Sitting on the Metro in D.C. yesterday, I noticed that nobody on the train made eye-contact with anybody else. Nobody paid attention to the others. Nobody struck up a conversation. Nobody smiled.
And yet, there we were, only inches from each other, in a drab, cold, dirty environment – sharing the same breathing space, passing through each other’s lives for those few moments shared in time.
Of course, the argument could be made, that people are obnoxious, rude, cold, unfriendly, etc.
To me though, it seems that people are afraid – afraid of each other, afraid to smile, afraid to connect, afraid to step out of the comfort zone, afraid that maybe the other person might not smile back, might scowl at being engaged in a conversation, or and interaction of any kind.
Each in their own world. Each world lived in that same cold, dirty, bouncy tube running through tunnels of concrete.
A very sad, and very lonely world.
The whole ride, I was imagining the interior of the train transformed by happy colors – a beautiful sky painted on the ceiling. The handrails decorated with polka-dots and happy colors. The carpets replaced by something resembling a field of flowers. Happy music playing. The gaudy neon lights replaced with warm daylight bulbs. The cars clean, and fresh smelling. And the people, happy to ride home to their loved ones, carrying on conversations about their days at the jobs they love, or with people they enjoy being around.
Smiling at each other. Caring about the one girl that sits there all alone with a sad look on her face. Caring about the two girls from “The Hood”, whose parents obviously don’t care to know where they are or what they are doing. Caring about the young yuppie professional, with the new wedding band on his finger, and his new laptop case on his shoulder, with a nervous look on his face.
We have become so accustomed to being afraid of each other, that we have forgotten very much how much alike we are with all our fears, our concerns, and our lives in general.
It’s time to make a difference – act different – Dare to be Different!
Smile at someone.
Talk with someone.
Care about someone.
The world is never changed for the better when we don’t make the effort to make it better, each individual in their own living space.
So – put on your superhero cape, don the mask, and go fly!
You might be the only person that has smiled at that other person for the past few weeks. You might be surprised at what this does for them – and you!
The West Side Of This Country Is My Favorite Place To Be – Here My Top Ten Reasons Why:
The Sky: whether dark and gloomy, bright and sunny, stormy or cloudy – usually all of the above at once. One thing is sure: it reminds you how small and insignificant one person can be.
The grasslands: The prairie part of the US might seem boring – mainly because it is so vast. But looking closer, you begin to notice details: Pronghorn antelopes with their offspring. Fields of sunflowers bobbing in the wind. An old homestead up on the hill, surrounded by big, wind-torn trees. Miles and miles of fences. A few random cows sprinkled amongst the wavy grass patches of all shades of green.
If you ever feel claustrophobic – this place is the antidote for you.
The Water: Life-force of everthing, water plays a center-stage role in everything out west. Reservoirs for keeping huge metropolitan cities green, or puddles for the cows to slurp out of on hot summer days. My favorite feature of any watery spot out west: it reflects the sky (see 1. above)
The People: nowhere else in the USA will you find this mix of outdoorsy, politically interested, technology oriented, healthy living, open-minded people from all around the world – seemingly all getting along quite well. And, colorful people they are, too…I love just talking with people at the next table – always something to learn or share (yes, people elsewhere are lovely as well – but out West has my heart)…
The Food: yes, twice. Try Rock Inn in Estes Park, Colorado.Or the Thai Kitchen. Yep, you are welcome again.
The Mountains: You knew this already. But did you realize THIS is what you have been missing:
The Wildlife: Encounters of the wild sort seem to be the daily standard:
The Festivals: the West does it best. People come to support whatever the cultural events can throw at them. Great fun!
It Is Home: After spending 12 years in the Frontrange of Colorado, and after being gone for just as long, it still feels like home to me.
Inspiring, uplifting, and sunny skies – it makes a pretty good case for being out West at least once a year with my Sheep Incognito flock….
As an artist, downtime rarely happens at all – whether we are driving on days between shows, or printing between shows at home, or getting set up for the next show, we hardly ever just sit and contemplate what we might want to be doing with our time.
So what DO we do when we aren’t working?
But, because work is fun, it has become not only work, but a hobby, a life-style, and the things we love to do most. We usually will walk along the beach looking for findings for jewelry creations. Or look around the desert for some cool rocks to wire-wrap or include in a new mixed-media piece of art. Or we will be looking at other artists’ websites to see how other artists create. Or, we are watching inspiring movies that usually spark new ideas.
It has become a lifestyle to see the little unseen things in the world. A little girl pitching a fit outside our booth becomes a little grumpy flowerfairy from the woodlands. The sunset becomes the color palette for a new landscape painting. The store we are visiting to purchase a clothing item becomes the inspiration for a new texture we want to add to some paintings…so while yes, we will occasionally sit on our behinds, we draw inspiration from everything life surrounds us with.
Happy things that make us smile. Stupid people that make us cringe. Stories that make us laugh. Clothing that transforms the wearing one. All are now part of what makes our downtime into worktime – we never clock out.
Which is why we love being artists.
Every now and then, life has a way of reminding you that little things do, in fact matter.
Things your mom would tell you to “Never Mind” or “Get Over it”. Things like the salt in the shaker going solid so nothing comes out.
The bread you had in the oven for dinner being slightly burnt, because you took the time to watch a quick youtube funny with your teenager.
Or, best example: hotel sheets that don’t fit the bed.
To an outsider mundane, irrelevant occurrences.
The sheet thing – it’s a thing.
When you are forced to join the “carnies” of the art world – the art show road warriors – you get a whole different perspective of what the real “art world” is like for thousands of american artists.
Did you know, that quite a few of these people come to the art festivals from hundreds of miles away?
Did you know that they often have to set up their tents and displays either late at night or before dawn the day of the festival?
Did you know that many of them sleep in their van or even their little cars to save on hotel costs?
Did you know most of them eat snacks all day, because they can’t leave their booth to go get food – or, if they do, the food choices might be limited to fair food like funnelcakes or chicken on a stick. For every day of the festival. At $7-$15 a meal.
Did you know that most of those sleeping in their vehicles don’t get to shower after a long day of set up, show times in the sun, talking with people all day, and the going to sleep in their overheated cars?
Did you know that booth spaces at art shows cost between $100 and $1200 to rent at the art festivals?
Did you know that often the only bathrooms available to artists are the portapotties at the festival? Did you know that often there isn’t even water to wash hands afterwards?
Did you know that artist often get robbed, at shows, with security present?
My car was broken into twice in four days, with important paperwork two gps systems stolen from it a few years ago. Another time, a lady tried walking off with the money from four shows in my computer bag – she opened the car door and tried walking away with it, while I was loading the trunk.
This, at a show in one of America’s wealthiest towns.
It explains why so many of us artists have vans or rv’s or even tents to sleep in while we are on the road. And canisters of water and hand sanitizer.
This past weekend I joined the ranks of the “nomadic tent dwelling artist” species – the rv was being difficult again, so I opted to avoid paying $129 per night at the only hotel in walking distance of the show, and bring a small tent along instead.
Camping on the grounds was $40 for the weekend.
Only, I grabbed the wrong one from home – it was the smallest we had, but it also turned out to be the one with the shattered tent poles, and apparently also the one tent some cat or tge other had decided to use for a marking spot.
This I found out after a long drive here, a long setup of booth, and a scuttle to fix the broken tent poles with a branch and some duct tape.
Did you know that duct tape fixes a multitude of things, but it does not remove the smell of cat pee? I learned a lot this weekend.
At night, i also learned that I am highly allergic to something in the grass or the tent I was sleeping in – breathing problems at night in a field in a tent that smells like a litterbox after a long day don’t make the art world look more attractive.
So – three nights of that situation got me through the art festival (which, it turned out was more of a craft festival instead). After the show ended, i decided to splurge on a hotel room – a clean soft bed, with a clean shower, and free breakfast within walking distance sounded great.
The price, I was told: $166 for the night, but, special discounted rate is $99.
Usually, my max for hotels is $89 per night – higher than that, and the car becomes a viable option for sleeping in.
But – with no other hotels to choose from and the lobby looked clean and comfy, I got a room.
Everything looked tidy – towels and bathroom clean.
The shower felt great.
But the sheets!
Not the crisp, white, tightly tucked sheets of a $99/night hotel, but the $35/per night “you will get mugged, raped and hacked into pieces if you sleep in this motel” kind of sheets. The pillows: flattened pieces of old quilt batting or possibly up-cycled chair cushions from a hundred year old church pew (it was hard to tell – almost got a concussion when flopping onto the pillow).
The blankets: half unraveled,musty smelling objects (not unrelated to the smell in my tent, with the additional “flavor” of old nicotine).
Not tucked in sheets. Not cotton sheets.Not fitted sheets. But a flimsy, somewhat polyester type flat sheet that attempted to cover the mattress and the protruding very worn yellow foam mattress pad.
No matter how careful you lay down on that kind of thing, you will find yourself engulfed in a twist of sheets, blankets, unsavory bedspreads, and nicotine smell.
Keep you awake all night, regardless of your level of exhaustion.
It is most certainly not the ingredient for resting up after fighting the war for survival for three days…
$99 for a night like that – Did you know that a halfway decent sheet set with a fitted sheet can be purchased for around $40?
– if you are in the hotel business: the sheets matter. A lot. Get good ones, or charge only what your bedding is worth.
– if you are an art festival goer: your purchase of someone’s artwork matters. A Lot. It might just pay for a fitted sheet, or just a flushing toilet for the artist for a night. But it matters.
– if you are a show promoter or organizer: charging the artist $40 extra for a booth fee or electrical service, without providing humane sanitary conditions for the artists to work in, matters.
– if you are a city hosting an art fair and you decide to charge $100 parking fees from the artists that are already paying hundreds just to be there – please give the hotels a tax break so they can put that money towards good sheets on their beds.