on the phone. I don’t have much privacy.” About 8:30, our history teacher, Professor Belnikov, picked up her latte. She took a sip at the counter—a bad sign. “You are not giving me two percent milk.” She tossed one end of her gold brocade scarf over her shoulder with a tsarist flourish. I told her, not for the first time, that we stocked only half-and-half, nonfat milk, and whole milk. I’d given her blended milk, which was nonfat mixed with whole. “Why didn’t you tell me that when I was ordering?” Daniel sped over from the display case, where he’d been unloading bottled water. “Maybe because she’s already explained it five times.” I tried to catch Daniel’s eye. This woman was going to give us grades. And I was pretty sure she acted high and mighty because she was scared—like the kids at my high school who buried their knives an inch deep in the courtyard planters for easy access when someone else’s weapon appeared. I’d been safe enough in high school, a skinny white girl with straight A’s and a giant, uncool sister who waited for her after school. Once, I found Lynn lying on the ground next to the dumpsters, nacho cheese all over her clothes. I couldn’t get a straight story from her, but the next day Yesenia Torres sat down beside me in the cafeteria and apologized for her two brothers. “I told my mother what they did. She reamed them new ones.” “Would you like another latte, Professor?” I asked. Summer/Fall 2010 • 11
“Not unless you are suddenly having two percent.” “How about a free brownie?” I asked. “You Americans and your chocolate,” said Belnikov. “I want a muffin. And hot
“What kind of muffin?” said Daniel. “Your tone does not escape,” she said. “Me. Escape me.” “Poppy seed,” Belnikov said, adjusting her brocade. “I will be examining your work, Daniel Vo. I will be checking for editing by someone who writes better English than you.” She glared at me. I popped a muffin in a bag and ran hot water into a cup, but by the time I turned back to the counter, she was hammering out the door on her high heels. “I bet she complains,” Daniel said. “I bet we hear about this.” He moved closer. As if it were the easiest thing in the world, I leaned over and kissed Daniel on the lips. I wasn’t scared at all. When my shift ended, I ran to the car, waved to Lynn as she rounded the corner of the drugstore, and shouted, “I have class tonight.” “But Jessie! I wanted to—” “I’m in a hurry. I need to get home and eat something.” She reached the car, then stood rooted on the passenger side, eyeing Starbucks’ front door. I started backing up. Jumping in, she said, “Jessie! You’re hurrying too much.” At home I made myself a cheese sandwich and sat down in Mom’s chair. It smelled like baby powder and sherry. Lynn stood wringing her hands. “Where is Berkeley, Jessie?” “Fifty miles northeast. I showed you on the map, remember?” “Will you take my barrettes out?” “You can do it.” I scooted to the front of Mom’s chair, not knowing what I would say. “The thing is, Lynn, that Vietnamese people don’t really date non-Vietnamese. Sometimes they want to, but they know their parents will get upset, so they don’t.” Which wasn’t true, not always. “Daniel’s very traditional, even for a Vietnamese guy.” Which wasn’t true at all. “So I’m sure that he couldn’t have meant what you think he meant.” Lynn yanked a barrette out, some hair attached. Mom pushed the front door open, a grocery bag in each arm, and stopped short. “What’s wrong?” “Jessie says Daniel doesn’t like me. Or I shouldn’t like him.” Lynn’s head bounced on her neck. “Take these bags into the kitchen, Lynn.” Mom dropped them on the sofa and walked into her bedroom. I knew I was supposed to follow her, and after a few seconds I did. She closed the door. “What on earth?” “Daniel asked me out,” I said. TRACHoDON • 12
“When? Today?” “No, yesterday, for tomorrow night.” She didn’t hesitate. “You can’t go. It would hurt your sister’s feelings.” “I am going.” “Jessie, I feel for you. Believe me, I do.” She kicked off her shoes and tossed her polyester suit jacket on the armchair next to her bed. “Maybe you should go out,” I said. “Maybe you should pay attention to your own life.” She sat down on the bed. “Let me talk to her first at least.” “No. You’ll just make things worse.” Lynn opened the door. She’d bitten her bottom lip bloody. “Stop arguing. I hate it when you argue.” Mom removed her glasses and lay down slowly, pulling up the quilt she kept folded at the foot of the bed. It was almost dinnertime, dark outside. The ceiling light was bright. “Turn that off,” she said, but she didn’t tell us to leave. She had never once done that. Just as Belnikov started calling roll, Daniel slid into the seat next to me. “I have a problem,” I whispered. He smiled, ready to tease. “Not a big problem,” I said. “I need to meet you at the theater.” “Why?” “My sister.” “It’s no big deal. Everybody’s got someone like that in their family.” “Like Lynn? I don’t think so.” “My grandma—she suddenly decides that she has to have sparrow meat, so my uncle sends me out with a net and a cage.” “That’s not the same thing.” Daniel straightened up in his chair. “Since yesterday,” I said, “she’s been thinking that you want to date her.” He lifted his backpack into his lap, unzipped it, and stared into its open mouth. “But I didn’t say anything that—” “I know.” Belnikov called his name. I answered for him. “I’ll figure something out,” he said. “We have to take care of this, right at the beginning.” The beginning. That sounded so wonderful that I almost said okay. But Daniel had no idea how stubborn Lynn was. “Just meet me downtown,” I said. “Please.” “Pass up your essays,” said Belnikov. When class ended, she asked Daniel to stay a minute and waved me off. Friday night, I was dressed and ready to go. Mom had left her bedroom door open. She lay on the bed reading a romance novel. When I walked past, she said, Summer/Fall 2010 • 13
“Where are you going?” In the living room Lynn studied me while I put my coat on. Her face and body were utterly still, shut down, walled up. The doorbell rang. I opened it, expecting a kid selling candy bars, but it was Daniel, wearing an old suit jacket over a lime-green T-shirt and carrying two shoeboxes. “Daniel?” He pushed past me. “Hi, Lynn. I brought you and Jessie something.” Lynn hid her face in her hands, then raised it, pink with hope. “Jessie, sit next to Lynn.” “What are you doing, Daniel?” I said. He picked up one end of the coffee table and swung it away from the sofa, then the other end. Mom lumbered into the room. “Hi, Mrs. Lawrie.” Daniel said. “Don’t worry. I’ll put the coffee table back.” “Mom, this is Daniel Vo, from Starbucks.” “Jessie!” Lynn hissed. “Let me introduce him!” Daniel shook Mom’s hand over the sofa, then stood waiting for me to sit down. When I perched at the other end of the sofa from Lynn, he knelt in front of me and opened the top box. Inside were red- and black-checked Vans. “Oh!” I said, sliding down onto the cushion, untying my high tops and tugging them off, glad that I’d put on clean socks. He wrapped his fingers around my right ankle and lifted my foot. I forgot all about Lynn. “Perfect!” I said, when he’d slipped on both shoes. “I love them!” Mom started to say something, but Daniel stood up fast and stepped forward, so that his feet settled next to mine on the carpet, our two pair of red and black Vans side by side, facing in opposite directions. “What do you think, Lynn?” “I think. Do you know my size?” “I had to guess,” Daniel said, “but I’m good at sizes.” He knelt again, took a deep breath, and opened the second box. Inside this one were enormous pink-and-black-checked Vans. He lifted them out. “Why don’t I get red ones?” Lynn cried. “Why do I get pink? I hate pink.” Her right hand flew up. Mom caught it and held it tight. “Let her go, Mom,” I said. “I thought the pink ones would be just right,” Daniel said, glancing at me. Mom said, “Young man, I think you’d better—” “No, don’t go, Daniel!” Lynn wrenched free of Mom and stood up. She laid her right hand over her heart and covered it with her left. “Thank you for the shoes,” Mom said. “But this isn’t a good time for you to be here.” “I was just about to leave, Mrs. Lawrie, with Jessie,” Daniel said. He turned to me. “We’re still going out, right?” “How can I leave now, Daniel?” Lynn leaned over and shouted in my face, “I hate you, Jessie!” She released her TRACHoDON • 14
hand and gave me a half-hearted slap. Mom gasped. Daniel stepped closer, then back. “If you’re going, just go,” Mom said. She could have meant out with Daniel, or away for good. “Lynn,” I said, “let’s go into the bedroom and talk.” “No.” “Come on, Jessie,” Daniel said, holding out his hand. I reached for it, meaning to say goodbye, but it was so warm that I held on. He led me toward the door. “She’s never even kissed a boy!” shouted Lynn. He opened the door and shut it behind us. “I thought bringing the pink shoes would help put Lynn off me. You know, without having to say anything.” “It’s true, what she said. Or it was. Yesterday was my first kiss.” Wind gusted down the corridor, blowing his hair up and toward his face, pushing him one step closer to me. He checked his watch. “We missed the start of the movie.” “Let’s wait for the next showing,” I said. There was no hurry now.
Summer/Fall 2010 • 15
Thing for Raven Back in 2003 after I’d given the 6th graders poetic parameters once a week for a few months, a tow-headed girl named Raven spoke up—she sensed irony when she saw it: “Shouldn’t we give you an assignment now?” I knew better than to talk back to a girl named for a bird. Wicked little professors, their requirements were as follows: The poem should include 1 million words 25 pictures 1 set of eyeballs Steve McNair Every 6th grader’s name No rhyme At least one villain Toast w/ peanut butter Blood One big moldy green apple 100 pages of nothing Spaghetti Obeying the cicada’s sacred calendar, I waited seven years to begin my work. Despite my trepidation, I found the poem arrived with relative ease, even organically, as the hippies used to say. I consulted a young Harvard grad gourmand on food questions and he aided making a brioche of sorts with each of the items that I spread liberally between stanza breaks. The blood being blood was easy enough to find but I had to skirt health codes to have it (elk’s) mixed into the printer ink. Numerous Poets Laureate who consulted on prosodic issues will remain nameless though it should be noted that George Herbert’s treatise on concrete poetry served invaluable. The rare luck of elision allowed me to assume the three sets of eyeballs yours, mine, and the ineffable’s. This left me only Steve McNair, who at the time of the poem’s original assigning was in the midst of an MVP season as a quarterback for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, but was killed during the poem’s composition by his girlfriend Shahel Kazemi in an apparent murder-suicide. There were no tocsins, only headlines, and from a perhaps prophetic former student, one last implied requirement with which I must forge on: The poem should raise the dead.
TRACHoDON • 16
What Do You Want Your Computer to Do? Shut down? Restart? Translate Sanskrit? Go away? Calculate the rate of inflation in Kuala Lumpur as compared to Kalamazoo? Peel your orange? Change your son’s dirty diaper? Sketch the oscillating pine bough shadow on your desk? Restart the dialogue between your long dead grandfather and his poker partner overheard in last night’s dream? Translate the Sanskrit of your old dog’s parting expression? Estimate the retinal repercussions of staring this long at an LCD screen, the rate of ensuing blindness? Predict and print out the particular shade of darkness you are headed for? Record your one untainted memory of yourself, age 8, on the ice-beaded sunlit backlawn staring into each pierglass-caught blade of grass? Will this to your son? Look up the location, longitudinal and latitudinal coordinates, of the beach where you and she lay down together? Determine the temperature and humidity of the air that night, the direction of the wind? Emit this wind from the screen? Yes.
Summer/Fall 2010 • 17
Part of the Process One year of a jewelry maker’s transformation In August 2009 I took an important risk: I deepened my commitment to my artwork by choosing to discontinue my production jewelry collections, my main source of income. I spent the fall filling holiday orders and started to spread the word that this would be it for these pieces. Then on January 31, 2010 I removed all the designs from my website and said “thank you very much” to everyone who had supported me. A year prior to making this move I began a three-year artist residency at the Penland School of Crafts. The program allowed seven professional artists to develop their work in a supportive environment while providing low-cost housing and studio space. Obviously, my residency is the perfect time to take such a chance. My financial obligations were a fraction of normal, and, most importantly, I’d been given the unique gift of time. I wanted to take full advantage of this fortunate situation and eliminating production work has freed me to focus on making more technically and aesthetically challenging one-of-a-kind pieces. My first year at Penland was largely composed of exhibitions and shows that were already planned, as well as keeping up with the regular day to day operations of my business. I was as busy as ever and it felt like I was living my life the same way I was before, only now I also carried the title and commitments of a Penland resident artist. Most of the time I worked on new pieces one show at a time, shipped the work by the deadline, and immediately moved on to the next commitment with little thought about what I had just made. There was no time for contemplation or further development of any new ideas that had emerged. Simultaneously, I was filling wholesale and mail orders as well as discussing my work in critiques with different jewelers who were at Penland to teach workshops. As show deadlines passed, as each order was filled, and as I talked to more artists, I realized that my one-of-a-kind jewelry—the work I came to Penland to make—was suffering under the constraints of my production work and busy schedule. This pattern became increasingly frustrating as the year unfolded. I found it took two separate mindsets and studio practices to make these vastly different kinds of jewelry. I had spent the last seven years honing my skills as a production jeweler aiming for speed, efficiency, and accuracy while designing attractive, affordable pieces, but I found I had also come to the end of my desire to make collections. I was uninspired and bored and these negative feelings were permeating my new work. When it was time to make jewelry for a specific show the process was slow and often stressful. My ideas were few and far between, I was easily distracted, and felt unmotivated or overwhelmed. I had developed self-imposed expectations to produce jewelry quickly and when I had nothing new at the end of the day, I felt TRACHoDON • 18
guilty, as if I should have more to show for my efforts. Although I was always able to make work that I was pleased with, by autumn it seemed imperative to let go of my production habits and head in the opposite direction in order to truly develop my art jewelry. The Penland School, situated on top of a mountain in Western North Carolina, was alive with activity from March to November, then retreated almost completely from December through February. The remote location and the winter months could be lonely for some. For me, it was a time to thrive in quiet reflection, rest, regroup, and recharge. After my first anniversary as a resident artist, I began to outwardly define my creative process. I used these months to examine my work very closely through a selection of specific, self-motivated studio practices that revolved around thinking instead of making. This was a solitary time for me and it was absolutely wonderful. I would bundle up and head to the studio each day or curl up on the sofa with my cat, play some favorite music or enjoy the silence of the space and time, then do any number of exercises to help generate ideas and creative thought. I embroidered, stitching away for hours at little abstract compositions composed entirely of Colonial and French knots. Later I started playing with paper, manipulating it in different ways to explore shape and form. These two processes, embroidery and paper-play, produced an accumulation of samples to organize and analyze. I read as well, mostly books about historical or contemporary jewelry, and I started writing about my work. Everyday I spent one hour on focused reading, writing, and thinking, dividing the time into four 15-minute increments. For the first quarter I read from various books on mindfulness such as Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Next I meditated, often concentrating on the sounds around me to clear my mind. Automatic writing, a stream of consciousness style of prose, followed this, usually about my work or studio practice. I completed the cycle by reading a book about jewelry, like Rings: Jewelry of Power, Love, and Loyalty by Diana Scarisbrick. I felt incredibly good when I did this practice. It was a rich hour of my morning and helped set the tone for the day. The writing portion enabled me to consider my work in ways I never imagined. Sometimes I responded to something I made the day before or I wrote about why a particular day was so productive; other times I wrote about something I was stuck on or where I wanted my work to go. I had never taken the time to process my work like this before. Not only was I learning about my jewelry and myself as an artist, I saw this practice and my other nonjewelry pursuits as a way to honor my work as well. To complement this hour and my other creative activities, I also made lists of inspirations to understand where my ideas were coming from. Some days I wrote down my goals and plans. I sketched daily, little drawings and doodles of cones, abstract shapes, lines, and patterns. I documented in photographs the many collections and arrangements that fill my studio space. I also took days off to read fiction and magazines, watch movies, and simply putter around my apartment. The months passed quickly and now, as everything comes back to life with spring, I feel as though I am emerging too, full of new information collected during Summer/Fall 2010 â€˘ 19
those cold months while I was deep in thought. I know this was an important time to think rather than make, but it made me miss my jewelry and I can tell it is time to return to my bench. I have started making jewelry again, only instead of simple jewelry I make again and again, I am creating more one-of-a-kind work for jewelry galleries and other pieces that are more learning samples than truly wearable. One of my specific residency plans was to start a daily practice of one-hour projects as a method of “sketching” ideas in 3D. My first foray into this plan is called “Memory/Play Jewelry.” The “memory” coming from the history of the different materials I am using, while “play” refers to the experimental quality of the exercise. I have a few guidelines such as taking one hour to make a piece or using only non-precious materials already on hand. When a piece is finished I hang it on one of the big white walls in my studio so I can see it and its counterparts frequently throughout the day. This project gives me permission to experiment with materials, form, and composition, and challenges me to explore the addition of memory, personal history, and sentimentality as content in my work. All the materials I’m working with were collected over the years and come from specific moments or people in my life: leather scraps from a recycled art supply store in Vancouver, BC, a gift of antique paper beads given to me in high school from a dear friend of my mother’s, fabric bought last year for a sewing project. I enjoy putting different times into one piece, to combine memories from disparate sources, and to bring together unrelated moments. On a personal level I am giving these materials that represent my life immortality by turning them into tangible objects. I hope people who see this work wonder about the materials I use. I want them to notice that they are non-traditional and perhaps question where they came from. I also want them to reconsider what jewelry can or should look like. It is now nearly nine months after my decision to divorce myself from production work and the challenge of finding my artistic voice is just beginning. It was a difficult and daunting choice, but time is proving it to be the right one. I understand now that for this particular transformation to occur—changing my identity—the main components of creating art, making and thinking, must be separated. Devoting the winter to focused thought helped to establish a foundation and has led me to the next phase in which I’m making work again and processing information through the making. I believe I may follow a similar cycle of creating as time goes on in my residency and beyond--thinking about my work, creating work to echo the thoughts, and then thinking further about what the finished work means. Although I am making work again, it is not often easy and I find myself struggling much like I was the previous summer. I realized just the other day that in choosing to discontinue my production work and all that it entails, I also gave up my identity as a particular kind of maker. This loss of identity now manifests itself by causing me to feel a little lost in the studio. I feel awkward sometimes and the finesse I once had only exists momentarily. I have made a few pieces I am excited about that look great, are well made, and provide a departure point for more new work. However, I have also made a number of things that I don’t like; there is something TRACHoDON • 20
“off ” in each piece—I can easily recognize what in some cases, while in others I can’t quite put my finger on it. Despite this, however, I know this is all part of the process and this time around the struggle has meaning. I’m going to feel insecure and question the validity of what I’m doing and I’m going to make things I just don’t like. In many ways, this is exciting: I see the unsuccessful work as a necessary and inevitable component and each is an opportunity for growth. The delicate balance between these opposites is vital.
About the Images My series “Borderlines,” made in September 2009, is composed of simple lines and geometric shapes that I vary, combine, and layer to create new, interdependent and often interactive spaces and patterns. I strive for a visual interplay between elements, creating pieces in which positive and negative space is equally important. Through manipulating the formal elements, a minimal handling of materials, and gestural surface marks, I wish to convey subtle visual movement and a quiet attention to detail. The abstract and often awkward compositions are inspired by aerial views, simple drawings, and my interest in arrangements and order. Summer/Fall 2010 • 21
“Earrings No. 4” Amy Tavern TRACHoDON • 22
“Necklace No. 1” Amy Tavern Summer/Fall 2010 • 23
“Necklace No. 2” Amy Tavern TRACHoDON • 24
“Brooch No. 4” Amy Tavern Summer/Fall 2010 • 25
Bumpo’s Honey The piles of presents covered in red and green and white shiny paper stand around Honey’s feet in unsteady towers. They widen and narrow at odd points. They lean one direction and then another, rising past Honey’s knees, past her hips, blocking much of her from view as she sits on the couch. Everybody has their piles—me, Peggy, Bumpo—but Honey has the most piles, and the highest. Bumpo says, “Well, can we start?” I figure this is probably the twenty-fifth Christmas that I’ve heard Bumpo ask this question. I’ll try to remember to mention this to Peggy later, remind her we are celebrating our silver anniversary of listening to Bumpo plead to open Christmas presents. “Yes. Start,” Peggy says. And amid the sounds of ripping paper and exchanges of thank you’s, I watch Honey turn to Bumpo and gush, “Brian, I have never had a Christmas like this before.” Bumpo had been born Brian, but the name Brian hadn’t lasted long. He had a terrible time learning to walk. His legs would wobble and quiver underneath him as he used the coffee table to pull himself up. And the second he’d muster the courage to move away from the table, down he’d go, bump, right on his behind, but he’d just laugh like a man watching the Three Stooges after having too much to drink, and Peggy would kneel down and get right in his face and laugh with him and say, “What happened? Bumpo. What happened, Bumpo?” The name stuck, and Bumpo seemed to do his best to live up to it. Even as he grew older and got his legs under him, he spent an awful lot of time falling down. Bumpo was always smashing into something, getting knocked on his can by furniture, walls, pets, long division, playground bullies, crushes on pretty girls who refused to acknowledge his existence, but he always bounced back up, running off to smash into something else, a failed tryout as a heavyweight on the middle school wrestling team, a failed attempt at starting a high school science-fiction club. Peggy and I learned to just stand back and stay out of his way. “Would you look at Bumpo go,” I’d say, as we watched him crash through life. And I suppose he’s sorta still crashing through life while Peggy and I sit back and watch. Lately we’ve watched him go thirteen months without a job, watched him refuse to help around the house, watched him spend days on end holed up in his room in the basement, the sounds of video games seeping under his door his only discernable impact on the world. But Bumpo isn’t laughing much anymore, and Peggy and I worry that’s because Bumpo isn’t bouncing back up, and we’re just watching him fall and fall and fall. TRACHoDON • 26
Honey’s voice grows warmer with every present she opens. “Brian,” she says, “this is my best Christmas ever, ever.” My wife turns to me, the lights from the Christmas tree reflected in her glasses, her smile deepening the wrinkles around her mouth. Honey’s piles of presents are all Peggy’s doing, not bribery exactly, but incentives. We both agree that Honey is not perfect, but figure a woman is probably Bumpo’s best chance, figure there’s nothing like a woman to help a man bounce up. This past summer, Peggy and I mostly knew Honey as flashes of sound—the creak of a door as she crept into Bumpo’s basement room, a shouted Goodbye floating up from the basement stairwell, the click of high-heeled boots across the foyer tile, the rumble and lurch of an old truck in our gravel driveway. But shortly before Christmas we started to see more and more of Honey. One day I got home from the plant, and in the kitchen I found Peggy standing at the sink shoulder to shoulder with a short blonde woman, the two of them peeling potatoes while Bumpo looked on from the kitchen table. I can’t say that Honey struck me as pretty right away, but she didn’t strike me as ugly either. I mostly noticed how skinny she was, her pointy elbows jutting out from her sides as she whittled away on her potato, and her sharp, bird-like facial features, the long thin nose, the dark eyes, the blonde ponytail, like some kind of plumage, bobbing on the back of her head. “Dad, this is Honey,” Bumpo said. I nodded toward Honey and said, “It’s nice to meet you.” And it really was, nice to finally see my son with a woman, to watch on as our women worked together, to share that moment with Bumpo, with Peggy. During dinner, I kept my mouth closed and let Peggy dig. It’s something she’s good at. Between questions like “Could you pass the carrots?” and “Did you see the front page of the newspaper today?” Peggy snuck in real questions, little probing stealth missiles that Honey responded to as nonchalantly as if she were discussing the weather. It must be a rhythm thing. Get people talking and then let them get carried away by their own momentum, but I’m just guessing. I can’t do it. Only Peggy can. Thanks to Peggy, during that first dinner we learned that Honey had been working at the Marathon Station for six months, and that she sometimes picks up extra work helping out a cousin who cleans doctors’ offices on the weekends. We learned that before she started working at the gas station Honey had worked, for various durations, as a pizza delivery driver, a waitress, a telemarketer, a grocery store cashier, a temp in the seatbelt factory, and that once she worked as a clown for a child’s birthday party—but that turned out to be a big mistake and she would never try it again. Honey said that she has often supplemented her income with sales. No pharmaceuticals, she swore—laughing as she said pharmaceuticals, so the word sounded like chirping—but plenty of other stuff. Honey has sold firewood and meat out of the back of her pickup, and she has sold flowers and fireworks and flags and vegetables and discount sneakers along the side of the road, all legal, she said, except maybe for the meat, and maybe the fireworks too, but, Honey said, “You know how it is. Tough Summer/Fall 2010 • 27
times. Ya gotta hustle.” And Peggy just took it all in, nodding her head and smiling. I thought Peggy looked like someone listening to music who had stumbled into the wrong concert. The stories Honey told as the night stretched on were the stuff of blues songs—how she lives in an efficiency apartment on Kent Street in a building that used to be a halfway house, that though she’s only twenty she’s been on her own since she was sixteen, that if we ever get phone calls from men we don’t recognize or anyone who sounds like a collection agency asking about Honey, we should deny knowing her. But Peggy didn’t seem prepared to hear the blues. Her head bounced along like she was listening to a brass band playing Souza marches. After that first meal, Bumpo and Honey spent less time in the basement and more time on the first floor. They’d be at the dinner table at least twice a week, sometimes sat in the living room with Peggy and me to watch the movies I bring home from Blockbuster every Thursday night, family nights like we hadn’t had in since Bumpo was in high school. Peggy and I learned about Honey’s old meth boyfriend and school problems during one of our movie nights. While Bumpo and I argued about which James Bond we should watch first, Peggy asked Honey one of her stealth questions, and out it came, all at once, Honey’s hands flapping in the air like she was trying to shoo away gnats as she described her old boyfriend constantly sneaking off to his old brown Buick because he was too ashamed to use in front of her, the way he started scratching and rubbing his arms all the time, and how she once looked for GED in the yellow pages, but found only Generators-electric and now wasn’t sure what to do next, though she would like to further her education. As soon as Honey started talking about it all, Bumpo scrunched up his face like he was trying to suck his own teeth out of his jaw. He leaned back and drummed his fingers against his spreading, soft belly. I watched Bumpo watch for Peggy’s reaction, facing Honey, but monitoring Peggy out of the corner of his eye. But Peggy wasn’t flustered. She found something heroic in Honey’s story. “Well, of course you didn’t have time for high school. Living on your own so young, that’s tough. Sometimes, you’ve just got to hustle, right?” Peggy said. Some nights, after we had watched all the movies, and Honey and Bumpo had retreated to Bumpo’s basement room, and Peggy and I were in bed, Peggy squirming next to me, wrestling with the comforter to get it to lay just right, we’d talk about Honey, as we waited for sleep to come. We shared an unspoken understanding to focus exclusively on the positive, as if speaking negatively about Honey in our home might somehow contaminate the place and scare her away, as if she might be able to smell the scent of critical and concerned comments lingering in the drapes. Peggy would say something like, “She certainly seems resourceful.” And I’d say something like, “Oh, she’s definitely resourceful.” Then Peggy’d say, “And she seems to like to laugh, that’s nice too.” And I’d say, “She’s got a pretty laugh.” And Peggy’d say, “And she really does seem to care about Bumpo.” And some nights we’d go on and on like this, listening to the whirring and popTRACHoDON • 28
ping of the heat kicking on and off and saying one nice thing after another about Honey, like she might be able to sense our good comments too, like they might smell like vanilla and fresh baked bread and pipe tobacco and coffee brewing when you wake and basil fresh from the garden and other homey smells, and if we could just fill the house with enough of the sweet-smelling compliments Honey would stick around. And on my favorite nights, as we talked, I’d start to feel Peggy sliding closer to me, and I’d feel her throw a leg over mine, intertwining herself with me, and Peggy would start to say, “I think they could be really good for each other. You know, motivate each other to start setting some goals, to do better. It’s like that line from the movie about love and gaps. He’s got gaps and she’s got gaps, but together they fill each other’s gaps. I think Honey and Bumpo could be like that. What movie is that from?” And even though I’m pretty sure the line comes from Rocky, I’d say, “Jerry McGuire,” because Peggy hates all of the Rocky movies, but thinks Tom Cruise is dreamy. And then I’d feel Peggy’s breath on my neck, and I would roll towards her, and we would come together, again, just as we have for years, and as Peggy and I made love, I would feel a lightness in my chest that I never feel when I’m alone, a lightness that had to come from Peggy, that she must transmit to me like radio waves. Two weeks after Christmas, we get our first big storm of the season. It starts around sunset. I leave the drapes open all evening and watch the big flakes drift through the silvery halos of the streetlamps. By the time I get up for work the next morning, there must be eight inches on the ground, damp heavy snow. I hurry to clear out the driveway, leaning over the steel snow shovel I inherited from my father, my breath coming out in tiny clouds, like smoke. I am not even halfway done when I see Bumpo come out the front door and head towards me. He takes long steps in a pair of brown work boots. The hood of his sweatshirt hangs out of the collar of his jacket. He has a black stocking cap pulled down tight against his skull, his chubby cheeks glow red in the cold. I have not seen Bumpo upright and alert this early since he quit his job doing landscaping with the Mexicans more than a year ago. Bumpo stops maybe ten feet short of me and yells, “Do you got another shovel?” The winter air muffles Bumpo’s voice, so it almost sounds like he is yelling from underwater. I try to remember the last time I heard Bumpo ask for a tool. I can’t. “In the garage,” I yell back. I hear Bumpo coming before I see him walking towards me again, his boots crunching through the snow then rattling the gravel in the portion of the drive I’ve cleared. He carries one of the plastic snow shovels that Peggy buys every couple of winters. We must have four or five of them in the garage. She says they are better, that they are lighter and won’t strain my back. “Hell of mess, huh?” Bumpo says as he walks past me, throws the plastic shovel Summer/Fall 2010 • 29
in the bed of his truck. “I suppose it is. You going somewhere?” He digs around in his front pocket and pulls out his truck keys. “Honey called. She parked on the street last night, and when the plows came by this morning, they nearly buried her truck. I told her I’d dig her out.” “You might want to wait till I finish here. No point in both of you being stuck.” “I think the Ranger can handle it, Dad. Besides, Honey is waiting on me.” I hear something rare in Bumpo’s voice, a tone like he’s proud of the words coming out of his mouth, like he’s sure they are just right. Bumpo doesn’t have a brush, so we each stand on opposite sides of his truck and clean off the windshield by swiping away the snow with our arms, our hands. When we can see the interior, a jumble of crumpled Burger King bags strewn across the dash, Bumpo gives me a thumbs-up and climbs into the cab. I step to the side of the drive, where the piled snow rises above the top of my boots, and watch Bumpo pull out. His tires grab the exposed gravel and make a crackling. When he hits the unshoveled portion of the drive, the noise becomes hushed. The back end of the truck wags back and forth, but Bumpo just takes things slow and steady. He clears the driveway, heads down the road towards Honey’s apartment, a man with something to contribute. When I come in from shoveling, Peggy has already made coffee and has water boiling for oatmeal. I shuck my coat and wet boots and tell her about talking to Bumpo in the driveway, and while Peggy fills our mugs and steam rises up around her face she says to me, “See, I told you. Gaps. They fill each other’s gaps.” And she looks so proud. For a moment I want to run to her and give her a high-five. The Saturday after the storm, I’m out of the house before anybody else is awake. At the plant on Friday, Jim Izzo had groused about the old Escort his wife drives. He said it didn’t want to start some mornings and that his wife complained it idled rough and felt sluggish. I told him I’d look at it. So I spend Saturday morning working in the dim light of Izzo’s garage, trying to do routine maintenance on the Escort. I clean the sparkplugs, look at the transmission fluid to see if it’s more red or more brown, check the battery while Izzo leans on the front fender and complains about the Ford motor company. All I can do is fiddle and prod because Izzo refuses to buy any parts or supplies, says he will not put one more damn dime into that car, raises his middle finger towards the heavens and asks, “What do you think about that, Henry fuckin’ Ford?” Besides, Izzo says once somebody has looked at the car, his wife will convince herself it’s running better. Izzo says she has to so she can gloat about how she always knew it would be a simple fix and he should have listened to her and gotten the car looked at sooner instead of putting it off because he was worried about the cost. Izzo narrows his eyes, taps his forehead, and says, “It’s the old placebo effect.” As I’m finishing messing with the Escort, Izzo starts telling me about a nature show he watched last night, a show about sharks and their brutality. As I pull on TRACHoDON • 30
belts and peek inside the radiator, just because I figure it might help with the placebo effect, Izzo describes death by shark, describes teeth like spearheads puncturing the skin, tearing flesh from bone, blood in the water bringing a fury of other sharks, a feeding frenzy, until all that remains are scattered bones and bits of hair, tossed hither and yon for eternity by sea currents. “Terrible way to go,” I say. “What do you figure is the best way to die?” Izzo asks. “Sudden massive heart-attack, just like the one that took my father. One second he’s working in the yard, the next second, kaput, like flipping a switch to off.” “I don’t know. I think I wanna see death coming, nothing lingering, of course, but I’d like to have a few minutes to contemplate things before I go. I think I’d prefer drowning. I’ve heard when you drown you can feel death coming on, but it’s real gentle, soothing almost, like drifting off to sleep.” “That’s crazy,” I say, straightening up and wiping my hands on my pants. “Drowning’s got to be like strangulation, no air getting in, just like having a man’s hands around your throat. It’s got to be awful.” For the next ten minutes Izzo and I engage in a confusing debate about the nature of drowning and why and how it kills. We can’t agree if it’s the absence of oxygen—which surely feels like strangulation—or the presence of water in the lungs—which might feel like sleeping—which brings death. The obvious truth is it has to be some combination of the two, but we are both too stubborn to backpedal once we’ve taken a position. Just after eleven, Izzo and I take the Escort out for a drive. The engine sputters and coughs every time we come to a stoplight, but Izzo says not to worry, the placebo effect will clear up those minor difficulties. Izzo says he doesn’t want to waste gas driving all over creation, but we need to stay gone for awhile, so his wife believes we’ve given the car a good going over, so the placebo effect is potent. He pulls into a McDonald’s parking lot, maybe two miles from his house, and kills the engine. Cars roll by us, circle the lot like animals looking for food. Izzo tips his head back. He sighs and starts to drum his fingers against the steering wheel. He chants softly: “Pla. See. Bo. Pla. See. Bo.” From my seat next to Izzo I can see through the big windows in McDonald’s, see two lines of people marching towards the registers at the front counter. I can see people sitting at tables and eating. Izzo stops chanting. He’s found a catalogue somewhere in the car. He turns the pages, moving from a picture of a bed in blue and white striped sheets, to a picture of a bed in solid maroon sheets. “Can you believe how much this shit costs?” he says to me. I start counting the people I can see inside the McDonald’s. I sort them into three different groups, young, middle, and old. You could never tell it from McDonald’s commercials, but I have long suspected that the bulk of McDonald’s customers are old people. I count eight young people, six middle people, and ten old people before I see Peggy and Honey. They sit together, just the two of them, facing each other across a booth. Honey is talking. Her mouth moves rapidly, it’s corners turned up into a smile, her hands flutter in the air like confused butterflies, dive periodically Summer/Fall 2010 • 31
to snatch up a fry or twiddle the straw in her drink. At random moments she shakes her head; her blonde hair sways and bounces. Sunlight ripples through it. Peggy leans in toward Honey. Her arms form a triangle, her elbows planted near the center of the table, her finger intertwined. Her head bobs, following the flight of Honey’s unpredictable hands. But I am most struck by Peggy’s mouth. It’s pursed and open, not perfectly circular, but a shape like an egg or a capital O. When we first started dating, Peggy’s face pulled into that beautiful capital O expression all the time. When I told her about working at the plant, when I told her I’d won free passes to the movies from a radio contest, when I’d figure out how to fix her dad’s lawnmower, the O would appear. When we’d hike nature trails together and we’d happen upon a deer or when I’d tell Peggy about a dream I had about her, the O would appear. After we got married and Bumpo came along, Peggy most often made the O face around Bumpo, when he took his first steps, took his first fall, when he started reading aloud, when he was the only shepherd in the Christmas pageant given a speaking part. Maybe I should have been jealous that Peggy mostly saved my favorite look for Bumpo, but I wasn’t. I was just happy to see the O face, and happy that Bumpo got to see it too. It was something I wanted to share with him, father and son. Sitting next to Izzo in his wife’s Escort and watching Peggy feels like finding an old postcard from a dear friend who disappeared many years ago. I realize it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Peggy’s O face, and I realize I miss it terribly. “You wanna get something to eat? My treat,” Izzo says. “Naw. I’d rather just sit.” I go back to my counting, but it’s harder now. It’s hard to figure out what group some people belong in. I decide Honey is a young person, and Peggy is a middle person, still a middle person, at least right now, at least around Honey. The end is sudden and creeping all at the same time. Suddenly, one night Peggy and I are alone again watching the movies from Blockbuster, and the living room feels too big and the air feels too still, like walking into an unfamiliar church. Tom Cruise flickers across the TV screen in a black leather jacket. I brought the movie home for Peggy, so she and Honey could gossip and giggle about Tom Cruise together. I can’t follow the story because I’m not really watching the movie, because Tom Cruise annoys me, and because I’d rather just watch Peggy watching Tom Cruise. Peggy laughs three times during the movie, screams twice, but doesn’t make the O face once. Doesn’t even come close. Neither one of us mentions Bumpo or Honey that night. Even after the movie is over, I just turn on the news, and Peggy and I talk about what she should make for dinner tomorrow. Then the creeping begins. We keep not talking about Honey. Peggy will find me nodding off in the recliner on a Saturday afternoon and ask, “Have you seen Bumpo around?” But we’ll both know what Peggy means is have you seen Honey around the house with Bumpo or do you at least have an inkling that he’s off somewhere with Honey, the two of them together. TRACHoDON • 32
And I’ll sit up in the chair, and say, “I think he’s down in the basement. Why?” “No reason,” she’ll say, “just curious.” But I’m afraid that we both know what Peggy really means is, Shit, I’m scared. Or I’ll come home late from work, and while I’m still standing in the foyer taking my boots off, listening to Peggy opening and closing the oven door, a wooden spoon banging against a pan, I’ll yell, “Is Bumpo eating with us tonight?” But we’ll both know what I really mean is: Tell me good news, Tell me Honey is sitting at the table right now, and Tell me you feel hopeful. “No, he went out a while ago. Said something about going to the mall.” “For what?” I’ll say, which means, You’re sure you don’t have better news, You’re sure he’s not meeting up with Honey? “I don’t know. Something about a sale at the computer place,” Peggy will say, and the wooden spoon will bang faster and louder. And then I’ll pad into the kitchen in my stocking feet, and ask Peggy if she needs any help, and I’ll try to figure out what’s different about her face. Something about her cheeks maybe, and almost certainly a dimming of her eyes. Because without Honey around, when I look Peggy in the face, I can no longer in good conscience put her in the middle person group. I must admit to myself that Peggy has become one of the old people. Peggy tries asking Bumpo about Honey without asking him about Honey. One Saturday afternoon, Bumpo is headed out the front door, truck keys already in his hands, as Peggy and I come up the steps, carrying sacks of groceries. “Off on a big date?” Peggy says, her voice rising at the end so date sounds like a tiny piece of a song. Bumpo rolls his eyes and asks if we have any money he can borrow. I am in the backyard forcing stale hamburger buns onto the branches of our old Christmas tree, a winter tradition, when I hear a vehicle crunching up the gravel driveway. Every year, after we take the Christmas tree down, we bring it, dry and shedding, into the backyard, spike it straight up in a snow bank, and use it as a giant birdfeeder. It’s something Peggy, as a little girl, did with her mother. It’s something that Bumpo used to do with Peggy and me. I hear short, careful footsteps, crunching against the snow, and turn to see Peggy walking toward me, her puffy, light-blue jacket the color of cotton candy. “You’re home late,” I say. I hand Peggy the top of a bun. “Had errands.” Peggy rips the piece of bun in half. “Yeah?” “Ended up driving by Honey’s apartment while I was out.” Peggy never raises her voice, but the word Honey seems to ripple the air, like a shotgun blast. I expect to see clouds of birds rising out of the trees, startled, flapping away scared. “Yeah.” Peggy forces one of the bun pieces onto a high limb. She says, “There was a big brown Buick parked right behind Honey’s truck. All dinged up, mud all over the front end. I’ll bet it’s the old meth boyfriend’s.” Summer/Fall 2010 • 33
“Come on,” I say, and I shake my head like I sometimes do when I hear Peggy gossiping on the phone with one of the women from church. I fix my eyes on the stale bun in my hand, like it is more important and interesting than brown Buicks and Honey. I do this for Bumpo, because I think that he doesn’t want Honey to matter anymore, and I feel like this is something I must share with him, father and son. Peggy purses her lips, puffs up her cheeks, blows the air out of her body. It’s something she does when she’s thinking or exasperated or both. Today her breath blooms in the air like the trail of a jet plane. Her cheeks slacken, wrinkle and droop. I think that Peggy looks like she’s deflating in front of me, that she’s losing something vital, that she’s dwindling away. “How was your day? Anything exciting happen at the plant?” Peggy says. “No. Same old same old.” I could tell Peggy about my lunch conversation, but I don’t. I could tell her how Izzo started in again talking about the best way to die, how we started arguing about drowning again, about how if it’s the presence of water in the lungs or the absence of oxygen that brings death and about how all of that must feel. I could tell Peggy how Marley sat at the table with us, gnawing on a meatloaf sandwich, listening, but refusing to take a side. Standing next to Peggy, our breath escaping in dull white puffs, dry pine needles poking against the soft skin of my wrist, I wonder what is taking the life out of Peggy. Is it Bumpo’s constant presence in the basement—the way he’s under our feet but distant at the same time? Is it the unanswered questions: Why can’t Bumpo do better? Is it our fault? What did we do to him? How do we fix him? Or is it an absence that’s Peggy’s undoing? The absence of Honey, the absence of young Bumpo, the absence of his bounce and energy, his sizzle like electricity, the absence of the grandchildren we’d both dearly love, but both quietly know will never be born, the grandchildren that in our most honest, dark moments we think maybe should never be born.
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The Magician With a flourish, the magician performs his second trick at Hannah’s sixth birthday party. He asks for rings, rings of any kind. In the back, Hannah’s grandparents, who’ve been whispering in Hungarian, take off their gold wedding bands. The magician examines them in the flame of a single candle. His hair drips sweat that mixes with the candle wax. His forehead glows like a fogged-up windshield. Now, he says, I will attempt to raise up these rings using my powers of telekinesis. He’s concentrating hard, I can tell. Even in the dim light I can see the furrows in his brow, the yellow stain beneath each arm. He grunts abracadabra, and voila! the rings are floating. Everyone claps. Can’t they see the wires, thin as spider webs? That’s why his magic only works by candlelight. Don’t they know Houdini made a second career of debunking psychics, exposing sound tubes, invisible threads, trick photographs of ghosts? Why can’t they see? Behind every door is a man pulling the strings. Magic is just another name for religion. Behind all pairs of eyes there is only one, looking out.
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Blemish while reading Magdalena Tulli A prospect of a city square. I feel I’ve lived here all my life, in a house built before the war, yellow curtains on the windows growing thick with smoky light. I wake to voices on the radio, the crackle of my native tongue, my sister calling from the hall. At eight we’re standing in the square, blouses starched and satchels slung, waiting for the zero-line to take us down the street to school where every day we write a theme and practice long division and dream we live where kids are free to wear ripped jeans and finger-paint, but something always interferes to remind us of our city’s flaws, its honking trolleys and bleak façades, its crones who wash their feet on stoops, its butchers with their bloody knives, its worn-out dreams in shabby drawers.
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Welcome To The Free Zone The Transformative Power of Brooklyn’s UrbanGlass
Glass reveals itself slowly, over time, and like any good seduction, it involves a kind of surrender. For many, this loss of certainty is well outside the comfort zone, that place of stasis and stagnation. This summer we’re presenting several classes with acknowledged maestros….Please join us and welcome to the free zone. - Dawn Bennett, UrbanGlass Executive Director, 2010 Summer Catalog
For over 33 years, New York City-based UrbanGlass has been carving out a free zone where glass artists can gather to create, learn, and discover the many possibilities of their medium. At this unique urban center for glass, beginners and professionals work side by side as they study, practice, master, critique, and find the new edges of an ancient craft. The UrbanGlass mission, “to foster innovative art and advance the use and appreciation of glass as a creative medium,” is alive and well in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, the neighborhood that has been home to UrbanGlass since 1991. In 2012, UrbanGlass will complete a major expansion funded by the City of New York. After the renovation, visitors will enter through the front of the building, stepping into a glass lobby where the action of the UrbanGlass hot shop streams live on a video monitor. But right now, the entrance is an unassuming door around the corner, marked by a red vertical banner. Today’s visitors take the utilitarian elevator up to the third floor and then step out into the Store at UrbanGlass, where they can admire deep red blown glass vases and intricate beaded jewelry, chat with the receptionist, and peer through a wall of interior windows onto the hot shop, where glass artists—up to 24 at a time—work carefully in teams of two or three to heat and shape glowing blobs into tomorrow’s goblets, centerpieces, and sculptures. “If you drop an ancient Roman into our studio today, they’d be comfortable working here,” UrbanGlass Director of Education Brian Frus says with pride. “We use methods that have been passed down virtually unchanged over centuries, and many of the objects or sculptures we create simply cannot be made by machines.” As a non-glass artist observing the hot shop in action, it’s easy to feel both inspired and daunted by the impossibly graceful athleticism involved in creating the simplest of vases, and the dense lexicon of terms that speak of an intricate set of technical systems: fusing, slumping, cullet, flashing, punty, dichroic, borosilicate… But among the calipers and jacks, you’ll also find what Brian Frus calls his favorSummer/Fall 2010 • 37
ite tool in the shop: a thick wet grey pad in which the gaffer (hot glass team leader) cradles and rolls a hot glass vase-to-be. The tool, it turns out, is a charred and waterlogged New York Times. “The carbon on its surface lets it glide across the glass,” explains Frus. The paper’s thickness protects the gaffer’s skin while its pliability offers the closest effect to rolling the hot glass in one’s palm. It is ironic, yet somehow fitting, that this icon of New York intellectual culture—an object that may be as endangered by the explosion of free online news as ancient art forms have been by mass production—has found a new purpose here, in this place where old tools and techniques find new life. Since its inception, this artist-driven organization has grown into an industry leader and the site of a unique and thriving artisan culture. But it started small, the way so many arts institutions do: with a determined artist, an unmet need, and the seeds of a new community. Armed with an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and a passion for making glass, Richard Yelle arrived in mid-1970s New York City, where, to his disappointment, the fine art scene offered little support for his medium. But something had been stirring in the broader landscape of American studio art, setting the stage for a change in the NYC glass art scene. The studio glass movement in the US began to flourish in the 1960s, thanks to a new openness among the Venetian glass masters, (who realized their techniques might die with them if they kept their trade secrets any longer), the availability of more affordable technologies, and the persistent efforts of Harvey Littleton, who in 1963 founded the first college studio glass program at the University of Madison, Wisconsin. By the time Richard Yelle hit New York, the burgeoning movement had found a home at Seattle’s Pilchuck Glass School, but the art capital of the world still lacked a center for studio glass. Yelle seized the moment, joining forces with stained glass artist Eric Erikson to found the New York Experimental Glass Workshop (known simply as “the Workshop”) in March of 1977. Within a year, the Workshop presented its first exhibition, featuring work by an impressive roster of artists, and offered its first classes in a 1,000-square foot rented basement space in lower Manhattan. Two moves and more than two decades later, the third floor of 647 Fulton Street houses two furnaces that melt 2,000 pounds of glass daily; seven glory holes up to 27” in diameter; 13 annealers; a moldmaking shop; a coldworking shop; a sandblaster, a neon shop; a flameworking shop; a flat glass area with two dedicated kilns for fusing, slumping, kiln casting, mosaics, and stained glass; a small glass art store; and an exhibition hall. UrbanGlass renter, student, and volunteer coordinator Jami Shoop, a studio jeweler who uses kiln-cast glass heavily in her work, was a seasoned artist when she moved to New York from Kentucky to become part of the UrbanGlass community. “I came up here to be a studio artist and find my creative passion,” says Shoop in her no-bones-about-it style. She knew that working at UrbanGlass would provide her not only with excellent classes and a community of like-minded artists, but also with TRACHoDON • 38
a critical resource: affordable studio space. This is a vital commodity for any artist, but especially for glass artists, who face the heavy costs of equipment maintenance, furnace or torch fuel, and specialized materials on top of staggering New York City rents. Like Shoop, hot glass sculptor Moshe Bursuker felt drawn to pursue his work at UrbanGlass after completing his BFA in sculpture and photography at the University of Hartford (CT). “The city brought me in, the studio kept me here,” admits Bursuker, who is an instructor and exhibiting artist as well as studio renter at UrbanGlass. UrbanGlass provides invaluable exposure for artists through exhibition opportunities and awards, which Bursuker says is “important especially for young artists who don’t have the gallery connections. If you asked any glass artist who works at UrbanGlass if UrbanGlass has helped their career, I think they’d say yes.” Add to this the grants and Fellowships that UrbanGlass provides to glass artists from all over the world, and it’s impossible to deny their impact on the field. Thanks to that impact and the efforts of other glass artists, UrbanGlass is no longer an island in an East Coast sea of private studios and fine art programs. Since its founding, an archipelago of nearby studios has emerged, including Pittsburgh Glass Center, Philadelphia’s East Falls Glassworks, Rochester, NY’s More Fire Glass Studio, and Hot Sand in Asbury Park, New Jersey. But UrbanGlass remains the only comprehensive glass studio on this coast, and the largest not-for-profit international center for the creation of new art using glass. UrbanGlass toes a tough line to hold that position, parsing every nonprofit penny to provide stellar studios and education. With an annual budget of just $1.6 million and only 10 full-time staff, the organization provides a dizzying array of programs, serving 350 renting artists and 900 students annually, and publishes the glossy glass art journal GLASS Quarterly. The free zone of UrbanGlass’ structure also offers vital teaching moments outside the course curriculum. Students in a beginning hot glass may be learning a basic process right next to a seasoned professional artist who’s renting a few hours of time to complete a complex masterpiece. This proximity sparks a level of curiosity, excitement, and discussion that pushes learning to the next level. As Moshe Bursuker confirms, this phenomenon benefits the professional artists as much as it does the students. “Our work is always out in the open to be seen, and that creates dialogue. Whether it’s positive or negative, it doesn’t matter, because having that dialogue is what makes you excel.” By offering every glass technique under one roof, UrbanGlass encourages the kind of cross-pollination that can spark new ways of making work. Miguel Unson, glass artist and Assistant to the Director of Education at UrbanGlass, discovered this when simultaneously enrolled in a flameworking and a kilncasting class. Realizing that he could combine the techniques he was learning in both classes, Unson began exploring a rarely used process that has since become integral to his art. UrbanGlass also knows that one way to keep an art form alive and growing is to share its life-changing power. Through the Bead Project, the studio provides lowSummer/Fall 2010 • 39
income women artists age 18 and up the opportunity to make, market, and sell glass beads and jewelry. Those who complete the program receive 40 hours of beadmaking instruction, 10 hours of jewelry making techniques, a tool kit, and ongoing education support. Transformative Bead Project stories abound, like that of graduate Maria Dora Aroche, who had not worked in glass prior to the Project and just completed a 200-bead custom commission for the Founders Ball of the new Brooklyn Community Pride Center. And as Frus describes it, Maria is just one of hundreds of UrbanGlass students who have discovered this transformative medium and moved from a prior life to a new “glass life.” Other community-building projects include a casual UrbanGlass soiree called Make Your Own Luck. The brainchild of Associate Director Becki Melchione, the event is coordinated by the Urbanites, “an assemblage of young professionals dedicated to the exploration and appreciation of glass as a medium of artistic expression.” Like a theatre concerned about the advancing age of its subscriber base, UrbanGlass, whose donors and collectors are mostly age 60 and up, knows it must develop a younger posse of committed glass enthusiasts. And they are using a savvy, inclusive approach to do it. The Urbanites are open to any young professional who cares about glass and wants to join. At the group’s first meeting, members were asked to bring in and share an object, any object, that had personal resonance for them. “That was a great way to start a discussion about art in general,” said one Urbanite who admitted that, until recently, he had no attraction to glass. Having been brought into the Urbanites by his wife, he now speaks passionately about the medium: “It’s more accessible than other media, because it’s always either functional or decorative. And it creates community. You can’t blow a piece of glass by yourself. That is attractive to me.” At this year’s Make Your Own Luck, the community-creating power of glass was on full display. For a $25 ticket fee, young guests worked in the Flat Shop, putting sticker designs on glass beer steins that were sandblasted and de-stickered by volunteers to become microbrew-worthy frosted creations. As the happily tattooed, smartly dressed, iphone-toting crowd photographed each other, sipped Brooklyn Lager from their lucky mugs in the Exhibition Hall, and watched breathtaking demos by UrbanGlass artists, the studio was growing its future circle of support. It wasn’t the first time UrbanGlass had hosted such an event, but, as Melchione explained, this one was more successful because they capped the crowd at 75, allowing guests more time for mug-making, conversation, and studio exploration. The choice of quality over quantity was a wise one: unlike the thousands of overcrowded, hormone-packed bars that target the same demographic, this event had a bright, easy ambiance, like brunch or the park on Saturday night. Plus there was the added excitement of Getting In, an intangible benefit whose power among young New Yorkers is not to be underestimated. “Everyone I know is really jealous that we had this opportunity,” beamed guest Nicole Eastzer as she showed off the one-of-a-kind mug she’d designed by applying masking tape to create an outline of her hands. TRACHoDON • 40
How was a glass studio able to become the coveted Saturday night destination for the crowd that club promoters scramble over themselves to attract? By working the power of word of mouth: every guest could be traced back to an Urbanite friend, or friend of a friend, who had personally encouraged them to attend. By offering something most other nightspots do not: the chance not just to consume, but to create. And by offering something that no one else in New York City can: the chance to bask in the literal and figurative heat of a legendary hot shop, observing masterful glass artists at work as they transform a mercurial medium. The magic appears to be catching. The aforementioned Ms. Eastzer, a 20-something elementary school teacher who lives and works in Long Island, learned about the evening through a friend in the Urbanite group. Like many guests at Make Your Own Luck, she buzzed with almost childlike excitement as she talked of her plans to take an UrbanGlass class. But her adult voice returned as she spoke of her determination to bring her 5th grade students on a studio tour. It was so important, she explained, for them to see things being made this way. To know a place like this exists. To learn that, if they wanted, they could grow up to be glass artists too. And so the UrbanGlass community grows, as a new devotee steps into the free zoneâ€”and invites the next generation along.
Summer/Fall 2010 â€˘ 41
Katey Schultz, Associate Editor
Bare Bones Many of us can readily conjure the image of a lonely writer perched over a keyboard, crumpled papers spilling from the wastebasket. Likewise, we can picture the visual artist exhausted by his or her subject. The painter hastily touches brush to canvas and destroys a would-be masterpiece. In either case, we’d argue, the artist needs to gain perspective and engage with the world outside the studio walls. The artist in my mind’s eye spends equal time in the studio and engaging the world. No doubt, Henry David Thoreau—who dabbled in poetry and sketching, in addition to his well-known essays—worked alone at Walden Pond. Yet his writing conjured an entire community and made meaning out of the human predicament. “I have a great deal of company in my house,” he wrote, “especially in the morning, when nobody calls.” I like to think that when he walked, Thoreau was writing with his feet. When he studied flora and fauna, he was writing with his eyes. And when he grew too tired to think at all, he was writing from his heart. This, perhaps, is what engaging the world looks like for writers—be that world as naturally wild as Thoreau’s, or a world brimming with the wilds of urban life. I am reminded of an afternoon I spent with a photographer friend several years ago. We’d been driving back roads in Western North Carolina, searching for swinging footbridges—cultural icons of ancient Appalachia. We were long past knowing which way to turn and had resigned ourselves to follow the river. Though we rode side-by-side, for all intents and purposes we were alone with our thoughts. At a certain juncture, my reverie was interrupted when my friend asked me to pull over. “I need to photograph something,” he said. I slowed the car and rolled down my window. To my eye, we’d stopped at a nondescript, abandoned cinderblock building. Weeds overtook the property. No signs of life remained. My friend stepped from the car and walked directly toward the side of the building. He crouched in the grasses and took a few photos, manually adjusting the lens on his camera. It wasn’t until several months later, holding the print in my hands, that I saw what he’d seen that afternoon. The photo captured a section of the foundation where three colors of chipped paint merged. Though the colors were sun-bleached, the meaning couldn’t have been clearer: red, white, and blue paint came together in the frame, an undeniable symbol of declining America. How did the photographer nurture his way of seeing? By the same logic, how did Thoreau write about a single pond, on a continent of ponds, in a way that readers might never engage in wilderness the same way again? Surely, my photographer friend would be flattered by this comparison to Thoreau, but what matters is not the distinction of careers. What matters is that shared, universal “thing” artists tap into when at their best. It’s my hunch that both artists worked from a place of heightened imagination, the result of genuine engagement with the world. However concrete or abstract the TRACHoDON • 42
parameters of an artist’s world may be—a pond, a borough, a state, an entire coastline, the concept of America, the notion of peace, the fight for justice—kernels of that world will be reflected in the artwork itself. In this way, artists make work that reveals previously imperceptible subtexts and truths. Thoreau himself said it best when he wrote, “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint.”
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Contributor Biographies Taylor Altman was born and raised on Long Island. A graduate of Stanford University and the Creative Writing Program at Boston University, she currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works for QuestBridge, a non-profit that connects low-income students with scholarship opportunities. Her first book, Swimming Back, was published by sunnyoutside press, and her work has appeared in The Alembic, Salamander, Silk Road, and Triplopia. Born and raised in Michigan, Chris Dombrowski has lived in Montana for long enough (over a decade) to call himself a Michi-tanan. He has worked as a river-guide, freelance writer, cabin painter, poet-in-the-schools, and instructor of creative writing. He is the author of By Cold Water, a collection of poems, and Fragments With Dusk in Them, a chapbook. His poems have appeared in such journals as Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Ninth Letter, Orion, Poetry, and have been anthologized in Joyful Noise and Making Poems. He lives with his family in Missoula, MT. Jo Ann Heydron’s fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared in Puerto del Sol, So to Speak, Sojourners, Prairie Schooner and other publications, as well as online. While raising three children, she taught English at community colleges in California. In 2007 she moved with her husband to Bellingham, Washington, where she writes full time, is getting reacquainted with her siblings after long geographical separation, and participates in local organizing for post-peak-oil community life. In 2009 she received an MFA in fiction from Pacific University, in Forest Grove, Oregon. Wesley Middleton is a writer and non-profit arts manager living in New York City. Her plays for young audiences have been produced around the U.S. Having worked as a teaching artist and arts administrator in Seattle and as grants manager for Penland School of Crafts (NC), she now writes essays, articles, and instructional DVDs, and works as Producing Director for Ripe Time, a critically acclaimed theatre company in Brooklyn. More at wesleymiddleton.blogspot.com. Originally from upstate NY, Amy Tavern is a studio jeweler and current Resident Artist at the Penland School of Crafts in Penland, NC. Amy received her BFA in Metal Design from the University of Washington in 2002. In 2009 her work was included in exhibitions at Sienna Gallery and Quirk Gallery and she was named an American Craft Council Searchlight Artist. In addition to being a full time maker, Amy also teaches and lectures. Amy is an active blogger, posting several times a week about her work and the work of other jewelers at www.amytavern.blogspot.com. Tom Weller teaches at Indiana State University, where he is the Student Support Services writing specialist. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared recently in Plain Spoke, Silk Road, and Grasslands Review. He spends his free time rehabbing his jump shot.
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Thanks to our Charter Subscribers Amanda Compton Anchorage, AK, USA Amy Tavern Penland, NC, USA Artie & Dail Dixon Chapel Hill, NC, USA Bob & Charlotte Uzdiela Beaverton, OR, USA Brent & Karen McCune Beaverton, OR, USA Britt Kaufmann Burnsville, NC, USA Buzz Coren & Debbie Littledeer Burnsville, NC, USA Cameron Keller Scott Basalt, CO, USA Caroline Nesbitt North Sandwich, NH, USA Charles Sanderson St. Helens, OR, USA Clinton Robison Winton, CA, USA Courtney Dodd Richmond, VA, USA David Swidler & Sarah Hogan Seattle, WA, USA Eleanor White Derry, NH, USA Heather Clitheroe Calgary, Alberta, Canada Jack Driscoll Interlochen, MI, USA Janice Willis Barnett Unicoi, TN, USA Jared & Autumn Buckner Willow Springs, NC, USA Jared Sam Pahoa, HI, USA
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