Sunday, November 7, 2010

Getting from Here to There

How does one "become" an artist?
I recently went through an old box

of slides and had them put on CD's, reminders of my youth and the road I have been on. What turn was significant? Did I take the high road when I should have taken the low road, turned left when it was meant to be right? There were other impacts on my life not caught on film, these are just moments caught in a box. The top photo I was twelve years old and had received "The Family of Man", a photo collection of humanity, from my cousin I met while in Disneyland. What is significant about this is that I remember the title fifty years later! How can that be? Curious?
The next photo I was seventeen and doing my laundry aboard the SS Ryndam, a passenger ship that sailed from Montreal, Canada to Rotterdam, Holland. That is when I ran away "the first time", dropping out of High School and off to seek adventure! The one way ticket (I didn't know when nor if I was returning!) cost $225 for the ten day voyage. Why is this exact price in my memory? I hitch hiked my way around Europe for six months on three dollars a day! Those were the days!

The next photo on the far right is me again, proud beyond belief because I had just won this
trip for my whole family to this magical kingdom! It is on this trip that I discovered an idea can be better than reality! This was 1958, a half Century ago and Disneyland was brand new and talked about everywhere! Fantacyland, Frontierland, Adventureland, and I think some kind of
Futureland! It was exciting and crowded and dirty and tiring!

These next two pictures probably had a more significant impact
on my life, more closely resemble "who I became". Me, hanging from the tree branch represents strength and I see myself that way. In my youth I would go back packing in the mountains with
a seventy pound load strapped to my back! I loved Alaska and my
fishing adventures there and arm wrestling with the local loggers!
A lot in life is just plain accidental, without design. I dropped out of High School but completed it and went on to the University, dropping out there as well but always going back. I was trained as a history teacher and did that until there were massive layoffs and I lost my job. I went into construction mostly because a friend of mine owned the company and hired me as a construction foreman!
I didn't know a damned thing about construction! "I am hiring you because you know about people", he said. So, that is how I got there, an accident, and I loved it. Mostly I loved looking back at the end of the day, seeing all the accomplishments and figuring out what to do tomorrow!

The photo on the far right, with the printing press, was one of the most significant things that has ever happened to me! This was 1963 and the height of the Vietnam War! A friend of my brother's
was drafted and gave me this printing press and all its supplies.
This was my introduction to poetry! Although small this was a real printing press with real ink and hand-set lead pieces of type.
It produced perfect products and in the process of learning you
begin by making calling cards. I made these for myself and all
of my friends and went on to create poems which were easy to
print and...said something! In twelve lines I could create a thought
and in sixteen lines I could tell a whole story!
This last photo is Alaska, an adventure I had while eighteen years
old. I had "done Europe" but wasn't ready to settle down and make "something of my life". There was just too much I hadn't seen! That summer I took a train to Seattle Washington and walked along the docks stopping at every fishing boat, asking for a ride to Alaska! One captain had his deckhand for the summer but offered me a ride if I would paint the rails and take my turn at the helm? I didn't even know what that meant but happily hopped on board and three days later was caught in an adventure I will never forget! This was a fifty foot fishing boat and this trip to Alaska took about six days. The captain would teach me how to run it and soon enough I would get my own two hour stint while he took a nap. The captain took the tricky passages through the little channels amongst the hundreds of islands between Seattle and Alaska. His deck hand was experienced and got the second hardest routes
and when we hit the open seas where it was supposed to be safe it became my turn. The third day out in these open waters we hit a storm and the waves crashed over the boat something fierce! The captain and his deckhand became seriously seasick and spent this time rolling about the cabin floor and the boat became mine! I don't get sea sick, so on this trip, "the worst" the captain said, with six hours training, I was alone at the helm! You don't have any time to think yet thinking is all you do, or just reacting to the wheel, trying to keep the boat upright and turned straight into the waves. This was a real roller coaster ride and way better than Disneyland!
If I screwed it up we would be dead. That is a pretty cut and dried assignment. No C+ to it,
you do it right or you fail, simple as that!


Barbra Joan said...

Jerry, great photos, wonderful adventure and thanks for sharing it with us. but when do you become the "artist"? Is this to be continued?

stonepost said...

yes, "to be continued"! I am trying to figure that out.

rama said...

Beautifully written Jerry, you are an accomplished writer too. You took so many risks not knowing where it was going to lead you. This is what is called " Serendipity": and I like it very much.
Please compile everything properly and when you are done make it into a book. All the best my dear friend.

Ruby said...

Great adventures and great times to remember.
I think we had it easy then, with brawn, brain and determination we could and did accomplish many things.
Obtaining a job at something you had never done was easy; I remember telling a prospective employer "I know I can"; even though I hadn't before and got the job.
Today with all the degrees in hand jobs are not so easy; perhaps today's youth lack the "I can"!
Looking forward to more of your stories.