Friday, August 21, 2015

Thousand Yard Stare of the Blue Dog

I am not an art collector nor am I knowledgable in any way about art of any kind. But, long ago, in my teenage disenfranchised years, I discovered Andy Warhol and by extension,  I discovered Pop Art.

When I was in my late teens, I started reading about Andy and his factory superstars, most notably, Edie Sedgewick.  How I wished I could be a silver haired gamine with gigantic earrings and eyes like saucers.  But this was not to be, which might be okay as I also sidestepped the addiction to speed and the other less appealing elements of her "poor little rich girl" persona. My fascination with Edie eventually waned, but my love Andy's art remained.

The design elements of my home have never been very pop art friendly.  I have tended toward color schemes and furnishings that just don't mesh with the bold, primary color palate of most pop art. The exception to this rule being my den.

For years, my den has housed all of the boldly colored, poppy prints and fabrics that fit the Warhol aesthetic.  It has also housed a drum kit, PA columns, mixing board and mic stands, as the de facto home and practice space of my son's band.

Within the last year, with hectic work and college schedules, the band's practice and touring schedule have waned.  We felt that this was our cue to reclaim our den, redecorate and de-clutter.  A full gutting was in order as the floors, walls and furnishings had been punished beyond any reasonable expectation of service. Everything would go.  Everything except...the Blue Dog.

Back in the late 1990's, my husband and I discovered New Orleans.  One night, during a particularly satisfying dinner at K-Paul's, I teetered to the bathroom in the kind of semi-conscious stupor that can only be produced by copious amounts of good New Orleans food and cocktails, and I was struck in the heart by a painting of a blue dog on a yellow background.  The eyes of the dog were painted a glowing yellow, and its expression was one of bemused concern.  Poor little doggie, I thought, he needs a friend. This was my first encounter with the Blue Dog.

Subsequent visits to New Orleans and a little research revealed to me that the Blue Dog was about as ubiquitous in New Orleans as yellow cabs are in New York City.  I learned that the Blue Dog was based on the legend of the loup garou, a demon wolf dog who supposedly prowled the swamps of Louisiana, waiting to pounce on naughty children.  But George Rodrigue had changed the face of the loup garou and morphed it into a friendly dog with a look in his eyes that to me, conveyed a confusion with life.  He seemed to be puzzled by it all and a little worried.  This was an emotion that I could relate

When hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in September of 2005, we had been in the planning process to make another trip to New Orleans in early December.  We were heartbroken for the people of New Orleans and wanted to help in some way.   We took to the internet and searched to see if Rodrigue's studio was in tact (it was, but lacked the infrastructure to operate for a while), and to see what relief efforts were out there that we could contribute to.  In his own quest to help the relief effort, he offered signed prints of a special painting called "We will rise again" in conjunction with a donation to the Red Cross.  The purchase of this painting was a no-brainer for me.  In lieu of a trip to New Orleans, we bought a print.

When my Blue Dog arrived, I went to a framing store and had it set in a colorful red and orange, wood frame.  When I told my husband about the color choice, he looked at me like I had lost my mind, but I knew I was right, and I was. Evidence below. So there.

The remodel of our den took a very mod almost Mad Men-like cocktail culture kind of look.  With a grey flannel couch and soft grey walls, adding colorful accents was key.  And while I was able to keep the Blue Dog in his place of honor above the couch, the sparse, modern furnishings made him look lonely and even sadder than he had always been.  He needed friends.

I scoured the stores and internet for pop-art doggie prints that would help bolster my sad little Blue Dog, but none of the pictures I found were soulful enough to match the Blue Dog's intensity.  He needed pals that had longing in their eyes, that understood that people and the world are effed up and need to get in touch with their kinder side.  I realized that such soulful pups were right under my feet. Literally, under my feet.

My sad little Blue Dog will always have a mournful gaze as Hurricaine Katrina is not easily forgotten. But now he has two pals named Brownie and Buzz, who share his bemusement with the world and want it to be a better, kinder place.  The trio and their matching thousand yard stares, say it all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Dusting off a Moldy Oldie

I was poking around my draft folder and I found this unpublished post from 2010.  Given the paucity of my postings these days, I am going to post it.

This was written on the the plane during my first trip to Italy, six years ago.  The most amazing thing to me about this post is that I had no idea what I was in for.  I had no idea that Italy would strike my heart with Cupid's biggest arrow and that I would do everything in my power over the ensuing six years to return to my great love. Hah. Newbie.

AUGUST 16, 2010 - I took a long lunch the other day and went to the AAA office to get an extra pack of Euros for my journey abroad. While I stood on line, so many things went through my head. I thought about how travel is the greatest privilege that we can possibly enjoy. How traveling anywhere at all is so fascinating and exciting to me that I feel I might explode with happiness. As I waited for my Euros, that happy feeling was off the charts.

This was a first for me. Despite a searing case of wanderlust, I had never been out of the country before. Well, that’s not exactly true. I’d been to the Caribbean and to Canada, but that was all before a passport was required. So when I shuffled into the Post Office with my passport application at the ripe old age of 45, I definitely felt a little . . .behind the curve.

I can’t remember a time in my adult life that I did not have a strong desire to travel to Europe. During my 1980’s, post punk, purple hair phase, I desperately wanted to go to London. The fashion, the music and the nightlife were a very strong pull for me. At the time I was a 19 year old hairdresser without a penny to my name. I could barely afford to cover the insurance on my car. The car itself was a perfect reflection of my financial situation – rotten and in a downward spiral of deterioration. It was a maroon, 1976 Plymouth Duster with so much body rust that I could see the road spinning by under my feet like the wheels of a slot machine. The only good thing about that was that when it stalled, and it stalled a lot, I always had the option to put my feet down and power it Fred Flintstone style.

Ever since I was a teenager, I have loved to cook. When I got into my 20’s I started getting more serious about it. I voraciously read every cookbook that I could get my hands on and watched all the cooking shows on Public Television. Once in my late 20’s and early 30’s, the Internet had been born as had the Food Network, further fueling my decade of culinary awakening. All of that research made me yearn to go to France. I wanted to drink wine at a cafĂ© near the Eiffel Tower, to eat a crunchy, flaky, perfectly prepared croissant, to learn about French cheeses. Even though I had a much better job and had gotten married, the demands of my job, my schooling and our money pit of a house popped a hole in my French daydreams.

All throughout this time in my life, my father was visiting Europe every couple of years. Most of his trips were focused on Italy or included Italy in some way. With each trip, it was clear that the place that he felt the most connected to was Italy. He would come back with stories of its beauty, its history, its wine and food and even of finding long lost cousins. Eventually, through his stories, I no longer wanted to see Europe, I craved, desired and burned to go to Italy.

This evening, the wheels went up on an A330 Airbus bound for Fiumicino airport in Rome, and amazingly to me, I'm on it. As I write this, my son is in the seat next to me, my husband and daughter are one row back. I don't know what the next two weeks will bring, but I do know that other than a rent a car and our accommodations, there are no concrete plans and interestingly enough, no fear of any kind. We have made an agreement to take this trip on Louis and Clark style, minus Sacajawea. We will be our own guides.

Yes, I was a 45 year old passport virgin. Yes, it’s going to be as hot as the devil’s testes in Rome in August. No, I don’t speak a word of Italian. But I have waited for this trip for so long that no amount of humiliation, sweat or linguistic frustration is going to hold me back. I’m coming for you fair Italia and you’d better be ready ‘cause imma make it count.

Postscript (8/10/15): And I did.