Summer Distractions

“I know what your problem is, Wendy,” noted Heather, as she endured, as sisters do, my somewhatminor, but nevertheless ridiculous, breakdown over exceedingly minor things.
A whiny, determined adolescent wins out occasionally, lurking, pouting, and stewing within my, one-would-hope, adult mind over dumb stuff.
I am not exchanging a three-year old print purchase for the same print sporting this guy’s new lucky number!  Doesn’t my ‘anonymous’ cyber stalker know that she can’t hide from my stat counter? Where the heck is Downton Abbey, Season 2 on Netflix?

“You’re bored,” continued Heather, squeezing in a word.
It’s not boredom, I’ve decided, but it is a state of mind.  This summer the bigger issues overwhelm my conscience to such a degree that I shove them back, unwilling to face them twenty-four hours a day, filling my mind instead with folly. 
George Rodrigue, as far as I know, has never done this.  While I worry about explaining the paint splatters on our hotel room coffee table, he ponders, so I thought, the colossal quagmire, the very real situation that landed us in Houston for the next several months.  And yet, he counters…

“My concerns are primarily art concerns.  The Blue Dog never really stops talking to me.”

Recently, for both our sakes, I pull a subject from the air, as we sit lost without Maggie Smith, looking through hundreds of paintings and letters from children at Liza Jackson Preparatory School from my hometown of Fort Walton Beach, Florida.
Did you ever have a pen pal?

“Of course, everybody did,” George shrugged; “it was the thing.  Somebody told my mama that her son dropped his pen pal, and so I took him up.  He was Turkish, and I could hardly read his writing.  Mostly we sent postcards.”

Did you want to go to Turkey?

“I had no idea what a Turkey was; nor did I really think about it.”

(artwork by George Rodrigue, 2nd grade; related story here-)
I tried again.

Doesn’t sound like much fun.

“No, it wasn’t fun!”

And finally, he started….

“I was interested in airplanes.  I wanted to be a pilot (note:  news to me-).  And I liked buying airplane books— military, jet fighters, commercial, all kinds.   I wrote to airplane companies- Lockheed, Boeing and others, requesting photographs of planes.  They sent me beautiful 8×10 images.”

(pictured, The Wild Blue Yonder, 2000, part of the Xerox Collection)

“I worked on an airplane scrapbook.  It’s still in my attic studio on St. Peter’s Street. 

“The pictures were better than in the magazines, and it was free, just like the internet!  It was much more exciting than a Turkish pen pal.”

Distracted at last, George remained lost in the 5thgrade, 1954, doodling airplanes as I continued reading get-well letters, 2012.
I like his diversions far better than mine, I thought, recalling my earlier complaints to my sister.  I focused on the hand-made cards.

“When you paint,” reads one, “take a sip of water after every stroke.”

“Use Band-aids and eat soup (or, rather, ‘soop’),” suggest others.

At last, refocused, I dropped the petty worry, apologized to my husband and sister, and recalled the important things in life.
-with sincere thanks to the children of Liza Jackson Preparatory School, who cheered our windowsills and our moods with their heartfelt words and paintings; we loved meeting you at your school last fall with the George Rodrigue Foundation of the Arts and the Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation; and we will see you again-

-also this week, I hope you enjoy “What is a Photograph?” my latest story for Gambit Weekly, featuring a classic Rodrigue Cajun painting and an outstanding summer exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art-

-for more art and discussion, please join me on facebook

12 thoughts on “Summer Distractions

  1. What a silver lining in your grey cloud! That is, to have the time to share long tucked-away tidbits about each other! Every now and then Marion relates a story to someone and I say, "Really? How did I miss that?" We are all such intricate and tightly woven stories usually remaining dormant within us. Thanks for shining your light and illuminating George's "tidbits in the life of Wendy's husband"
    (ha! I thought I'd reverse the focus)
    The colorful cards with anctedotes are precious.
    We were so happy to see Jaques, Mallory, Wayne, Gus and Laura at CANO Fashion Show (some models wore my jewelry) last evening. Then après, at a late dinner not far from the Fayard Residence Event.

  2. I'm so glad you're not bored, and certainly not boring. That would be criminal! If you feel yourself slipping, take up People Magazine. That's what mom told me to do when life was slow. I took up paper mache' instead.
    I love the advice George received about the water–very sound!

  3. My comment never posted. I blamed everything on Houston. Having been exiled there for seven weeks in 2005, I know it can suck the soul out of even a Wendy, who you would think has a transferable spirit immune to a colorless landscape. Even George's paints, even PBS, even your vivid prose won't save you from one-dimensional Texas.

  4. Don't focus on the distractions that life brings you, the goal remains the same and distractions can cloud up the victory that awaits you.

  5. Oh, sweetie, you're in Houston. You may have a bubble filled with Georgeness and Wendiness, and your minds are full, and if anyone could bring Louisiana to Texas, it's the two of you, but, sweetie, you're in Houston. I lived there for seven weeks in 2005 (wonder why…), and the place takes a person's soul. You can't escape into the wild the way you can in Carmel and New Orleans. And by the wild I mean the mindset on the street.
    I send my crazy love, but cyber love is nothing. I'm glad you both can produce your art to send home. But you need to be physically surrounded by the spirit of home in return. And Houston has no spirit.

  6. Hey Patty – Thank you for your eloquent comments, as always. I love reading your writing whether in a book (just ordered "Too Jewish" as the first purchase on my new kindle, by the way!) or, selfishly, within my blog comments.

    Although I must tell you that we LOVE Houston, and we REALLY LOVE the state of Texas. We've been coming here for years and have lots of friends. We're staying downtown and enjoy the activity outside our window. And the people — well, the people are some of the nicest anywhere. George could not be in better hands. So, no worries. Houston, like all places, has its good days and bad days, but for us, these days, it's perfect. 🙂

  7. Well Patty, now you've done it twice! I missed publishing comments earlier because we were at the hospital all day, and I don't carry my computer. So, I've come home to a glass of wine and a pile of correspondence, just like I like it.

    For me, give Houston another try, just for a weekend. It might surprise you! Bring those cute kids of yours to a baseball game-

  8. Gosh, thanks for the "not boring" part. Ha! I don't know about People Magazine, but I started today on Hemingway's 'A Moveable Feast,' a gift from Mallory Page. From page 25:

    "She wanted to know the gay part of how the world was going; never the real, never the bad."

  9. Thank you for such insightful comments, Penny. And I'm so pleased with your successful jewelry collection. I haven't had much chance to wear mine here in Houston, but the New Orleans Ball Season this fall won't know what hit them.

  10. Apologies for my take on a town that you treasure. If I'm honest, I was able to find oak trees and goofy people there. And I have to admit that having a house back in NO with four feet of water in it didn't put a person in a good mood.
    But what counts is that you've got a comfy world there–I bet you've even found Pappadeaux's!

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