Posts Tagged ‘existence


The Photo Box, a Memoir

I’m writing a memoir, “The Photo Box”, and have worked with Jay Blotcher to help me write the best memoir I can. He’s got 30 years experience and his insights, knowledge, and critiques I have found invaluable. I believe his assistance will be of great value to me and my work.

“The Photobox” is an exploration of my journey to adulthood during the sexual revolution of the 1970s and the historical markers along the way that help define me.

How art and work saved me.

It’s not often we contemplate the path(s) not taken; the what if, the I could have, the if only. Those thoughts are difficult to face; they oftentimes involve friends, family, lovers, and many of life’s dark mysteries, a potent and dangerous combination for ruminative reflection [redundancy intended, like a double-dip cone.]

As it was for me at one point in my life. I had come to a fork in the foot path, a four cornered intersection on a highway, a railway station, a harbor; and I knew I had to make a decision (the details are unimportant; I had run out of soul though, it had been sucked out of me like your dental hygienist sucks out the excess saliva from your mouth, whefght.) It was impossible for me to go any further without it. I quit.

And I remained unemployed for several months. To make my rent, I painted the stairwell (four flights!) of my apartment building. I relied heavily on the kindness of my friends. They fed me, they took me out, they nursed and nurtured me. Somehow I got my soul back and my head screwed on, if not tight, at least tighter.

Someone, a friend, said, “Come work with us.” And instead of (or not only) having artist friends, I now brought their work to the marketplace. I designed, I managed, I cajoled, I suggested and I nudged. I talked, I schlepped, I listened and I learned. I used language, style, gesture, and dramatics (oh yes, i pulled out much from my little black bag of theatrical legerdemain). I grew up. The future (my looking glass/crystal ball) seemed, if not rose-tinted, at least wiped clean of the smudges left from gripping it so tightly in my two hands for fear of breaking it.

I moved onto another job in another art venue. It felt like the right thing, at last. I don’t know how it is for you, but I’m particularly sensitive to my environment and the psychic temperature of the room, here, at this new work opportunity; I felt safe.

It is apparent to me that I was/am a lucky man. I found a job that I have been able to turn into a career (who would’ve thought?) that not only has provided me with creature comforts but also has been a source of deep satisfaction and continuing education (to learn each day, such a gift!) Of course, as with most things in one’s work life, this journey has not been without its trauma, but, even in retrospect, those bumps were minor inconveniences.

It’s possible that I would have found my way into this business without my friends. It’s also possible that I would not have (that prospect gives me chills). I do know though, that art saved me. And the work of art saved me. It would not have been otherwise. I love everything about it (alright, not everything, but most everything, okay?) There’s the talking, the sharing, the leading, the community, the friends, the thrill of discovery, the intent of the artist, the subtleties, and the obvious, the sharing. Did i say that already? Regardless, it bears repeating.

It’s a Sunday afternoon and I’m sitting here at my keyboard reminiscing about work. I’m thankful for that.

(Painting by Sandro Chia. Photographed at the Guggenheim Museum–New York City, summer 1983.)


it’s the orchid, you *^&%@#!

it seemed so simple.  a perfect idea with the perfect image to illustrate the point. what could go wrong, you might ask yourself.   and i’m not talking about myself in the third person, i’m actually talking about you.   yes, you.  sitting there in the comfort of your ________ or at the local __________ where the wireless is free and the ________ are beautiful/handsome or both.  you may even be at your local public ______, but that seems a stretch, perhaps too last century and possibly a little creepy anymore, besides who do you know that actually takes advantage of the knowledge available at the ________.  It’s been at least 20 years for me since i was inside one and then i rarely had any conversation with the _________ because i knew what i was after and how to use the dewey decimal system (god, do you remember?)  although i can conjure up the smell of old _____ and waxed linoleum and the quiet scratch of the ladder as it moved along its support system–the children’s area carpeted and all of the furniture scaled down to pint-size–which you wanted to go sit in as an adult, because, well just because, but the actual reason is that for one minute it would be comforting to be a child again and not have anxieties beating on the door of your adulthood (or do they pound?  mine come in a variety pack–like those individual servings of cereal that your mother used to buy–the cornflakes always the last to go because they didn’t have the sugar punch the others did. mea culpa the mixed metaphor btw.)

but instead, here you are as i said, in the comfort of your underwear (admit it) and if not that then, the comfort of somewhere else where all of the world’s knowledge (or so you’ve been told) is at your fingertips, which reminds me, when was the last time you actually got your hands dirty with dirt?  and had to use that odd little rasp that swings out from your nail clipper to clean underneath the nails and got a good whiff of loam up your nose or pollen from a faded rose as the petals, at your touch, dropped away from the stamen, one, two, three.  (that is still a question.)  that is just one example, there are so many others:  touch, listen, see, feel, smell (food, music, sex, art, skin, theater, words you have written, the touch of your lover’s hand in yours).

use it or lose it.   after all, it is the scariest of all admonitions, is it not? (that question is for both you and i.)  and then there is the keyboard that is the obstacle (albeit a necessary one).  do i cop out here and say, “what i’m saying is get out, experience life”, which seems too easy , too trite and not truly addressing what the problem, as i see it, is.  (was there a problem?  oh yes, it was where were the words going to come from?) and it’s not like i haven’t addressed this subject before and yet they do, don’t they?   show up eventually.  sometimes unintentionally, sometimes with purpose, the brother that never quite fit into the groove of the family, the wanderer who shows up on your doorstep, “hi, i was passing through and thought i’d drop by and say hello and see the kids,” and you open your arms and take him in.


leaf and feather


little moments.   unexpected relationships.   a leaf, a feather, concrete.  it’s remarkable to me that a leaf has so much in common with a feather, is it not to you?  a lost feather is to a bird what a fallen leaf is to a plant.  and there is the why, of course, oftentimes unanswerable, and granted one could argue, “well, that’s nature taking its course,” but to the plant and to the bird, is it not much more?  i may be imposing myself upon these living beings (can a plant be a being or is it a just a living thing?  discuss.)   existence or nothingness, cycles (for every season–already running through your head, we are after all, filled with the triteness of our everyday existence and we cannot help but skim it off  the thoughts that are always so close to the top of our consciousness, that deep, cool pool–yes, in all of us.  i guess one could argue that that is what separates an artist from the rest of us–the ability to express themselves without resorting to the tried and true; dipping their hand down into the darkness and grabbing at what lays there and bringing it into the light of our consciousness;  our responsibility to listen, see, touch, feel.)


between 6:11 a.m. & 6:23 a.m.

another moment of your life floats by.  will you mark it in your calendar of consciousness?

occasionally those moments, the ones you pay attention to, are replicated just seconds later, your consciousness making subtle changes to the facts to suit your life.

are you paying close attention to your life?  savoring each moment or sailing serenely through it without a care?

the complications and prickly nature of each day’s conversations, interactions, silences grabbing at you as you float across the sky.

high contrast nearly erasing your existence.


Fill in the _____ (captions ‘r’ us)

okay.  this is how this will work:  i am posting several photographs that i took yesterday.  i will start the caption below each photographs leaving one or more spaces empty for you to add your suggested insertions.  everyone will be a winner! not that you’ll receive anything (well, anything tangible) for your efforts, so some of you may feel that’s a lot like losing.  but!  you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you contributed to this worthy cause.  and that’s winning, isn’t it?  (if you need to win, at least it’s something.  there may be those of you for whom the idea of winning and/or losing as the be-all end-all might be somewhat distasteful.  i mean, the very idea of striving may be anathema to you (you know who you are.)

so.  let’s get started.

1.  a rose is a ________ and by any other name may ___________ as ________.

2.  the devil and _ were talking the other day.  “what were you thinking,” he said, “when you _______ that?”

3.  as i was walking down the _________, i thought about ______ and ______, but no sooner had i _______ than those thoughts ____________.

4.  “but, he cried,” in some distress, “that is not what i _______.  you have taken my words and ____________.”

5.  i stood a bit, the cool wind brushing against my face and contemplated ___ existence of ______ and how nature seems to be the __________ of all that is good with the world.

6.  and, as if on cue (the stage manager sotto voce) i turned to the ____ and realized that it was true what they _________   _____ ______.   it somehow assuaged the despair i had been feeling earlier.



you are here

you are here.  so reassuring that statement.  you are here.  where else could you be, but here?  you never would see a sign that read “you are there.”  that would be senseless.  at least as our perception of here & there are concerned.  but why can’t you be there if you’re standing here?

but there exists at the same time as here, does it not?  if you are here, it stands to reason that someone might be there at the same time you are here.  one could argue the point–i suppose–that here & there only exist when one is at either point in time, but neither exist in different times do they?  here & there are simultaneous points in time one might say, if one were so inclined to look at time that way.  that way being a vertical sense of being here (or there.)

it is not difficult to imagine (or for that matter to conceive of the possibility) that one might be both here & there when, in fact, the fixed point of here is your world view?

i am here, but i am also there…there where the focus of my attention is, where my eye is leading me, that there is me as well.   i am here & i am there.   possibly i am somewhere else & neither here nor there.

that then would be looking into your future, possibly, or possibly it could be your old  now or your new past, you are only looking after all.   that is, believing you are here & there at once (or separately.)   you see (perhaps understand is a better word, i would not want you to think that we could foretell the future by seeing into it) that that possibility of existing both now (here) & then (there) is all i’m trying to say to you.

which appears to be simple enough.  i’m sure someone has been here before.  they may have been there as well as here too.  really, there’s no telling when they were here, although there have been attempts to leave a mark, a path let’s say, to there (or here.)  i read that somewhere (somewhere is a there, just as it is a here.)

reading takes you there, away from here, but yet you remain here while doing it, unless of course, you are traveling, then you are everywhere.  reading does that to a person.  it may be our only form of time travel (or not, not if one believes that you are here & there, which would then make you omniscient, another possibility that we often deny ourselves.)

denial.  also a part of here & there.  it is tiring (perhaps trying as well, just as i may be to some of you now,)  so many possibilities to here & there.   & their meaning, the depth of their meaning is limitless.  should that be a question?  the limitless of their meaning, i mean.

questions.  also part of here & there.   what if?  what if you could be here & there at once?  what if there were no future because it exists now, you’re just not there yet as you are here (& there, but not ready to commit to both here & there?)   this, then, is both.


the life & times of two bath towels

hilary & jackie (that’s hilary on the left, you can tell by the way she wears her washcloth) have been hanging around our green “rain forest” marble bathroom (they prefer the term, toilette, mais oui, as they have certain standards to maintain) for a little over five years now.  their entrance into our lives is not that unusual for a pair of 100% spun cotton bath towels; we had our ‘colors’ (we took a marble tile with us to bed, bath & beyond) & over the course of a half hour discussed the various merits of matchy-matchy (thank you, nina garcia!) or whether we should choose a contrasting palette (we settled for somewhere in-between.)

it wasn’t an easy decision, but hilary (the more outgoing of the two sisters) put forth a compelling case (i would have used the qualifier, very, but i am trying not to shade this testimony, rather i am reporting the facts as they have been relayed to me.)  she carefully, but with a certain flourish that was hard to ignore, explained the relative benefits of their pile; how they had been woven, what looms had been used & how they had carefully been folded to expose their best features here on this shelf at this very moment in time in laguna ______, ca.

of course, there is the whiff of third-world underpaid, overworked, child-labor-ish hovering over their ‘made in india’ label (they are categorized ‘grand-patrician’ which harkens back to the raj, don’t you agree?)  however, we chose to ignore those implications (after all, what are we to do when so much of our everyday household goods are made for pennies in countries not our own?  price does have its price, no?)

but the stories they tell of their use :  there’s the mother-in-law (as if that were true, the in-law part) who carefully re-folds them into thirds, not wanting to disturb the ‘look’ in the bathroom (even though when she visits, there is a bit of a tornado going on en suite) & the occasional overnight guests who “ooh” & “aah” over the facilities with its roman tub & atrium window open to the canyon below (not to worry about ‘over exposure’, there is a discreet privacy fence & people of a certain height may enjoy the view as they lather their hair or stand under the rain shower enjoying the sluice of warm water cascading down their otter-sleek bodies.)

no one in the household ever uses them & more often than not, they reside on their towel bar, folded, untouched & washed only before company arrives; they are to the denizens nothing more than decoration as bath sheets are the norm otherwise.  but, there are times when they receive much scrutiny & their wales & ribs & color give rise to all sorts of fantasies, as if they were being ‘read’ like smoke or tea leaves or entrails.    & someone, speaking in tongues & rich with the muse coursing through them, stops & for a moment contemplates their homely existence.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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