Category Archives: You Are Here

Getting Schooled

Kids teach me all the time.little kids pointing at art on the wall

A few weeks ago, I was in Ann Arbor for a long and challenging outdoor show. Business wasn’t going particularly well, and I started thinking about the indignities of “selling my work on the street”; a phrase I use when I’m feeling run down, sometimes with colorful variations on the vocabulary.

Why wasn’t I exhibiting in a more refined space? A gallery, where (in my fantasy) I stay home and make work, and someone else sells it and sends me a check? No fussing with the weather! No crowds! Wouldn’t that be great?!

Then I noticed a little boy, asking his mom to help him look at my book, Overlooked Undertakings. She started paging through it with him, first on the display table, then holding it lower so he could look closer, and finally sitting in the middle of my booth, like it was a living room. The middle of my booth, meaning “on the street”.

Why I'm on the street.

The boy and his sister (whose name was Audrey!) were blissfully absorbed. The rest of the world had disappeared, and they were deep into the fantasy worlds that the images evoked. They bubbled with chatter as they made up stories and explanations and what-ifs. They giggled and squirmed and crawled all over mom.

Ann Arbor fans!

“Ah!”, I thought, “This is why I’m here.”

 

If you want the fun of sharing my book with someone special, this is a great time to do it!  I’m offering a big discount on multiple copies, from now until sometime after school starts.

 

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Filed under On the move, Overlooked Undertakings, You Are Here

You are here!

I am tickled by the “You are Here” images that folks have been sending, in response to “Where?“!  Please keep them coming, and I’ll keep expanding this gallery. Here are a few from you, and a few from me!

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Filed under Artists, You Are Here

Keeping Score

Immediately after launching this blog, I set out on an actual, geographic journey with my 11 year old godson. We drove from Berkeley to Ashland, Oregon.  As we entered the third hour of the drive I started to regret that I hadn’t brought my Auto-Bingo.  My godson didn’t know what that was, so I explained that it is a game where you get points for noticing certain things along the road.  I’ve always liked that it turns common sights into precious treasures.

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So we invented our own game, and I highly recommend that you give it a try.  It is based on a board game called Tokaido, where players travel a path modeled on the East Sea Road of Japan, collecting points for experiences, encounters, purchases, offerings and visiting hot springs (yes!).

My godson and I decided to play collaboratively, rather than against each other (his great suggestion!) with the goal of collecting more than 50 points on the trip.  We started with the categories from the board game, then modified them and added our own.

Sundial Bridge, Redding CA

Inspired by a stop at the Calatrava Sundial Bridge in Redding, we decided to collect “Vista” points for every bridge that we crossed by foot.  That turned out to be a great choice, since Ashland’s Lithia Park is full of footbridges.  Crossing tiny rivulets became tremendously points-lucrative!

We got “Experience” points for trying new things.  He got one point for tasting Lithia water.  I got two for actually swallowing a mouthful.  We got points for a minor trespassing exploration of an old rail car in Yreka.

traintrespass2

We toyed with “Generosity” points for tipping buskers, holding doors, turning a purse in to the lost-and- found, and little acts of kindness.

We claimed “Oddity” points for inexplicable weird stuff we saw. Like a  6′ 4″ guy dressed as Frozen Yogurt.  And some freaky smiling mannequins.laughingManequin

But by far my favorite way to earn points was  “Encounters”.  We earned points for talking to people beyond immediate needs. We wouldn’t get points just for ordering at a coffee stand, but we did get points when we found out that the guy working at the stand was studying to be a nurse.  Our first great encounter was a man on the Sundial Bridge who knew a LOT about salmon, and told us what to look for and when.  There were vendors at a farmer’s market who told us all about their carnivorous plants, their mushroom vitality powders and their bees.   And a favorite encounter was a painter in the park who was painting an impressionistic view of a very, very green scene, using only blue paint.  When we asked him if he always painted in blue, he replied, “I sometimes paint in dragons” and then showed us his remarkable and elaborate gigantic canvases of colorful fantasy scenes, hanging in galleries.

I love that the game gave us an ongoing way to recognize our experience, and challenge ourselves to make it richer.  For instance, we said hello to the painter on our way into the park.  But we agreed that it was only a one-point encounter, and that if we wanted more points, we had to find out something about him, so we stopped and talked on the way back.

Since the trip, our scorecard gives us a way to remember things we did, and a reason to search our memories for anything that we might have left out; some little nugget that might push our score a little higher.

BlogTwoOnOne

What should you give yourself points for?

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Filed under Travel Games, You Are Here

I’m lost , can you show me the way to…

No matter where I travel, people ask me for directions.

I have never been sure if it is because I don’t look lost, or because I don’t look scary. Whatever the reason, people ask, and I usually can tell them. Either I know, or somewhere in the oversized bag I’m carrying, is a map, and I love to pull it out and get it oriented and set the stranger on course. Often in the process, I have learned about places that I would like to visit, and even sometimes found a travel companion.

It has occurred to me lately that this is one of the micro-interactions that is going extinct as our hand-held devices and talking cars tell us where to go. I know I can tend towards nostalgia, and I freely confess I love having google maps at my fingertips, but I can’t help feeling sad about losing the connections that are made when you ask someone for directions.  I once used old Berlitz phrase books as part of a theater script, and one of the great finds was that the phrase, “I’m lost, can you show me the way to….” was listed in the “dating” section, right next to “I believe you dropped this.”

Photo of Berlitz Phrasebookss

I love the different ways that people give directions. I spent a rainy night lost in Ireland, and every time I asked someone for the way, I got a story. “Well, follow this road ‘til you’re past McNerney’s farm, then turn right, just before you get to the bridge that washed out last year. Then don’t follow the signs, because some kids turned them around as a joke…” My companion and I stopped many times that night. We were exhausted by laughter by the time we checked in to our inn, and we knew much more about where we were than if we had been sure of our way.

Photo of road sign that reads "paradox".

You wondered where it was…

I think that the first map that I became familiar with was the Hundred Acre Wood. I would pore over it, on the front piece of my volume of Winnie-the-Pooh. It showed me the relation of one story to another, and gave an extra level of credibility and tangibility to Pooh’s stomping grounds. Much like my experience with Irish directions, the Hundred Acre Wood is mapped by experiences. This is where Roo plays. This is where Eyore mopes. This is what lies between.

Hundred Acre Wood

I’m going to use this blog to map my experiences, and try to figure out what connects and separates the different lands where I play and mope and think and create and connect.  I’ll map the terrain, the inhabitants, the climates and the boundaries.  I’m not sure exactly what form it will take, but I expect the expedition to be colorful!

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Where?

A Starting Point

An interviewer for Uncommon Goods asked me, “What quote keeps you motivated?”, and the question caught me off guard. I love words, I love a great turn of phrase, or a pithy bit of wisdom, but I didn’t have anything pinned to my wall or my bathroom mirror that I kept coming back to. I thought about great lines of poetry and philosophy that I could claim as my touchstone, but I couldn’t arrive at ONE that expressed the different forces that propel me.

Then I found it.

Not in a book of motivation, but in a bus shelter.

And then again at a park.

And in an airport.

And in a museum.

YouAreHereIC

If there is one thing I love more than a great phrase, it is a great phrase with a double meaning. “You are Here” is simultaneously a profound, imponderable truth of our metaphysical condition, and the most banal and specific description of our physical placement in space.

Both of these meanings get me oriented to my surroundings, and help move me in the direction of my planned destination.

Ever since I picked it, it appears in my world, unbidden, with stunning regularity. I like it more and more, because every time I see it now, I feel like it was put there just for me, as a reminder to stop and BE where I am. A reminder to orient myself. A reassurance that I am not in a completely void and uncharted land.

This blog, Scenic Turnouts, will map my creative travels for the next few months, while I take a sabbatical from going on the road for art fairs. I hope you will join me along the way, and expand my world. I’ll tell you where my “here” is, and perhaps you can share yours.

 Be Part of it!

The next time you come across “You are Here”, take a picture and send it to me with a little description of where it is, and any other details you’d like to share about what it makes you think, and I’ll post it!

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