Friday, June 25, 2010

The Hairy Potter

I am very glad that my parents allowed me to do creative things when I was a kid. Growing up in Toledo offered me a chance to take part in some great cultural events and programs. My parents knew that I had the artistic bent from the get-go and allowed me free reign with art supplies. At one point, my parents hooked me up with a local artist Virginia (her last name escapes me now) and we worked together in her studio while she designed a fountain for a local mall. It was very cool. My Dad’s business in its early years shared a building with a head shop/art gallery and I loved walking up the street to see my Dad and the artwork in the gallery. I remember a massive painting of a nude woman and where her breasts should have been were two massive light bulbs turned socket side out. I remember trips to the Toledo Museum of Art as a kid to see the mummy and all the other treasures therein. My heart still leaps when we drive down Monroe Street and the museum comes into view.

So, with a little trepidation and some internal cajoling, I committed to this year’s Kid’s College at JCC. My nickname, The Hairy Potter, became the theme and motivation for this annual week long art camp focused on 5th and 6th graders. In the past, I have ignored the true Harry Potter stuff, but this year we went crazy with the extras and created a pretty cool spot in the studio with flags, banners, some spooky props and silly house names. The area kids have only been out of school for a week, so we wanted to make this a fun place and space for them to chill out and have fun. I lived for this stuff when I was a kid and remember the hot and muggy afternoons spent at the junior high making stuff. It was fun to be out of school, but it was also fun to be back making art.

When I was in college, I received a work study grant to help out with the Museum’s Saturday kid’s art program. I became a little dizzy knowing that I would actually be teaching and helping out at the place that ignited my love of art. It was a thrilling moment to receive my official museum badge and to be able to go in through the back door instead of the main entrance. My art nerd was in full swing. There are a few of my students who help out each year and it is my hope that this week will inspire them and guide them in their path towards becoming a teacher. Sometimes the sublime moments are what get them, other times it’s the reality of just how much damage a group of tweeners can do to a room in three hours.

The schedule is rough this week, but we’re having fun. The kids are engaged, polite, and fun to be with. I am noticing that they are fearless when it comes to working on the potter’s wheel. My college students seem to hang back and want to immediately go for perfection while learning. Granted, they are doing it for a grade, but there is something to say for diving in full force and enjoying the experience and not necessarily going for a grade. Anna, in the musical “The King and I” had this to say about her profession:

It's a very ancient saying,

But a true and honest thought,

That if you become a teacher,

By your pupils you'll be taught.

There is much wisdom in those lines and I may take them to heart when I begin fall semester. Focus on the process and the craft and ignore the grade. Maybe we’ll see great things… but right now, the Hairy Potter has to go wedge some clay.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Don't smoke 'em if you've got 'em

Michigan’s smoking ban went into effect on May 1st and from what I can
tell, the world has not stopped. Oh sure, Touchdown Jesus bit it in a
freak storm, but for the most part, life has moved on with little
problem. I will admit that I am a former smoker, and we are the worst
when it comes to stuff like this, but with good reason. Smoking is a
very tough habit to break, and it is one that can be fought over and
over again until it is won. I was not alone in my excitement to have
the ban in place, as our notorious party animal friend Chuck said he
wanted to actually go bar hopping on the 1st to enjoy the bars smoke
free. Not sure if that ever happened, but rock on Chuckie!

When Anna was very young, I met up with a potential faculty member at
a local coffee house on my non-teaching day to discuss life at JCC and
what the job might entail. We were there for less than an hour at 9
am, but due to the constant stream of smoke from two vey caffeinated
smokers in the back, both of us smelled horrible and needed showers
and a change of clothes upon leaving. We purposely stayed out of
places we knew were smoky and would move if a cloud did come our way.
We weren’t pushy, nor did we ever throw water on someone smoking.

Tod and I went to New York in 2005 shortly after their smoking ban
went into effect. The change was amazing. In previous trips, we packed
double the clothes since going out to ANY bar or restaurant meant
coming home smelling like smoke. The spaces in NYC are notoriously
small and you just couldn’t hide. Imagine our surprise when we could
actually wear clothes a second time. Packing was a lot easier last
time we went.

I have talked with several restaurant owners here in town and they
both admit that business has gone down, mostly after the dinner
rush. The one restaurant, a fun and family-friendly Mexican restaurant
has actually seen their numbers go up since the ban, as more families
are coming in now that they don’t have to go home smelling like a bar.
But the bad news is that the dinners don’t pay the bills, it’s the
alcohol sales that foot the budgets in most places. The other place,
an Italian-bistro/bar has seen a marked decline, as their bar was THE
BAR to hang out at and smoke. The owner said that he is certain that
they smokers will come back once their pouting is done. Prior to the
ban, there was one smoke free place in town, and I am happy to report
that their business has not declined at all, and us non-smokers remain
loyal and true to those that look out for us.

So why am I writing about this on my family blog? I wouldn’t have
given this a second thought until a few days ago when I stopped in a
cigar shop to browse through their piles of discarded cigar boxes for
future art projects. I talked with the gentleman behind the counter
and asked him how business was. I prefaced this question with the fact
that I didn’t smoke, but I was not a fan of the government telling me
what I could and couldn’t do. I then told him that I was happy that I
could now go out with my kids and not have to worry about the smoke
getting to them (I know, I am a conundrum!).

His response is not what I expected and I was taken by surprised by his comments. He said that
there were plenty of “other opportunities” for us as a family and that
there didn’t need to be a statewide ban to protect my kids. I
mentioned that there was one smoke free place in town and he looked me
right in the eye and said, “What about all the fast food places? They
are smoke free, you could eat there.” Yes sir, we could,” I responded
and then remarked that it was nice to actually have a dinner where
someone brings you the food and the place is free of play structures
and clowns.

We never did get to the answer about how business was for
him, and at that point, I didn’t give a shit. There were a few people
in there during the 20 minutes I was checking out the boxes, but no
one seemed to be buying. Their sign out front defiantly reads: We’re
still smokin’! So yeah, the smokers are totally willing to throw us folks with kids
and those with a desire to remain healthy under the bus and relegate
us to the fast food joints so they can smoke while eating at all the
nice places. Note to smokers, FUCK YOU. You lost, stop whining and
good luck with quitting. It’s hard, I know, I did it and you can too
if you stop complaining about having to smoke outside and how your
rights are being trampled on.

My kids and their health come first and foremost when it comes to rights, so get over it and clean up your
butts when you are done smoking. Thanks.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Tattoo: A love story

Went in yesterday afternoon to get my sleeve started on my right arm. I decided to dedicate the arm to children's lit, and am having it filled with characters from my favorite, as well as my kid's favorite books. Characters such as Max, Olivia, Little Bear, Hop on Pop, and Harold will now find a home on my new sleeve.

The fun part will be the spider web from Charlotte's Web on my elbow. There is some speculation that a spider web signifies that you are a racist or have done time. I am not a racist, nor have I done time. The web will spell out TERRIFIC! and will hang above Olivia (Ian Falconer's creation) instead of Wilbur from the story.

Tod suggested that I get the web to say SOME PIG! but I declined.

The outlining is done, now we wait for this to heal and we’ll think about what to do next. Bill, the tattoo artist thinks that some Wild Things foliage and Suessian trees would fit the space nicely. We’ll see.

Until then, once the area heals, I am going to give Anna a pack of washable markers and let her have at my arm. Perhaps a color scheme will come from that.

P.S. The title of this entry is from a great movie that I was somewhat involved with here in Jackson. If you are a fan of indy films and love tattoos, this one is for you! I am honored and thrilled to know one of the stars and his family.

P.S.S. You can find Bill and his crew at Depot Town Tattoo here: