“Happiness in intelligent people is the rarest thing I know.” - Ernest Hemingway
I remember a moment in school when a group of track athletes, including myself, were supposed to run two miles across town, from the senior high to the junior high in order to attend practice. As usual, a number of us were trying to find someone with a car that could drop us off a few feet from the front gate and thus hide our laziness. We had located one of my fellow runners that actually had a truck to which we planned on using to get from point “A” to “B”. However, in the last few hours before school was to end, his father had hired an artist to drop-by and paint lettering on the hood in some manner of teenage male machismo, that lives on today in enlarged tailpipes and rear spoilers that purposefully offset-the balance of the ride.
The artist strolled-in after the final school bell had rung… probably more than a few hours later than my friend’s father had expected. He nearly fell from the front seat of his van, than took an exuberant amount of time searching his pockets for the perfect brush on which he had been seated just moments before. A Mason jar, with a Ball lid, half-filled with simple black acrylic paint was still sitting on the dashboard where he had placed it for safekeeping, when he slammed the van door caked with a number of pin-hole rust spots. He noticed it a moment later and started the process again in its retrieval.
In the daze of youth he seemed old as dirt and even now, I cannot recall if there was any actual truth to that assumption. In his disheveled state he could have been on slightly older than I am now and I would have been oblivious to his age. An old man among boys, he had been set-up to fail the moment he agreed to the lettering job. While we stood in a semi-circle around the artist, we mocked his obvious three-in-the-afternoon drunkenness and made non-existent bets on how the lettering would turnout. We spewed hate and degradation at his back, while he ignored us behind a haze of stale beer and whiskey. At the time I didn’t think he heard us, now I believe he was simply resigned to ignoring our young delusion of class distinction combined with his undeniable current situation with a ¼” square brush and truck hood. That recognition, despite its sad consequences… may have been the marker of his intelligence in a moment of hotheads and fools.
Where do we hide our inevitable sense of superiority until the perfect moment of weakness and opportunity is recognized thus encouraging one human to reign over another? On a more personal note… what drives an artist to work as a sign painter? How much distance can exist between the spectacle of public shame and the crutch of a lingering cause? At what point does a lingering career become a cause? …or is it the cause that becomes the career? – DN