Shuffling through the ruins of a summer

In this scene, the main character stands on a busy sidewalk beside a slender tree. He looks down at the scattered ruins of a summer of expectations. “How should I have prepared for this?” he asks himself. “What do I do now?” He feels relief and that surprises him. This is a new beginning. A fresh start. Unlimited opportunities. However, this is also the first time in his adult life he is unemployed. And without an automobile. Adjusting the strap of his laptop attache, he walks up Lexington Avenue to catch a bus. The feeling of relief is quickly replaced with a deep, consuming despair. In this scene, the crowds of tourists walking down College Street talk loudly and trample the gathering leaves under their shoes as the main character weaves his way toward Pritchard Park. He doesn’t hear them, only hears the sound of his own boots on the sidewalk and wonders where will he be a year from now.

Ma Rainey, don’t sing them blues no more

There’s a story behind this image that wants to be told. It’s a reminder that seasons and people transition. Loyalty tested against the panes of transparency. Everything goes sideways when turning the corner and down the street of uncertainty, when faith and doubt pressed up against a steamy autumn window and all they see is loss. It’s a story still worrying the line. Still blue enough, blue enough, still bluer than Ma Rainey singing “Bo Weevil Blues.” It’s a story where the clarinet sweeps back and forth, sweeps low and easy, sweeps in a song looking for a place to stay, sweeps in a song saying “don’t sing them blues no more…” Don’t tell me ’bout the job you lost. Don’t tell me ’bout your broken down car. Ma Rainey, Ma Rainey, “don’t sing them blues no more…”

September 16, 2012: poetry at Malaprop’s

Writers at Home – Sept. 16th

This Sunday at the Malaprop’s cafe at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 16, join the following poets as they read from their recent books: Holly Iglesias (ANGLES OF APPROACH), Sebastian Matthews (MIRACLE DAY: MID-LIFE SONGS), and Katherine Soniat (THE SWING GIRL). More details here. Link.

Hidden in the closet

Hidden in an old portfolio

Something hides in the closet. Below the button down shirts and dress slacks for work, behind the winter wardrobe of sweaters, vests and jackets, and against the back wall is an old black leather portfolio with handles. Years ago it was a mandatory item for any and every graphic design student or young professional with goals of becoming an art director, illustrator or creative director. I pulled out the old portfolio and the oversized heavyweight document envelopes behind it and entered a gateway to another time and place.

Like time travel, I am back in the 1990s. There were three main portfolios I presented. One presentation was corporate, ad agency design samples. The kind of material that ranged from logo design, brand campaigns and the like. The second presentation was print design. That portfolio exhibited all manners of print designs from brochures, books, direct marketing collateral, magazine spreads, cover designs, etc. For presentations, I would rotate the design samples in the black leather portfolio based on the interview. Sometimes I presented a hybrid of both that included work that featured my copyrighting and marketing pieces. But the third portfolio was my favorite–the illustration portfolio.

Professors, peers and even my first art director advised it was the weakest of the three. The general critique was that technique needed improvement. So I kept working on improving technique and execution. A black cloth case bound sketch book always accompanied me almost everywhere I traveled. I’d sketch landscapes, still lifes, portraits and tried various techniques using pencils, Sharpie markers, charcoal, ink and watercolor. But soon I learned that I could earn more financially and find more consistent work with digital designs.

It is not that I abandoned illustration. A few years ago, a national news magazine featured one of my illustrations on the cover of its annual books issue. Earlier this year, another illustration was featured as a book cover design. Also this year, a few spot illustrations were published in a book.

As I look at these old illustrations and sketches, I see a younger, self-doubting me at a time before home computer, internet, or smartphone entered my life. Back in those days, the only entertainment devices I had was a stereo set with a five-CD player, a stack of maybe 30 audio CDs and a shelf full of books. Through the portal of this time capsule, I see the mistakes and accomplishments with a new perspective. Hidden away in that closet is a portfolio of dreams, aspirations and ideas that was slowly replaced with a portfolio of duty and responsibility. A thought occurs to me as I examine an unfinished sketch of a female portrait, did I focus on pursuing a career path rather than a vocation? Maybe that is a thought I should hide in the closet while I bring some of these illustrations into the daylight.

Peace Is a Flower: A Night of Poetry and Music

Peace is a flower – poetry and music

Tomorrow, 8:30 p.m. join James McKay, Laura Hope-Gill, Caleb Beissert, Pasckie Pascua, and Aaron Price at Battery Park Book Exchange & Champagne Bar, 1 Page Avenue, Asheville on SEPT 11, 8:30 to 11PM. This event is free to the public. Read poet and musician bios as well as other information on the Facebook events page. Link.

Yes, it is true

Instagram montage

Scenes from a story unfinished

A very observant reader and friend asked of this week’s post: “Is this story related to the teases from other photos?” Yes, they are all teasers for scenes from a narrative non-fiction book I’m writing. Some of the chapters have either been sent or are in the process of being sent to journals and magazines for publication. I am waiting on editors at this phase in the process.

For those who missed it, here’s the sequence so far: There is a story behind this photo, What hides behind this foggy morning photograph?Sisyphus tears down the mountain in a Chevy, and this week’s There’s a story… about double red doors….

There’s a story… about double red doors…


There’s a story I want to tell you about double red doors, but I can’t. Not yet. You see, the problem is that the story awaits an editor’s approval to publish. I can’t tell you which editor. I can’t tell you which publication. And I can’t post anything online without jeopardizing the publication of that story about her and an empty cup of liquid truffle and a vacant building with double red doors above a flight of steps and I may have said too much.