Late Morning Latte
Early this morning NASA satellites detected a explosion on the far side of the moon. The anomaly was observed in St. Petersburg and Minsk and other areas along the 30th parallel. While scientists have not yet determined the explosion's origin they suspect a meteorite from the Asteroid Belt struck the surface. Steven Haggle of the Earth and Science Institute said that while this meteorite strike did catch them off guard, it was an extremely rare occurrence and poses no threat to the Earth. This is Carl Kasell with NPR News.
Bud leaned back in his chair. Switched his portable radio off. He had stopped listening to the news and was daydreaming about a cross country road trip. He would head east first, toward Washington DC, hang around the Smithsonian for a few days, then go north, maybe go up to Westchester Massachusetts, to visit the Museum of Work and Culture. The Volvo station wagon had been at the mechanics for the past month, triggering Bud's wander-lust daydream. A sudden sneeze brought Bud back into the moment, he cleared his throat and wiped his nose on a cocktail napkin, then took another sip of his latte.
Mokabe's Coffee House sat at the corner of Grand and Arsenal. It was a two block walk from Bud's house on the edge of the South Grand Business District, an self sufficient area containing all the businesses one needed to survive within walking distance, especially if you liked Vietnamese food. After reading the paper and a few half hearted attempts to write poetry, he came here to take a break, sit out at one of the outdoor tables facing Tower Grove Park, listen to NPR and drink coffee.
Across the street Bud watched a female Bike Patrol Officer ride down a path into the wooded area of the park. He thought it was odd how she passed him almost every day and never seemed to notice him. Once his car was broken down in the center of Grand Avenue. Before he was able to get it restarted, she road by twice without ever looking. Was he beginning to have a crush?
The sun was out and Bud laid his coat on the chair next to him. It was warm for a December morning. Just around the corner the Commerce Bank sign gave the temperature as 51 degrees which meant in reality it was forty-five or forty-four, a little oddity local residents knew to calculate for. It also meant the time was 10:05 not 10:10.
Bud took a lot of breaks. They were a catalyst for his creative technique, he might say. His premise was simple: after sitting down to relax, drink some coffee and smoke a cigarette, new ideas would come to him. In truth the value of his reflective relaxation only satisfied a nicotine fix. The breaks more resembled the period at the end of a sentence. On a good day he might write a lot of sentences, but today would probably be a day of ellipsis.
With his cigarette out and his writing book open he focused on overcoming his writer's block. Bud knew exactly what he wanted to write about, it was the specific words that got in his way. The words were elusive, as if English was his second language and he was an inept translator.
Bud never meant to become a poet and to most grammatical sensibilities, he wasn't. He was an artist, who had just got his first major break, accepted in St. Louis' most prestigious gallery. He could rationalize that for the past ten years he had been down on his knees struggling alongside the other starving artists. His artwork had been rejected from many shows. Often he wasn't able to afford the artist material he needed. He had to cancel the cable T.V. and let his subscription to Scientific American lapse. He could only afford the most basic Health insurance. He shaved his head. He knew all this wasn't much of an ordeal, and except for the periods of depression, thoughts of suicide and half hearted attempts at self-destruction, he wouldn't have changed a thing. He was a fortunate person, because he was doing exactly what he wanted to do.
The poems were transcribed across the surfaces of his artwork. Failure of communication was an important theme in Bud's life. Words only symbols, and in his experience, often misunderstood, reinterpreted, twisted into the shape of a sickle and driven into his back.
Bud grew up having his words misunderstood. He had a speech impediment. He consistently failed all spelling exams. He could barely read out loud and he was shy. Over the years he learned most appearances of awkwardness could be avoided by keeping his mouth shout.
Bud's artwork involved forming vessels, some were large and round bottles with an opening on top that leaned to one side, others were similar to the shape of a shofar: A musical instrument made from rams horn. They were painted usually in earth tones, multiple layers of paint to create an organic look. Some thought they looked a lot like gourds or an eggplant. The vessels were illustrated, with short stories, parables, poems written across the surface. The writing was anillegible script or even written backwards so the words were thought to be mysterious or secret. Dirt, aging varnish, crackling varnish and shoe polish topped the vessel's surface a final touch, given them the appearance relics of past generations that historians tried to decipher. Bud wanted their mysteries to be as unattainable as his own. A testament to everyone's inner life. The life they struggle so hard to show the people they care about, but always fail to expose. Failure of communication.
It was a pretty good idea, friends thought they looked cool. Jurors started placing them into shows. Everyone Bud talked to seem to like them and think he was on to something, he even had one young women at a opening come up to shake his hand, "I just wanted to shake the hand of an artist that will be famous some day." That made Bud feel good, until he realized that maybe he should have asked her for her number.
His one dilemma was no matter how intentionally abstract he was, people kept trying to read his stories. He'd watch someone walk circles around the text, knowing there was no way they could read it, but their lips still moved. They wanted him to communicate with them. Since he did spend a lot of time composing what he placed on the vessels why shouldn't he make them possible to read. It wasn't like that would change anything.
It did take a lot more time, there was the editing and the re-editing and writing legibly on a stone surface took more effort. But in his mind the more time he spent on a work of art the more credibility he had as a artist. He was somewhat insecure about being regarded as amateurish or a fraud. His schooling wasn't in studio art nor creative writing. Bud was the lost student type, jumping from major to major, until cornered into a decision. He graduated and got a job waiting tables, it seemed he might never decide what he wanted to do. So to fill his free time he made art. First, crude surrealist paintings. Then clay vases. The vases had a tribal feel to them. A tribal offering to be sacrificed along side the virgin. First he used coil construction, learning from his mother who taught art. He move on to slab fabrication. These were larger and more adventurous. He started making drawings of the vases he planned to make. To liven up the drawings he would add a floral pattern or a naked woman. He write short poems to the side. His drawings started to take the appearance of old book illustrations and etchings. So he took a couple semester of printmaking and drawing courses at Pope Pius University.
Over the years he got to the point were he could make exactly what he envisioned. Lacking the academic credentials to call himself a artist or writer, he spend sixty to seventy hours on each vessel, so even if he failed in his literary endeavors, and his techniques seemed a bit primitive, no critic could say he didn't put a great deal of time and thought into each piece. Nor could they fail to notice that they were unique. Not that they possessed any revolutionary, nor experimental breakthroughs. They were just something a bit different. Odd.
"Gothic School," Bud wrote on his yellow legal pad. He underlined the two words. This was the title, which he underlined several more times before he finally wrote, 'she is dead.' That was how he was going to start. He felt no need be exactly Clear what he was talking about, the themes were universal. Beauty and loss. She was beautiful and now she's gone. He wrote the first stanza.
She is dead
Bud graduated from Pope Pius University. The Campuses Central building was Dubourg Hall, a Collegiate Gothic structure built in 1883. Afternoons he'd sit in the court yard, under the large stone archways. Late at night after theater rehearsals he Practiced piano in the room just below were the boy whose story was the basis for the Exorcist had stayed. For a over a hundred years the interior was hardly touched. It was run down, the stain was cracking and the floors creaked, but you could still see the beauty in the craftsmanship. Buildings like this would never be built again. So when the administration decided to hide a good portion of the architectural detail, giving the interior the feel of a suburban shopping mall, Bud was upset. Once grand sixteen foot high ceilings were now fiberglass tile he could reach up and touch.
Bud was not a spiritual individual, he did not believe in ghosts, spirits or the supernatural, fate was what one made for himself. But despite his rationalist outlook Dubourg force him to pause and question the Universe. That was the power of the building. It made it easy to imagine the unknown. That's what Gothic architecture was supposed to do. It inspires the individual to greatness and higher ideas of learning and philosophy. The renovation had no inspiration.
Beauty and loss. Everyone has experienced both. We all struggle with their significance. He knew what he wanted to write. He just needed to do it. Write. Four more stanzas to fill the surface of the vessel. One hundred and fifty words atleast.
Bud picked up his empty glass and went inside Mokabe's to get another latte and a new napkin.