Views From Kennewick

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Endings and Beginnings

Just after moving to Kennewick, my business partner Josh and I decided to open an art gallery. The Bad Art Gallery was well received here, and we've had a lot of fun with it. But it's time to move on. We'll still keep the large format printer and continue that part of the business.

But today, the walls have no art on them. The furniture is mostly moved out. Holes are spackled. The Click-Rail hanging system is down. Since we still have some print orders pending, the printer and components will stay put till the last day of January.

We started this venture primarily as a store front for the printing business. To help with the rent we decided to rent wall space to artists who needed a venue to display and sell their art.

Unfortunately, Kennewick in general isn't a very artsy community, though there are many fine artists here.

Nearly every day, we'd spy someone driving down the street, they'd see our sign, the unmistakeable Mona Lisa with big yellow sunglasses. A double or triple-take and the driver turned around in the middle of the street, park, and come in. "I just HAD to see what Bad Art is!" was the most common statement.

Some would ask where the bad art was. Some would say "you've got that name right!" Art is nothing if not subjective.

Most of the artists came to us, and asked if they could hang their work. Our postman told us his brother was a talented artist, and indeed he is. I asked him if he'd like to display his art in our gallery. He declined, stating that the name Bad Art Gallery would look terrible on his resume.

I bit my tongue and refrained from telling him no one in their right mind in the art industry, looks at an artists resume. It just doesn't happen. A bio is usually all that's required. It's the occasional gallery that asks for a resume, and slides, and 20 pieces of framed art, but they'll only show eight to ten then take 50% commission on each piece.

He passed on the gallery, and we passed on him too. All works out the way it's intended.

Today, the gallery's almost empty. We still had people coming in for printing, even though it was obvious we are moving out.

We've reproduced and restored ancient photographs. The subject matter anything from relatives to photos of old homes. That won't change, just the location changes.

I'll miss the camaraderie of artists on a daily basis, but I can always visit D.S. Watkins Gallery and my friend Debra, or Michael Rastovich at Wintergrass, and Brooke and Michael at You and I Framing. I can always call C. King Dietrich and have coffee with him.

On the other hand, now I can enjoy Art Walk with the other folks. That'd be a nice and welcome change.

I can't imagine not seeing downtown Kennewick every day. So, probably I'll be a frequent visitor to the Roxy when Ann gets her coffee shop up and running.

The Bad Art experience is ending, yet there is never a shortage of bad art. The new venture is just beginning and with each day, excitement, and happy expectation grows. My gratitude list grows daily.

What will I miss the most about the gallery? It's not the art, or the printing, or the income.

Last week a woman and her father came in. He was charming, had lived here all his life, and told me stories about growing up in Kennewick. He remembered riding in his parents buggy across the Columbia River when it was frozen over, before the bridges were built.

He saw a print of a photo of downtown Kennewick, and remembered people and places of business that have long since passed. His memories are rich and full.

I finally asked his age, he is almost 92, but didn't look 70. He took his cap off and showed me a full head of white hair. He's very proud of that hair, and should be.

That's what I'll miss, the people that come in and stay a while, visiting and telling stories about Kennewick in the old days.

It's been an honor and a privilege to hear these stories, history in a moment of time.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Soldier Son

My youngest son is in the Army serving in Kuwait. I couldn't be more proud of him. Half the time I feel like a mama hen with her chest all puffed out. Of course, this embarrasses him.

Oh well, it's my job afterall.

He should know by now one must have a sense of humor, and use guilt tactics well to be a parent.

He emailed me about this post a little while ago, and suggested I let loose on my political views...with the added note to not sound like Ann Coulter. Ha! As if...

A couple of years ago, shortly after finishing high school, JR asked me where his birth certificate was. I told him, he grabbed it, said "thanks" and rushed out the door. About 2 minutes later, my older son TR said, "oh hey, Mom...JR just went to join the Army."

Let me tell you this old lady was beatin' feet running out the door trying to catch the kid. He was long gone. I couldn't believe it, I thought he was nuts. We are after all, at war.

He came home later...much later. By then I was almost used to the idea. He had that look on his face he gets when he's done something he's really proud of.

My argument was effectively toast. (Don't tell him, but I was proud of him too.)

He worked out with his recruiter. We called a physical therapist I knew to help him with his knee problems. He worked out more. And one day he sat down to tell me what his job was.

I'm amazed I didn't faint on the spot.

Without going into details, he's in a "stealth unit". This was somewhat comforting until he came home after seeing a video of his new job.

So tell me about it, I said.

"Well, the video shows all these guys in a Humvee with their gear on and weapons and stuff..."

"Yeah?" I said.

"Yeah...and then out of nowhere pops up a buncha guys aiming weapons at the guys in the Humvee."

"Yeah????" I said.

"Yeah, Mom. I'm one of the guys that pops up!"

Someone give me a valium, please. Or so was my thought at the time. Not long after, we took the boy to Phoenix, and he was formally inducted.

The induction was amazing. He stood tall, strong, determined. He repeated the oath word for word, and didn't leave "God" out. When it was over, we had a few minutes with him, then he was taken to the airport to fly to Ft. Knox.

The calls home and emails were infrequent, but I expected that. Then the day came that he graduated. The whole family went. It was quite an event. But the great thing was that we got to take him home for a while afterwards.

He seemed to almost be a man then...just stepping over that invisible threshold.
It was wonderful to have him home, and his friends gathered at the house to surprise him with a huge party. It was just amazing. They're all great kids and they had a blast.

Too soon, it was time for him to ship out to Germany. At that point, he wasn't sure exactly where he'd be, but Germany was the first stop. I think he enjoyed it some, though he sure didn't care for the weather.

It seemed forever till he got to take leave. He flew to Tucson first, visited with friends, then came up to Kennewick (I don't think he's overly impressed) and stayed a few days. When he came off that plane, he came home to the same family that saw him graduate.

What we didn't realize till the moment we saw him was that he crossed that threshold. He's no longer my little boy...but he is one magnificent man.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wandering, Wondering, Enjoying the View

It's difficult. Trying to keep it all together, or partially together when all around you appears to be spinning out of control... in that wild exuberance we feel when a whole new world of possibilities opens up.

The mind churns out ideas a tape recorder couldn't possibly keep up with. Ideas at the speed of sound. Trying to grab onto them is nearly impossible, at the same time, you can't help but keep a huge grin on your face as you see the possibilities bear fruit.

Considering the above, this post will make absolutely no sense, but stick with me for a while and read on...

I'd planned to write a bit more about Kennewick, but got to thinking today of books, and writers and who I enjoyed reading the most. Before the internet came into my life, I read up to 5 books a week. I could not get enough. I'd read anything I could get my hands on. Sadly, very little of it has stuck in my mind.

Let's hope it's not some gawd-awful brain thing.

My all time favorite writer is someone you've probably never heard of. Lewis Grizzard. Marvelous writer that could make you laugh till you nearly wet your pants, and take you to tears in the same paragraph.

I highly recommend "Elvis is Dead, and I Don't Feel So Good Myself"...if you can find it. Sadly, many of his books are out of print. If you're so lucky as to get your hands on a copy, do NOT lend it out, you'll never see it again. I loved his writing so much I bought a few extra copies to "share." They shared allright, where they ended up I'm not sure, but they probably brought many people into Grizzardom.

Truth be known, I wanted to marry Grizzard, even though I was already married.

When I moved from Austin to Tucson, to my dismay, the Tucson paper didn't carry Grizzard's column!! HORRORS! I called, I begged, I pleaded with the paper to carry his column. My plea fell on deaf ears. They never did pick it up. In desperation, I called my mother, and for about a year, she sent me his columns every week.

I treasured them. I worked at the hospital and put them up for the other nurses to enjoy. Sometimes I'd spot surgeons reading, chuckling, rubbing chins in quiet contemplation. The staff would talk about the latest column, it was a pleasant diversion from heavy responsibility.

It became a welcome respite and ritual. We loved it when Grizzard talked about his black lab, Catfish. Grizzard had that fine Southern charm and quick Yankee wit all rolled into one fabulous writer. You can't help but laugh at a dog named Catfish.

One quiet night, just after I put up the latest column, the Charge Nurse looked at me oddly. She leaned over and said, "He died today." I thought she was talking about a certain patient. But she wasn't. Lewis Grizzard darn fine writer and owner of a dog named Catfish, died earlier in the day, complications of a heart transplant.

And so it goes.

Like Kennedy, Elvis, Princess Diana, your parents, or friends. People you never knew, but you'll always remember, and your heart becomes a little bit smaller. But when you think of them, you think of those beautiful memories. The words that inspire. Words that made you laugh, love, enjoy...and for their part in your life, overflows the wellspring of gratitude.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Life Is Very Good Indeed

Kennewick's been very good to me. If you've never been to Kennewick, I wouldn't be surprised, but drop on by for a visit any time you can make it.

Shortly after moving here, my business partner (I dragged him up here from the sunshine in Tucson--he hasn't quite gotten over that yet) and I opened a small art gallery.

The Bad Art Gallery opened for business January 3, 2005, and as it happened, it was a few days before First Thursday Art Walk. The first piece of art that hung, was an 8x10 tissue paper and ink collage of a funky little yellow house. Josh, my sun-loving business partner picked it up in Tucson for a whopping $5 at Casa de los Ninos.

For the first days as we were moving in, The Little Yellow House was the only piece hanging. Oddly enough, everyone loved it, as bad as it was. Even the frame was bad, a document frame, but no wire, just old string.

Since we didn't have a stable of artists yet, we hung our own artwork on the walls, and of course, the Little Yellow House was displayed prominently. As a joke, Josh put a price tag on it of $50.00 simply because he knew it wouldn't sell.

At last, it was Thursday, my good friend and co-worker Cindy McKay and her partner set up and played 8 string guitar, the snow started to fall, and people, tons of them came through our doors. The other 3 galleries down the street directed Art Walkers to us.

And they kept coming! The wine, munchies, and cookies were wiped out in less than an hour.

Then...this adorable couple came in. The lady looked around for a couple of moments, and her eyes riveted on the Little Yellow House. I looked over at Josh and his eyeballs 'bout popped out of his head, she had it in her hands and by golly, she bought it!

I've never seen a grown man hold back tears so hard. He sure loved that little yellow house.

Later, when the UPS lady learned we'd sold it before she could buy it, she almost cried too....not me, I laughed all the way to the bank.

Cindy's beautiful voice carried the evening, set the mood, and entranced all who came through the doors.

By closing time, the flakes of snow were falling thick and fast, everything was coated in that quiet hush of first snow. As Cindy packed her guitar, we spoke for a few moments, watching the snow fall. I remember telling her, "Snoflakes are all the human tears shed from the beginning of time, crystallized and transformed into the beauty that is winter"

Gooey stuff to be sure...but it fit.

P.S. Josh still misses the Little Yellow House. So did the UPS lady, but, we made her a print, framed it, and gave it to her. We still get really good service.


Monday, January 23, 2006

The View From Here

I have to admit, I'm spoiled rotten. By some fluke I moved from the low desert of Tucson, with it's magnificent flora, and ended up in the high desert of Kennewick, Washington.

Surrounded by sage brush, hills and ravines (with yet more sagebrush--and tumbleweeds, lots and lots of tumbleweeds) the the towns that make up the Tri-Cities are green and lush, thanks to early settlers that realized irrigation was in order.

The Tri-Cities are pretty much divided by three rivers as well, the magnificent Columbia, the Snake, and the Yakima. From my deck, the view is of the Columbia, and the mouth of the Snake river. It takes my breath away each time I see it.

Of course that might be due to not having actually seen a river in 13 years.

Continually amazed, watching the mood of the river change from hour to entertainment. It's still hunting season here. Every time I see a gaggle of Canada geese, I quietly curse the hunters. It'll be over in a few days, season ends on January 31st. Not a momet too soon, in my opinion.

Some might think I have ten heads, but several times now, I've heard a lone goose criss crossing over the house, over the river, it's normal honk elongated pitifully...seeking its mate. Seems to me it should be illegal to kill anything that mates for life, but, that's just my opinion.

Graceful, elegant Canada geese abound in this area, filling the skies and fields. They fly at night, honking at each other, keeping in touch. You might hear several gaggles simultaneously.

A pair of great horned owls live nearby, we hear them occasionally. Magpies, blue herons with their other worldly voices, flickers, and ravens, an awesome array of birdlife flies by every day.

Oddly, a pair of Bald Eagles were at the river a few days ago, odd in that there aren't any tall trees for them to roost in nearby. I can't quite figure out where they live, but it's far past my house.

A huge covey of quail make the rounds, there's at least 50 of the goofy things.

Raccoons and skunks, and the occasional coyote come by at night...the skunks I could live without.
More than any other creature here in Kennewick, we have ........spiders!

They're everywhere. They are impossible to control. This is not the place to live if you're arachnophobic. Fortunately I'm not.

It's often windy here, if you've ever heard the term "prarie madness" I can tell you where that came from. It's not hard to imagine being a settler in the area, your man's gone goodness-knows-where, there's no civilization around, and you get to listen to wind...a lot. I can imagine with little to distract you, the wind would make you stark ravin' mad.

Funny thing about that wind...hundreds, maybe thousands of tumbleweeds invade the rivers. I'm not too sure where they end up, but it's almost like watching boat races, they sail right on by, headed East to Lake Walula, and the dam beyond. This river flows East past my house, then rounds the bend and heads South for a bit. But when that wind is howling, the whitecaps move West.

Perhaps the best view of all, is at night. The lights from Pasco glitter on the water, and when the moon rises, well, it could even make me a romantic.


Come, have a chat and a cuppa coffee.

The view is so very fine from here.