Recurring Nightmare

Often I awake at night from a  recurring nightmare. I am leading the next American Revolution and I have thousands of people behind me. We march on Washington to get our message through and this happens . . .

Don’t believe for a moment that Uncle would allow another take over as happened in 1776. The man in power, no matter who, will respond the same way. Why? Because he can and he has the entire military behind him.

Starving Artists

In my recent post “Horn Man” I went into an overly long essay on how I went about creating an original piece of art. I’m positive I could have done a better job on a photo essay with clever captions. During the sixteen week period during which I made four Intarsia pieces I thought a lot about the business of selling art. Could I make a living doing this? Could I even make any money at all doing this?

I thought about Michelangelo and Da Vinci  and the remarkable work they did. How did they survive? The simple answer is they had patrons who supported them in return for their work. Michelangelo’s sculpture of David took him two years or more to complete. It is not easy chiseling a larger than life-size man from a single block of marble. I wonder if he had any “oops” moments during that time. I had many “oops” moments during the making of Horn Man, but glue and more wood made it easy to either fix the “oops” or to remake the part. Da Vinci had a list of patrons as well. He lived with them while he learned the trade and then worked for them afterwards. When a patron lost his place in society, and could no longer afford to patronize an artist both Michelangelo and Da Vinci found themselves new patrons. While unpatronized they took part-time work by doing commissions for the wealthy.

Getting back to my thoughts about selling Intarsia art I pondered the value of my work. Would I charge by the hour and if so, what is the value of one of my hours? I know what I made while working as an engineer, would I use that value? If  not charging by the hour, then charging by the piece would be the next way to sell. I have seen Intarsia artwork at craft fairs but never at art fairs. The pieces I see are very simple and flat in form indicating that the crafter did not put much effort into the work. I have never been satisfied with the flat style of Intarsia. My pieces become three-dimensional and sculpted. That is why they take me so long to make. If you look at my bass, or the Blue Jay you will see that these pieces are more lifelike than a flat work. The value I see on Intarsia pieces at fairs ranges from twenty dollars to one hundred dollars, unless the picture has hundreds of discrete parts. In cases where a customer commissions a complicated work the value  can jump to thousands of dollars.

StrippedBass-1780845_10201407376251910_722702533_n

Stripped Bass

Blue Jay

Blue Jay On Apple Blossoms

Largemouthbass

Large Mouth Bass About to Eat

When I completed Horn Man I had logged one hundred and five hours on the project. At the current minimum wage of $9.80 per hour I would have to charge  $1039.00 for the Horn Man. If I use my hourly rate as an Engineer the price is $6300.00.

Horn Man

Horn Man

Let me assume I sold each of these four pieces at one fair, and I charged the minimum wage; I would have netted twenty-seven hundred dollars. Divide that by sixteen weeks of time and my gross salary is $169.13/week which extrapolates into a whopping $8794.50/year. No wonder people would rather be on welfare.

The reality of doing something I like loses to what I have to do to make a living wage.  Some of the latest spin by Liberals about why we need the Un-Affordable Care Act is that a person would be free to pursue his dreams if he didn’t have to worry about paying for health care. I recommend reading two recent articles, the first by Avik Roy who wrote a piece published by Forbes and a quote by Nancy Pelosi on Redstate.com

The idea of forcing me to pay for someone else’s dream smacks of slavery. It is different if I choose to patronize that person. Neither Michelangelo nor Da Vinci had healthcare benefits but they followed their heart’s desire to become experts in their field of art and invention by getting a job working for a patron.

Obama is transforming America into a socialist Utopia(Utopia is a place where pigs fly), and to do that he has to make the middle class worker like you and me into a tax-slaves who pay for those who follow dreams without a job. I don’t know about you, but I sure as heck would rather be free to work my ass off as I see fit, and to spend my wages the way I want to.

Cloud Gazing

There are days when all I want to do is to sit and gaze upon the clouds. They make me want to dream. Sometimes, they put me in a stupor, and at others a state of euphoria. At other times, they make me sad, and depressed.

It is fun to search for something to see in the shape of clouds. That one looks like Mickey Mouse, or gee, today they are strips of cotton floating along in rows to infinity. Yesterday, they were massive mountains of white billowy gobs of whipped cream sitting on top of a blue sky reaching for heaven. This morning they were a shapeless gray cover blanketing the earth.

Clouds are scary when they are green, dark grey, black, and swirl around from place to place in a fury. Sometimes they unleash their swirling energy and sweep the countryside in a rage. Other times they are generators of electrical charge that release energy in a giant flash of light that zigzags to mother earth to explode anything in its way.

Ah yes, clouds, they are many things.

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What About Bob?

Pinewood Derby TrackKiller-93A couple of weeks ago my grandson Joey, son-in-law Jeff, and I had a terrific day building pinewood derby cars. Joey is a Cub Scout, and his Pinewood Derby was coming up. The Cub Master had a special “Outlaw” event for Dad’s and grandfathers. Unlike Joey’s event, the Outlaw race had no rules. Of course, Joey, Jeff, and I worked diligently to build a first class racer for Joey’s event.

For those of you who are not familiar with a Pine Wood Derby race I will describe it as simple as I can. It is a father-son project to build a miniature race car from wood. Each scout buys a kit with all the essentials; a block of wood, four wheels, four axles, and a set of directions. The cars race on a track provided by the Cub Scout Pack. It is usually made from wood. The track is about thirty feet long with one end raised four feet above the ground. The first quarter of the track goes downhill and transitions into a flat section. The cars are placed at the top of the track and restrained by a starting gate. A wooden strip defines the lane and keeps the cars from crossing into each other, or from leaving the track. A typical race lasts for about two seconds. The starter pulls a lever which drops the starting gate and the cars begin the descent. It is amazing to watch them descend and then coast to the finish line.

Joey designed his own car. He came to my house with his sketch in hand. Grumpa Joe helped him transfer the design to the block of wood and to cut the shape on the band saw. After the cut was completed, Joey went to work with sanding, shaping and adding details. He painted the car in his favorite colors, green and silver. While he sanded and painted, Jeff and I were polishing axles and truing the wheels. In between those tasks, Jeff and I spent time on our own Outlaw creations.

The day went by quickly. We were mesmerized by the activity. We envisioned our cars coming across the line ahead of everyone. Joey and Jeff went home with very little left to do. I had to finish the wheels and paint. The race was the next day; not too much pressure.

Race day came, and Joey’s Den was last up. The rocket car blazed to a win. His little car easily beat two others. In the next heat, he was up against the winner of another round. Joey’s rocket car finished just a few inches behind. He ran his last race. It was disappointing to say the least. It was Joey’s last time as a Pine Wood Derby Racer until he has the pleasure to work with his son in about thirty years.

After the Cub Scouts raced, the Cub Master called for the Outlaws. Jeff’s car and mine ran in different heats. We were eliminated immediately. We had fun being together and giving it our best. After all was done. We put our cars on the track together; Joey was first, Jeff a close second, and Grumpa Joe a close third. The three cars finished within six inches of each other.

A week later I had the most wonderful dream. I saw my buddy Bob in the dream. He was the starter for a pinewood derby race, and I was at the finish line as a judge. I never saw any scouts, but I did see lots of cars racing down the track. Bob was dressed in his grey sweat suit and smiling as he let each set of cars go. It made me happy to see him this way. Bob’s life and mine had many parallels. He was involved in Scouting as was I. He was an engineer, and made a career out of running a machine shop, my own engineering career involved running a machine shop. Our wives died about a year apart from each other. The deaths of our spouses really cemented our relationship, and we became fast friends.

Bob and I were good therapy for each other. We ate supper together at the local dining room several times a week. Often we closed the place down. After his wife died, a year before mine, he began meeting with a group of men. They were all widowers. It’s funny that he knew so many men who lost their wives about the same time. He asked me to join the group. I did. We went to supper every Tuesday night. The evenings were filled with discussion about anything from politics to technology. The group still meets, but without Bob.

I asked Bob to be the best man at my wedding. He was the best best-man he could be. After our wedding, we continued to meet on Tuesday, and also as couples. Bob paired with a widowed lady friend. About eight months after my wedding, Bob suffered a stroke. He became paralyzed on one side. While in rehab, he suffered more strokes. They impaired his memory.

Bob’s only son lives in Portland, Oregon. The son commuted to care for his father. Bob’s friends kept looking in on him at the nursing home where he settled. Eventually, his son made the decision to take him to Portland to care for him there. It was the right thing to do. I lost Bob as my best buddy.

Two months ago, Peggy and I traveled to Portland to visit Bob. It was the first time we saw him in two years. New strokes had debilitated him further, but he recognized us immediately. We had a beautiful visit.

The dream with Bob is on my list of “warm and fuzzy moments.”  How strange it was that my brain worked to connect Joey’s pinewood derby race to an old friend who also built pinewood derby cars with his son.

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