We were seniors. We were about to graduate. It was the middle of March, and the last day of April was the day we were going to get measured for our caps and gowns. There was a lot of talk about that. They’d already taken orders for the rings. We were running around with our little invitations for who we were going to invite to the senior prom. There was a lot of worry about that and I had a big argument at home about whether I could use my old man’s car. I had this rotten car.
So we were in that long, sliding, upward glide going inevitably toward graduation day. The four years are behind us. Me and Bolis and Schwartz and Flick hanging around talking about what we’re going to do after we graduate. We’ve got all these comments we’re making about each other’s rings, robes, and stuff.
And then one day. I’m walking along the street. I remember it vividly—because—well, certain memories are etched in your mind. The way tattoos are etched on your epidermis. Schwartz is walking towards me. It is about an hour after school and I’m on the ball team and we’ve been having our afterschool practice session, which was cut short because the ground was wet. I’ve got my baseball shoes with me, I’ve got my glove, I’ve got my little green airline sack full of other junk, sweatshirts and stuff, and I see Schwartz, and Schwartz had just finished his paper route, and Schwartz is walking towards me and I know the minute that I see him that something is wrong. His face is white.
At the top of my www.shepquest.wordpress.com home page is a topic button titled ABOUT. It contains my description of what I continually hope the blog will be, including this comment: “I encourage everyone to submit ideas, information, and questions to this blog so we can all learn by participating in open discussions regarding every aspect of Shepherd’s creative world.”
I began the blog in February, 2013 and hope to continue it for quite a while. Over the last year or so I’ve been adding illustrated essays on the arts I’ve been involved in: ARTSY FARTSY. That artsy section has about come to a close, simply because, after 158 essays on various topics, I have little else to relay.
Just as I began a draft of this essay I received a comment from a follower of the blog, who writes in part: “Just want you to know that I have enjoyed all your writings that I have read — your Shep books, and your writing in this column. I was surprised at your Artsy Fartsy writings because I never knew of your interest in these things.” Her comments are very gratifying! Another follower had earlier commented that my artsy essays suggested that I am a “Renaissance Man.” Of course I’m flattered—but my insufficient creative inventiveness precludes such an exalted title (no flying machine inventions, no “Mona Lisa” portraits).
I thank all of you who have encouraged me in my Shep and Artsy posts. I recognize that, in our vast world, it’s unlikely that everyone would be conversant or even enthusiastic regarding many of my specific subjects. Now that there are few if any artsys left to post, besides the joy in doing them that I’ve expressed before, I’ve been somewhat disappointed. I’d expected to pique sufficient interest to elicit more replies, to arouse enough interest for some to pursue the subject a bit and respond to the essays with their thoughts, either positive or negative. Following are a few of the artsy topics I’ve covered and the sort of responses I still hope for. (Note that my Shep essays on Bugatti and Dee Snider I find especially relevant to my artsy accumulation.)
A FEW OF THE POSTED ARTSY SUBJECTS I’VE HOPED TO INTERACT ABOUT
GUERNICA COLORIZATION KIT: what is the nature of historical depictions of violence and how is “Guernica” a good or bad response to that? Is that Picasso guy worth all the adulation?
CEZANNE’S ANGRY PATCH: I believe my discovery of Cezanne’s way of sometimes solving his pictorial space is significant. Doesn’t anyone have any thoughts that they’d like to share about the successes and failures of artists such as Cezanne and Picasso?
EMOTION OUTRANKS TECHNIQUE: My somewhat preference for emotion over technique in art must produce some agreement or disagreement. Any pros or cons?
ART OR CRAFT: Are there worthwhile distinctions? What is the nature of art, the nature of craft, and how do they relate? Show and tell me, please.
SCULPTED LANDSCAPES: Machu Picchu enthusiasts? Vietnam Memorial lovers or haters? Even Scottish golf links! Is Mount Rushmore art? Comments? Other examples?
ARTISTS’ BOOKS: They constitute a wide, yet insufficiently acknowledged world. Discussion? Other examples?
GRAPHIC NOVELS: Can they be art? Other examples? Most all book reviews of them I’ve read merely discuss the visuals as illustration to the text—so ignorant, so unfair!
CAVE ART: After decades seeing reproductions and photos, holding the originals in one’s hand! Any thoughts/experiences from other fields of interest? How is the experience of originals different?
FLUTES: Through the sound holes, feeling one’s living breath on one’s fingertips—any other such experiences with musical instruments? Jean Shepherd occasionally, with whimsy, commented on what it’s like to play a sousaphone/tuba.
DEE SNIDER OF TWISTED SISTER: Any opinions on his act and the seeming distinctions between act and ideas in his “The Price”? (The song focuses on the price one pays for the means it can take to pursue one’s aspirations.)
“SUMMERTIME”: What is the nature of interpretation that changes the original “artwork”? This should open up discussion of the whole nature of jazz.
Upon being shown the YouTube of Billy Stewart singing his abstract expressionist “Summertime,” a friend alerted me to the ending of the 2003 movie by the Farrelly brothers, Stuck On You, in which the police invade a musical theater production of “Bonnie & Clyde, the Musical,” and the star must prove he is not the real outlaw, but just a singer. He does a complete and near-perfect rendition of Billy Stewart’s “Summertime.” An artsy, elaborate homage to the 1956 Stewart creation.
BULLS: Surely there are many who disagree with any and all defenses of bullfighting! (PS, I love dogs very much and have had them for half my life. The only animals I’ve ever harmed are mosquitoes, flies, spiders, roaches, and ants.)
NEW YORK TIMES: There must be many pro and con thoughts regarding the publication’s attributes.
BUGATTI: Can any car be a “work of art”? In what way?
DYLAN, MAILER, SEINFELD, THE VAMPIRE LADY: Opinions on any of these people?
WARHOL, “FLAMING CREATURES”: Any ideas on art related to Campbell’s Soup cans and what may be considered pornography?
INTESTINAL DISTRESS: TV ads as art and as maybe just offensive annoyances. I find that Preparation H’s recent TV ad focusing on the real town of Kiester, Minnesota to be a clever take on what’s usually a problematic subject to discuss.
WACKY AIR DANCERS: Fascinating or just annoying? Why?
SHEPHERD, MASLOW, RECENT EVENTS: Should all the arts be supported? One of the few responses I got about any of my artsys complained that he hadn’t expected “politics” to ever be a part of my five-year-old blog—not even this once. What might the arguments be for and against supporting the arts? (I find this to be a “political” subject only in our current, wacky world.)
I could go on and on, but enough!