I’ll raise you a Vintage Fridge and Some Canned Goat

25 05 2017

An artist friend of mine died unexpectedly last week.  (I’m sorry Theddy, this is the best I can do in terms of a eulogy, and likely only to be read my my 15 or so faithful followers. But I wanted to tell your story, even if the audience is limited.)

Theddy was made for a world that doesn’t yet exist.  He talked loudly, and could read my face like a book, so he’d often use words that would make me turn red and try to disappear inside the nearest wall (and I can throw down the word “fuck” with the best of them.) He often wore ridiculously resplendent clothing, or t-shirts that you couldn’t believe someone had actually had the balls to make, and he made weird and fabulous art that not everyone understood or liked.  He was truly incomparable (and I know what that word means)… But the best part about him (and many of the other full time artists I know) are their weird and irreverent stories about how they perceive life, and how life perceives them back.

Everyone feels at some point or another that they really don’t fit into the fabric of normalcy. But what if not fitting is a weird sort of gift, bestowed upon those in whom the fairies believe? Be it gods, (I mean, “God-touched” used to be an expression for those that didn’t quite fit, and if I’ve ever met a collective of humans that fit that description, artists would certainly be amongst them…) be it the laws of attraction, or be it just that you entertain the Muses in their ethereal plane, the admission price to such a whimsical place is socially high. But oh, the stories.

The weird, the sublime, the stories that start with, “so there I was…” and all you, the listener can do is to hold on with all your might and suspend your disbelief. Artists don’t just create art, we create experiences. And our stories form a unique body of work, that, even more than our art, is ephemeral and fleeting.

Theddy factors into my story, and I into his.  He’s part of why I’m here, making art, and why I’m going to tell you a story about a vintage fridge and some canned goat.

A few weeks before he died, he mentioned that one of his favorite pieces was still the blue lantern I made, several years back when I was less than an amateur pebblestar (pebblestar being the prerequisite for becoming a rockstar, and a phrase my friend Marrus, also an amazing artist, coined.)

I don’t know how often other artists are approached to “trade” but, it’s a regular occurrence around my place. If you’ve been to my house, you probably know that unless the trade involves a rare book on weird subject matter, funny socks, or food, I’m unlikely to say, “sure.” I formed the habit of really only trading for base level Maslow’s hierarchy stuff, and after a lot of years of “nope”, there’s not a lot in life I covet enough to trade for.

Theddy’s offer to trade came at a time when he knew our cupboards were pretty lean looking, and some church group or whatnot that donated a ton of food to a local food bank that he was a recipient of, so everyone on that food bank’s list got a few extra bags that year. It was all filled with chili and canned vegetables that gave him digestive trouble. And then someone else had gifted him with canned goat or something. Which he just was NOT going to eat. So we traded: his goat and chili and crappy canned veggies for a lantern.

It got us through the winter. I don’t know what the lantern brought him other than “pretty”, but seeing as how he mentioned it every time he saw me, and we thanked him for the food that kept our cupboards looking respectable and our tummies full… It was a trade made in heaven, as we both thought that we had gotten the better end of the deal.

That same winter, I acquired a vintage fridge. This dude down the street had opened a “vintage” shop that was 90% garage-sale junk with only a few standout pieces. He wanted a stained glass sign for his business. I wanted his 1950’s era fridge. We had one (circa 1970’s) in our apartment, but I was spending 10-12 hours a day, 5 days a week at my studio, and while a fridge wasn’t strictly necessary, it felt like a decision that bumped me up a notch in Mr Maslow’s chart of self-sufficiency. So we traded.

It was an incredible feeling, trading my (often perceived by society as useless much of the time) art for actual tangible items that made me able to feel like I was providing in the most visceral way possible for myself and my little family at the time. Canned goat and a fridge to put the leftovers in.

There has never been any trade so powerful as those two trades. And yeah, I’m thinking about both a lot today, because today I nicked a wire in my ancient fridge going through the motions of defrosting it. It’s ok. I learned what the wire is for. I had several people express concern for my methodology (chisel and hammer to knock the ice off.) I had someone send me a link on where to recycle it.

But ya see, that fridge and I have been through a lot together. Two years ago, while defrosting it, I fumbled the heat gun i was using, and the damn thing nearly left a scar worthy of it’s own story on my face. (Hence the acrobatics with a hammer and chisel.) And I keep it (the fridge, not the heat gun or the scar) because while I no longer have Theddy’s cans of goat and chili in my cupboard, it’s a reminder that I don’t have to keep up with the Jones’, a reminder to stay quirky, (I mean, who else trades stained glass for a 1950’s fridge) and be true to my skills and myself and my art. I may have killed it with my badly aimed chisel today, but if so, it’s just proof to me that my fridge’s destiny and my friend Theddy were tied up in some epic story that I only ever caught snippets of.

I hope whomever inherits Theddy’s lantern hears this story, and takes up his torch, both literally and figuratively. The world needs more tale-tellers, light-bearers, illuminators, artists and quirky-as-fuck folk, if only to remind people that it is possible to trade art for useful and interesting things like vintage fridges and canned goat.

Blessed are the god-touched, for they have the best tales. And on that note, remind me to tell you about the time a cop saw me in my Ren Faire garb and inquired if I was Amish…




One response

25 05 2017

What a beautiful eulogy. I don’t believe I knew the gentleman, but apparently he did good while he was here.

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