The things I learn ...
Rambling about the art of making little magical moments.
*Stolen from Wikipedia, for the most part…
The Panama Canal (Spanish: Canal de Panamá) is an artificial 82 km (51 mi) waterway in Panama that connects the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific Ocean. The canal cuts across the Isthmus of Panama and is a conduit for maritime trade. Canal locks are at each end to lift ships up to Gatun Lake, an artificial lake created to reduce the amount of excavation work required for the canal, 26 m (85 ft) above sea level, and then lower the ships at the other end. The original locks are 32.5 m (110 ft) wide. A third, wider lane of locks was constructed between September 2007 and May 2016. The expanded canal began commercial operation on June 26, 2016. The new locks allow transit of larger, neo-Panamax ships, capable of handling more cargo.[1 And modern times cruise ship novelty. The construction of the Panama Canal is where the expression "Another Day, Another Dollar" comes from, as the workers were rumored to be paid a dollar a day for their labor. Very much similar to the pay of the cruise caricaturist.
France began work on the canal in 1881 but stopped due to engineering problems and a high worker mortality rate. The United States took over the project in 1904 and opened the canal on August 15, 1914. There was a world war happening at the time. There was a priority strategic need for such a shortcut. One of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, the Panama Canal shortcut greatly reduced the time for ships to travel between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, enabling them to avoid the lengthy, hazardous Cape Horn route around the southernmost tip of South America via the Drake Passage or Strait of Magellan and the even less popular route through the Arctic Archipelago and the Bering Strait. My cousin and I were just talking about this the other night. I love history humor.
Colombia, France, and later the United States controlled the territory surrounding the canal during construction. The US continued to control the canal and surrounding Panama Canal Zone until the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties provided for handover to Panama. After a period of joint American–Panamanian control, in 1999, the canal was taken over by the Panamanian government. It is now managed and operated by the government-owned Panama Canal Authority.
Annual traffic has risen from about 1,000 ships in 1914, when the canal opened, to 14,702 vessels in 2008, for a total of 333.7 million Panama Canal/Universal Measurement System (PC/UMS) tons. By 2012, more than 815,000 vessels had passed through the canal. It takes 11.38 hours to pass through the Panama Canal. The American Society of Civil Engineers has ranked the Panama Canal one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
And in a couple of weeks, I’ll be going through this engineering wonder of the world. As a caricaturist on a cruise ship. Once again, I have the opportunity to draw people from all over the world and spend little time with them on one of their life highlights. I relish the opportunity. I draw smiles, its what I do. It’s all I want to do. Well, there is another motive to the trip
I’ll be with very little internet service on the cruise, something I think Space X is actually working on these days. Anyway, I’ll be offline and disconnected and to me, that is the best part of these trips, forcefully unplug. I will also be traveling alone. This automatically forces me into an instinctive observation mode. It’s an artist thing. We are trained to look at our world in a way that most people do not see. It’s a wonderful gift to have. Sketchbook and journal is the greatest way to exercise this skill. I can’t wait, it’s like a musician practices or an athlete trains, an artist with time in the sketchbook alone in a new place with new people and new experiences…. oh I just can't wait.
This time between here and there is the equivalent to a marathoner working up to a race coming up. I’m on a routine. I’m remembering old things and trying new things and fiddling with gear and supplies and techniques. Speed drawing. A quick sketch is my instinctive method on trips. It comes from decades of quick sketching caricatures. Watercolor is my medium of choice on these trips. It’s easy to travel with. Compact. A little goes a long way. It’s versatile. I can apply to sketches later when I’m alone in my crew bunk.
That’s right, I’ll be in a crew bunk. Not a stateroom, No towel animals on my bed. No lavender or pleasantly scented lotions and soaps. Just a bunk. An RV size shower. Most probably in the front hull of the ship. Just about wave crashing level. I can’t wait.
More as this develops.
There something ominous about journaling as you wrap up your preparations for the "Most Catastrophic Storm to hit Florida. "… Have you ever woken up from a slumber to see the screen on your phone open to a map of the entire state of Florida covered by computer projected paths of the storm of the twenty-first century?
Even the Ai has enough intelligence to know, this is bad. Meanwhile, all you can do as a resident is clean up your stuff, discard what you can before the storm and stock up and prep for a spontaneous camp out at home. It might be wet. There will be flooding, Our yards are already spongy from the daily afternoon summer rains. We (as a family) have volunteered to stay. Crystal has stepped up at Disney and is on the Hurricane Ride out team. I think it's just a big sleepover in the Magic Kingdom when all the guests are swooshed away. Awesome. Am I right? The boys have their safe places away from here. They are covered and good. Being the dedicated "lifeline" and support for them, and they I… Alamo and I will be hunkered down here in our little lake hood.
The Lake Hood. Hurricanes stir up airflow patterns and energy waves of all kinds on this planet. Far, far from their central locations. For instance, in my neighborhood. An old independent little collection of 30 or so homes just off the parkway. A 13/4 road slips down off the expressway and into our lakeside hood. It's the first land to be developed off of an old family-owned orange grove on this lake. I live in the house built for the family's Great Grandmother after they sold the farm. It's a cute little place. Our little campground on the lake. We are on a well water system. City Sewage for use Septc for most. Our water is the best. We have giant Oaks and Palms and a few hardwoods I don't know, particularly, but we have trees. Trees that drape over our little curb-less roads, trees that shade our lawns, trees that are entangled with our power lines and cable communications. This Lake-hood always loses power in big storms. The bad news, we are all on wells that run on electricity. Supposedly, because of this, we are prioritized by energy companies to get running first. Although two years ago, with Maria, we witnessed something different. I suspect the same will happen again this time. I'm expecting a week or so of no power.
Because of this collective hardship experience that our little Lake-hood endures together, the coming of a Hurricane creates an odd social neighborhood clean up. You'll tend to see more of your "to themselves neighbors," (myself included, out more.) We are all just tightening up the edges of our properties. Finding a secure place for everything or discarding it before the storm. I think we're all gonna be cleaning up after one another and for one another in a few days from now. So, we see each other and wave. Often banter about the storm of 2017, or what have you. Collectively we openly offer assistance, the loan of a chain saw for trimming what we can. Before the storm does it for us. The older original neighborhood settlers, provide storm tips for the newer families here. I remember when we moved here. It was the Saturday before Maria hit. Our new neighbor across the street introduced himself and offered an extension cord t his generator and without missing a beat, said "Hi I'm so and so. Welcome to our quiet lake-hood. You'er going to lose power next week. Keep a line to this cord, and you can have electricity from my generator. "
I'm confident that all the neighborhoods are just like mine. So that leads me up to currently. Attached is a screen shot of the storms current projected path. I circled our little lake-hood and in there is our little campground/lake-house. Like I mentioned; first, there's something ominous about journaling between bouts of clean up piddling around the property as you wait for the "storm of the Century" to come crawling at a torturous pace. It slowly grows and collects itself just before it wields the powers of God and the Universe upon Mar-A-Lago. Then I invite Dorian to come to Disney World and celebrate the storms pounding of karma.
"Come to Mar-A-Lago Dorian! Then when you're done releasing your fury, come to Disney World and see the Star Wars area. It'll be swell."
I'm just now getting my land legs. Yesterday the travel day started at 5:00 a.m. I was one of the first crew members debarking the ship. We landed at midnight. My luggage beat me home. The rest of the travel day kinda goes the way as you might imagine. Gate change in the last hour to a terminal across the airport. As we were taxiing to the runway, my notice of gate change chimed in. Then when I unpacked my easel from its own case, padded by dirty clothes, it had a broken leg.
Today was a day of rest and reflection. I drifted in and out of naps. In addition to the entertainers I met on the ship, I thought about a friend of mine and his jazz trio. I imagined that a few of my best event entertainers friends were on the gig with me. My friend and his jazz trio, being the center of the groove that became the soundtrack of my reflective thoughts. Wouldn't it be great if I could book a whole menagerie of my talented friends on a cruise ship? I know from my experience that I could have used a dozen other caricaturists. I was that busy. My lines were that long. Just think of the fun and the joy we'd make. It would be a beautiful time.
I imagined that the greatest sleight-of-hand magicians that I know where casually roaming the ship in and out of crowds waiting for the next seminar. They would be entertaining before the big shows, sharing laughs, making smiles, and creating the wonder of joy with their well planned "small performances." I could see, in the background, the plethora of street performers I know wandering around, playing casual games. Creating acts of crowd participation moments, thus causing childlike joy in everyone around them. I imagined walking in and out of the many evening events and seeing my musician friends setting the mood, creating the groove that flowed from deck to deck on the ship. And of course, I remembered the exact moments of interaction I had with the entertainment crew. Lee, the Cruise Director, Monroe, the Entertainment Director, and the rest of their teams. The brilliant group of outgoing young people I met from all over the world. Entertainers who were not only coordinating all of the events on the ship but also facilitating joy, memorable moments, and most importantly, fun. I watched Lee and his team battle off the boredom of more than 3,000 people for 8 days at sea, and 4 days in and out of ports in Hawaii. Imagine, if you will, the dangers of boredom setting into 2500 senior citizens, 500+ younger generations and a few hundred youths. The lack of things to do with near complete internet silence on a cruise ship, day after day at sea, is a boiling pot of mutiny. The job of fending off such a sea monster is a battle that I do not recommend for the weak performer. Perhaps that is why I imagined my own favorite entertainers that I know. Thinking of them gave me a little extra strength. I called upon that extra energy within to handle and manage the expectations of hundreds of people waiting for me to begin my "Draw-a-Matic" routine. These people waited several hours before I even showed up for my shift. Often times, I felt as if I failed miserably. In reality, I know that I did quite well and gave all that I could provide during my allotted time. I can only draw so many smiles in an hour. "Five to seven minutes a person" I would tell them. That is about as quick as I can comfortably draw for about 4 hours at a time. I have always been outnumbered hundreds to one every shift I worked on the ship. I was humbled and proud and slightly horrified by that continual popularity.
It was a brilliant gig, by the way. Artistically I had game. In regards to likenesses, I was remarkably accurate. This is the equivalent to an MLB pitcher hitting the corners of the plate in all his innings. Except for the day that we encountered rough seas. 8-10 ft. waves. The ship was moving from side to side, up and down pretty well. I felt as if I was just letting the waves push the marker across the paper. Still, I seemed to have satisfied everyone. Mingling with the guest of the cruise, I was delightful, engaging, and found my unique skill of connecting with people from all walks of life, way above my natural levels. I have such a high input strength in my personality that I am genuinely interested in everyone I meet. On the ship, I treated each guest, crew members from all over the world as if they were my lifelong friends. It's what I do when I'm on stage. And similar to Disney, on a cruise ship, you are on stage at all times. I had people asking me to draw them while I ate dinner. "All the world is a stage," Shakespeare said. He was not kidding.
On this 2 week cruise to Hawaii, I drew a couple of honeymoon couples. One couple eloped and got married in Hawaii. Their moms were greatly disappointed. Their fathers seemed to be relieved, they said. I felt so honored to be a small, but memorable part of their adventure. I drew many anniversaries. The most extended anniversary was a 55-year celebration of love. I drew a gay couple from British Columbia who celebrated 20 years together. They were one of the early gay marriages in Canada and one of the first gay couples to adopt a baby boy. They turned out to be the youngest grandparents on the cruise. Having received their first grandchild just months before the journey. (In their 40's) I like being a part of each and every one of those couples celebrations. I know for sure that by being there, getting to know them in that short time together, my encounter with them becomes a valuable part of who I am. I am grateful beyond comprehension for those moments. I love drawing couples in love. Long term relationships, short term relationships, they are a delight. I find the second or third attempts to love even more encouraging. They have found each other, and that is a remarkable story of trials and tribulation from both of them. They are, as John Pryne says, "The big door prize" to each other. Love wins. Love is love is love. And I get to commemorate their love in a little simple light-hearted sketch. How fortunate am I?
Every person I encountered, regardless of just visiting with them or drawing them, Taught me so much. Hawaii was my 49th state, so most often one of my better ice breakers in conversation is, "Where are you from?" It is a given that I can insert some form of universal relation by saying, I've been there. Or I've been to a place near there. Everyone will have something to say about where they are from. From there, the conversation becomes a light banter of humor about our shared experiences. Most often good, a few times not so proud, but that just opens the door for a little fun.
I want them to gain trust in me. Humor helps achieve that first step for to be okay with the drawing. Heres a fun fact; all humans are more alike than a select few would like us to believe. All humans love something, someone, or someplace. All humans smile. All humans laugh. All humans enjoy life. Some more than others. Even the ones that can't seem to see the light or the fullness of their glass will have moments that brighten their lives. If they have sat in my chair and I am allowed to draw their caricature, chances are, I'll add to their brighter days.
In some cases, I may have even created a crack in a wall they have built around themselves. This crack I've created in their darkness allows some other light in at a later time. A good smile can plant a seed of happiness to sprout elsewhere. Even if we are not around to see it, it will happen. I enjoy that opportunity immensely.
In my days of advertising and being a designer of corporate brands and rebranding campaigns, I became a keen observer of organizational cultures. To me, it was a requirement to understand what I was interpreting into a brand fully. A design. A logo or mark. It has become something of a part-time hobby of mine to sit and watch a cooperate culture when the opportunity arises. My contract for this opportunity to draw smiles on this two-week cruise had a last-minute glitch. I was to have guest quarters on the ship, but due to guest bookings, the only room available to me was a crew cabin. Smaller, blander, less desirable to save a descriptive here. I was given two options. One: I was to take the crew cabin and continue with the contract as planned. Two: I could have taken the check and aborted the opportunity to draw smiles on this particular cruise. Obviously, I can make jokes and a slight sound argument for taking the money and run. In this time and place of our world, I suspect many reading this will call my choice stupid for NOT doing so. To them, I provide this reasoning for why I said: "No problem, I'll be happy to have the crew cabin."
First and foremost, Hawaii is now my 49th state to visit. Alaska is in my target sights. Maybe I’ll strike a golden opportunity and be a part of an Alaskan cruise in the future. Anything is possible. Secondly, going back to my fascination with corporate cultures. By accepting the crew cabin, I was allowed an inside observation point of the heart of the cruise industry. I saw things. Great things. The impressive professional interaction of a team. An excellent group. This crew clearly new the mission. They understood what was at stake. They had a clear comprehension of their role in the task. Together, they all performed their job as expected. They lived in a very tight spaced community. A Cruise Ship. A small luxury hotel in the middle of the Pacific. And it's raining. I never heard anyone complain about nothing more than the rough seas three days coming back to LA. That and missing family.
This whole "part of the crew" thing was fascinating. Fun Fact: the crew on this particular ship represented over 85% of the world's countries. I bet Lee, Your Cruise Director has those actual numbers and countries off the top of his head. He could do a song and dance number while he gave you that information. He's that brilliant.
I had conversations about what I do for a living with the engineers. I ate the majority of my meals with people from all over the world. Eating I'd hear a dozen languages in conversation. All at once. And all of them knew English. I barely understand English. I'm from Texas public schools. Now I know people from half the worlds countries. (I don't know everyone in the ship). I do know the painters in the elevator. I would be in my gig clothes riding with these guys, playing nothing splotched out of their buckets and onto my stylish attire. The fire control guys with buckets and boxes of who knows what. My steward from Bali. Great kid. Some name I can't pronounce. Tipped him every day. A few times, I added a watercolor postcard. The sales ladies from the Ships Mall. They invited me to a midnight crew celebration in the Dance Club on the ship. I looked at them, smiled, and said: "I'm as old as your grandfather. Goodnight kids."
This experience opened my eyes. First hand I was part of the world nations. Working together with a Common Goal. To give the guests the best time of their lives. I learned so much from this crew. Particularly the entertainers. Lunch with the comedians was priceless. I asked hard questions about what they do and how they do "what they do." And I got reliable, serious answers back. It was a professional entertainment business lunch. I've already stolen some of their material. Musicians from Croatia, Argentina, Bulgaria, Australia and exotic places like Omaha Nebraska, just to name a few. All of this would not have happened if I had a guest cabin. I've learned long ago that taking the road less traveled is often the pathway to the greatest adventures. This experience confirms it. Wow, what an adventure this was. Yes, I'll go again if I can have a guest Cabin. One with a balcony. On my way to Alaska. I'd like to experience that trip now.
The last two weeks. Stories of me walking from Ho'okipa Beach to Paia. (3 miles) Only to be picked up by one of my favorite guest couples from the ship. They asked if I was lost. I replied, "Yes, but on purpose." Those that know me, know I love a good hike. I spent the day with these two. They both were on their second marriage. They are retired Orange County sheriffs. He was a veteran Marine Recon Leader. He now mentors young recon Marines. He loves to draw and keeps a sketchbook. Picture this, me the chronic asthmatic, former advertising creative director, the epitome of "wimpy civilian," hanging out with this guy who could kill with his thumb. A real action movie bad-ass. A complete Teddy Bear. "Call me, Doc." He said. I know caricature artist named Doc. Then we started exchanging stories. We both came from opposite sides of life and instantly became great friends. We traded sketches. I loved our time exploring Hawaii, and I can't wait for them to meet Real Crystal instead of #FlatCrystal. See my Instagram or Facebook page for the photos of #FlatCrystal adventures. People treated me like we have known each other for years. It's truly something magical when strangers from around the world become friends. The kind of folks we would be delighted to see each other on future Journeys.
I traded sketches from our sketchbook with a Mom and daughter from Denmark. As the cruise went on, guests would recognize me and shake my hand, tell me stories of when they met. How they met. Why they are on the cruise. What is great. What's not. I'd get all this, and all I wanted was the pepper. Stories of the joy of entertaining people with my talent. It's what I do. I'll miss the musicians from all over the world. They embrace the value of engaging people. Making positive experiences. I'll never forget those conversations. They are worthy of my Disney Passes. I can't wait to see them. They should audition for Disney. This ship has the best teams of smile makers in the Carnival Company. I created smiles with the watermark of smile makers in Cruise ships. I would draw a crowd of smiles with this team anytime. Anywhere. (Provided we go through the proper channels of agents and front office people, of course) The happiest hardest working man I ever met, Monroe, the Entertainment director. He took a risk to have me be a part of his team. I believe we achieved great success drawing smiles on the ship. I was the first caricaturist to be on the Splendor. I'm happy we increase the guest's experience with art. Speaking of Art. The Gallery hung all of the auction items all over the ship. It was like an eclectic collector showing off. Just wonderful.
And a bonus. Hawaii. I finally experienced Hawaii. I did not do any of the planned excursions. I felt that it best that I return with real Crystal, not #FlatCrystal. Together we will share the greatness Hawaii. I did, however, rent a bike in Honolulu and biked through downtown. I feel like I got a robust taste of this beautiful city. I rode six miles from the port to Diamond Head National Park. The last mile went from Zero elevation to 200 feet in elevation. A severe challenge to this flatlander from Florida. Then I hiked to the top of the outer rim of Diamond Head. That would be 700 feet in elevation. So many stairs. Turns out to be the most spectacular view of an ocean shore I have ever seen. It was worth the exhaustion. Then I hiked back down. Rode back to the ship. Albeit, more wobbly on the return.
I saw a large heard of green sea turtles on Ho'okipa beach. I hiked from the port in Hilo to Rainbow Falls. About six miles. On the way, I visited with a local as he prepared his outrigger canoe for a morning paddle. My hike to the falls took me through several parts of the town that others did not see. I collected reference sketches and photos for future artworks. When I arrived at Rainbow Falls, the weather was not ideal for the namesake effect. I went up on top were to the river met the falls. I hike about an hour up the river. I hopped from rock to rock among the rapids. Rushing water at my feet. Nice.
I walked back through town and shopped for souvenirs for the family. I was not able to go to shore in Kona. That day became a sunny watercolor day. I created a few watercolor postcards. Sketches and a few large (9x12) watercolors. For the first time in years, I got sunburned. I tan well. This time my Chickasaw blood did not protect me. One day I will learn to use sunscreen. I am satisfied with Hawaii. I'll do it with real Crystal. There's a cruise to Hawaii in January, our anniversary month. (* Hint Hint.) We will be celebrating 26 years. She should get booked on the ship as the Haiku artist that she is. See her website ( www.thevintageverse.com <http://www.thevintageverse.com/> )
Finally, I must say thanks to the agent of record on this adventure. Rich Brown, http://richcaricatures.com <http://richcaricatures.com/> an exceptionally talented caricaturist himself. He made all the arrangements for this adventure to happen. He handed me an opportunity of a lifetime, and I can't say thanks enough.
I look forward to being sent on a Cruise gig again. I could quickly fill my calendar with such fulfilling gigs. Like I said earlier, anytime, anywhere.
I am settling into my routine here in Orlando. I am prepping for my next gig drawing smiles. A wedding in Key West this weekend. My June and July and August are pretty open for engagements and bookings. For those that are interested. I'm open to proposals. Let's change the world one smile at a time. Please, and thank you
I have been known to wine that I have written a hundred “last Chapters.” And, I seem to find myself on some other new remarkable encounter with so another extraordinary ordinary person. I could make another short book of short stories about notable moments with ordinary people, but I must finish this one first. With that I think I’ll share with you the moment that I realized I was here to do this simple thing, to draw smiles, for a reason.
I was recently performing at an event. Caricaturist and storyteller role. I draw smiles. I was there to draw a crowd of happiness at a Bat Mitzvah. The father is a City Leader and a brilliant orator. His wife, the genius child's' mother, is also an artist and a brilliant visionary herself. The family is full of brilliant geniuses. All of them excel in all their streams of life. It is always a joy to share little moments of laughter with everyone in the family. Families like this one, my work becomes my honor. I love these people. From the immigrant Slovakian Great Grand Parents. Jewish immigrants were running from persecution to the generations of youth dancing and playing on a foundation of heritage. This family not only met my travel per diem as expected, but they spoiled me like a Diplomat. My accommodations at The Southernmost House Hotel were simply exquisite. Here is their website https://www.southernmosthouse.com I loved reading the Hemingway letters on the wall while eating breakfast there. Did you know; I’m speculating by observations, but did you know that e more he ranked, the more slanted his handwritings became on the pages? There were ending at a 45° angle on some letters. Great stuff.
Now that work is over, it is time to play. I’ve learned the cost of adding the kayak to the top of my 27-year-old suburban (’91 Last year of the simple barn door box backed suburbans.) I’ve learned that taking an extra day on the way home and paddling in the natural areas of the place of work is minimal. The kayak is light and is no more weight than a passenger. There are no fees to “putting in water.” The only fuel you need to purchase is what you eat. Live bait is always a luxury option. I like to buy bait from the small independent vendor, rather than the marinas. It’s a character thing.
So off I go, adventure time in the Keys. The greatest fishing, diving, snorkeling, playing in the water, in the North American continent. Again, I am an extraordinarily thankful and blessed individual. I love drawing smiles, and nature. I like to fish, I can survive under a hot sun. And I can’t wait to get on the water in my Kayak. I got trail mix and sandwiches and water, lots of water.
Not much different than Santiago in Hemingway’s “Old Man and the Sea,” I too had the adventure of a lifetime. Well, only there was no great catch of a legendary fish, nor was I fighting off bad luck, but I had the adventure to date since I began kayaking. In the video attached you’ll learn that it so happened to be an air show at the Key West Naval station at the same time that I was to enjoy my day of smooth, silent paddling in the Key West waters. This video attached is also the last communication my wife would have from me for the next 20 hrs. I was to be home by 11pm in Orlando. I got home at 3 in the morning. Here’s what happened….
There is a video posted on my Instagram page. That relates to all of this.
If the link does not work, on Instagram I'm TytheArtGuy. You'll find it.
Here is what happened after that video was posted. I decided to go with it and accept that on occasion today there would be loud disruptions of fast fighter jets showing off throughout the day. Like, Duval street with people during festival time, but different. The waters here are so perfect that I considered it a welcomed coincidence. The air show and my tranquil all day paddle in the keys. An excellent paddle adventure I had up and in and around these mangrove Islands. Paddling in the shallows gives you a perfect view of life on the ocean floor. A variety of grasses and sea life, types of coral, invertebrates and unusual creations. Sea cucumbers, snails, nurse sharks, young barracudas, rays, and small damsels, and snappers. The list goes on. Then the current trench that snakes through all of these keys is so deep, and well defined by both sides towering walls of coral. Divers go up and down these walls of coral reefs all day long. I’d position myself from the trench wall and the current and wind in such a way that I’d drive across the flats on top f the channel containing walls, hoping to catch a barracuda snacking in the flats. And as mentioned, the roar of powerful fighter jets scream through the air.
As luck would have it, by the time the Blue Angels were to appear and do their show, I drifted into a chain of mangrove islands that just happened to be in the flight path of the Blue Angels show. I was not aware of this until it was too late. You see, I parked the kayak under the shade of the mangroves. Seeking shade from the 3 o’clock sun is a big deal. You take what you can get. I could hear the Blue Angels screeching and flying around at the air show, off and on. I got out my phone to see if I could add more video to my wife feed. She would love the air show, more than the kayaking. I wanted to show off since she decided not to come with me on this trip. I wanted her to see what she was missing, so I got out my phone and started taping a video. I selfied and told her how much I missed having her on my adventures with me. I showed as much as I could of my beautiful natural surroundings. I bragged about everything my weekend had been. Brilliant, joyful, kind, and beautiful. And then I heard the Blue Angles again. I started panning the sunny blue sky with the phone, searching for them. Then in an instant two Blue Angels flew over my head. They came from my direct backside overhead at such a high rate of speed and so low that I was pushed by their pressure cone and capsized my kayak. The pressure zone (Wikipedia it) hit me so quickly that I had no idea. It was like Zeus snapped his fingers, and then I was flailing my arms and legs, splashing about, searching for grounding and not drowning the 4 feet of water. The bottom of the bay was soft. About up to my knees in soft sandy decomposed ocean suet. The crystal clear sea water was now a milkshake of soft sand, micro bits of decomposed plants, animals, shells and coral. I dropped my phone and frantically began searching the deep muck I stood in with my hands. Ducking my heading this murky soup to reach the bottom with my hands. Thus causing more murky soup mixing to the point, it looked like the beginning of a pancake batter. I accepted my loss and bellied myself onto the kayak. Drenched and in shock from “how did that happen? What Happened? “ moment. I reached for my paddle. What paddle? That's right, I also lost my paddle. I frantically searched for it. There was no sight of it. The surface and the murky pool of muck I was surrounded had hidden it from me. I was so frantic that I capsized a second time. This time it’s all on me. I should have known better. So I bellied up on the kayak again and this time stayed on my belly and began to paddle back to where I put in, just off of A1 about 2 miles away. This paddling by hand return was much slower than I wished for and by the end of the day, I made it back to the shore. I found some guys fishing under the bridge and asked them if I could send a message to my wife. They laughed after I told my story and handed me a phone. I sent an email because the number for Crystal in my mind is “Hey Siri, call Crystal.” I have now written all the significant phone numbers on a piece of paper and laminated it and put it in my wallet. Just because. After the message sent saying I’m okay and on my way, I felt relieved and began my 8-hour journey home.
Meanwhile, Crystal never received the message of "I'm okay and safe and traveling home." At some point, we’ll get her to pipe in her side of this adventure. And while I’m on the subject, I want to make it clear that none of this would have happened had she accepted her invitation to join me on this trip. The agent event went out of her way to get us a prime Key West Weekend getaway room. The event and the room were at the Southernmost House Resort. The room was a second-floor room that overlooked the pool and the ocean from the southernmost round current. My shower had 4 massaging shower heads. I know, she really missed out of a weekend of relaxing bliss. Not to mention she could have had the biggest “Told you so” on video had she come with me.
As I was saying, she has another perspective on this story that I should let her share. I will say this till her input arrives, that she was distraught when I got home at 3 am. 4 hours from my expected time of arrival. Not angry, but upset because I died, kind of upset. Oh, mercy I felt horrible for her, and how could I have thought the message never came through to her that I was okay? I always assume so much, in favor of the woodside of things. She does too, but as I progressively became late, so did her assumptions of my fate take a nosedive into the dark depth of possibilities. Most probably scarier than the deep channel trench that snakes through the hundreds of keys. Like I dais earlier, her perspective of this adventure something to hear. Together we are hilariously in love. Our tales of our lives together intertwine like a 4 part harmony song. It's one of the reasons we are so good at our “Vintage Verse” performances. Vintage Verse is an event act where she writes Haiku’s for your guests on an old typewriter and me, if not drawing Caricatures, will put a little ink drawing to your haiku, known as Hagia.
When I did capsize and finally accepted my safety on the kayak without a paddle, I laughed. I pondered a few things the Rabbi told me the night before this moment. We laughed, and he gave me some advice on gaining and learning patience. How appropriate. And of course, Crystal will claim I’m just clumsy. I got smiles to draw, y’all have a beautiful week. Please and thank you, Ty.
Lesson 9: Everyone has a Story.
For me, one of the most important things about life is my ability to give back to the people that occupy this earth with me. I don’t have hundreds of thousands of dollars to donate or even hundreds of hours to donate but I still try to do what I can to brighten the existence of some that need a hand up. I’ve been there and I’ve received help from kind friends and even kind strangers. I’m not sure where my family and I would be today if we hadn’t had some help, encouragement and even a few handouts along the way. I think that a big part of being happy in life is the knowledge that you are helping others. It’s how we’re made. We are social creatures and there is a great peace that comes from helping out our neighbors. I think that if we dig deeply enough we can all find someone to help. For me, I have always felt a certain kinship toward the homeless. Maybe it’s because I myself have almost been in that same situation. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through enough hardship to know how easily the easy life can slip away. Or maybe it’s because of Mr. Cooper. Mr. Cooper is a man I never met, and yet one who has inspired me for decades. Even though I have never seen his face, I picture him in my dreams. I wish I knew where he was and that I could tell him how much he had affected my life. I first “met” Mr. Cooper back in the early 1990s. At the time I was living in Fort Worth, not far from a large train yard. When I needed to get away from my work and clear my head, I would ride my bike through my neighborhood toward downtown, around the train yard and back. I was always a little fascinated with the graffiti that certain communities would paint on train cars. There are some great stories behind that as a form of communication so I like to photograph some of the cars just to study the art. On one particularly hot summers day, I was riding around the unhooked boxcars when I noticed something on the ground. As I drew nearer to it, I realized that there were a couple of items. One of these items was a spiral bound journal and the other was a dusty, well-worn King James Version copy of the Bible. Everything was tattered and worn but you could tell that it had been well loved and well used. I picked up the items, dusted them off and thumbed through them, unsure of what I was holding in my hands.
In my hands I was holding a scattered mess of a man’s journals. His “Good News Bible, very well used by the way. A bunch of torn pages from a beat up old, again, very well loved sketchbook. Or books. Who knows. Pages littered the train yard. I found a voter’s I.D. card from Rockport, Illinois. I found an E.Z. Tax form with an address that turned out to be local homeless shelter. I looked at one point, but nothing. One social worker did remember him, gave a kind and heartfelt description of him. She new he was taking classes at the library to learn to read and write. That’s where most of this stuff came from we figured. He disappeared one day. Just never came back. That happens all the time for her. It’s part of the job.
So, thats the beginning of the story for Mr. Cooper. His is the story of one simple idea and a homeless man who helps others by bringing kindness into the world. As his confidence grows, so does his idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens. Anyone, at any age, who's ever nice for someone, will walk away with the feeling of self growth. It's a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what we can all do with a little kindness. There’s more to his story, I’ve got catalogues of his materials. I ‘m thinking that will be a completely different book, providing support for such a project should develop. In the meantime, it’s filed and saved and back-up for another time. I do have a couple of photos of the original works from a small show a did about Mr. Cooper back in the day. You may have to zoom in on poor quality images to get the words of his works. I suspect the originals are all lost, probably thrown away by the original owners because they look like a homeless guy did them. I’m going to believe a few of them survived and they remind people who see them that something bigger than us all is more important than whatever the current situation may be.
When you really think about it, the power of a story is remarkable. Everyone has a story and they seem to all be remarkable in one way or another. This is my favorite lesson of all. Please and Thank You, have a wonderful blue moon weekend.
Here are the first two slides to help introduce mr. cooper to the internet community. I suggest zooming in on these so that you can read, or attempt to read his “First Essay" and his “prayer Hand” .
The writings from the “Prayer Hand”
"This - is - a - praying - hand - Jeese - spoke - to - all - the - men - in the - world - no - matter - what - races - color- in - our - crew - he- said - i - am - the - way - the - truth - and - i - the - life- no - B - all - come - to - the - father - but - by - me - a - men - thease - are - the - words - of - Jeses - jest - read - nt - from - the - Bible. “
The writings from the “First Essay”
April 19 - 92
"William - Earl - Cooper - A speech - on - December - 4 - 19 - 92 - I - came - down - town - to - fourths - works - public - library - and - started - taking - lessons - learning - how - to - wright - i new - how in - three - day - cent - then - I - wrote - Christmas - speach - New - Years - Speech - Lincon - Birthday - speach - Valentine Speach - Speach - Martin - Luther - King - speach - The - next - speach - I - write - will - be - spring - time - speach - to - me - spring - time - mean - windy - and - rainy - someday - sun - shine - and - hot - the - next thing - is - the - Lord - is - sending - plenty - of - whether - down - here - on - earth - to - make - the - grass - grow - so - people - poor - can - get - a - job - cutting - grass - making - money - amen - the - next - thing - is - good - friday - that - the - day - the - lord - die - and - rose - Sunday - witch - is - Easter - God - Bless - all - of - us - Amen - The Ball - Park - Jobs - started - Friday - that - will - put - the - homeless - men - back - to - work - 1993 - it - will - stop - the - street - walking - amen. "
Please and thank you.
From Ty Walls:
After four decades drawing smiles I often encounter remarkable people. I've learned to create little special moments for people from all around the world with my simple smile-drawing skills. But sometimes, life creates little magical moments for me. This blog is my attempt to share them with you.