Archive for February, 2010

Stamp Artiste

February 27, 2010

A delicate interplay of color, subject, and form.

In the modern world of visual arts, there can be no more harmonious marriage than that of visibility and commerce– and these two qualities have reached their apotheosis in the airmail stamp.  What other artworks have been so widely disseminated and generated so much revenue from such a wide range of wage classes?”  These were the words of my dear Grandmammy, who in her youth had toiled day in and day out, steadily painting stamp after stamp, as one of the many indentured stamp-making servants of the Postmaster General.  Of course, Grandmammy never saw a wooden nickle of the money she earned for the post office, but after seven years she was given a cow, a straw hat and her freedom.  This is why, when I decided to take the art world by storm, I knew exactly where to focus my energies and considerable talents.  I applied to the USPS to avenge my beloved Grandmammy.

My first few months were bliss.  Hunched over a drafting table, inking away at 1″x1″ squares or downright expansive 1″x2″ rectangles, making brushstrokes between heartbeats so that my hand should never falter… I had never been so in tune with the movements of my muscles and the inner workings of my body.  Sure, I could have worked on a larger scale and sent out the finished work to be scaled down as so many of my fellow stamp artistes did.  But I was no shirker.  I was there for authenticity such as my predecessors had experienced.  I wanted to preserve a noble tradition with a troubled past, and someday… just maybe… pass it along to a new generation the way Grandmammy did to me.  I ate nothing but cabbage hash during my time at the post office in homage to her.

Ahh, the designs I dreamt up!  Cupcakes at the waterpark with badgers!  The inimitable Barbara Streisand engaged in lively debate with the Crypt Keeper!  Sonic the Hedgehog executing a Sonic Spin Attack on a hamburger!  Josef Stalin holding a baby!  And these all in just my first week.  My creative juices were seeping out all over.  I was also wearing an adult diaper, since I could not manage to tear myself away from the work at hand, which might have accounted for some of that seepage.  A small matter.

I soon realized that the joke was on me.  Though I drew my paycheck regularly, it was much smaller than I expected.  I told myself, “Don’t you worry your perfectly coiffed head, Cyrus.  They’re just waiting to give you your due when quarterly bonuses roll around.”  Nevermind that I couldn’t get a straight answer from anyone when I asked about the quarterly bonuses– just raucous laughter.  What can I say?  I was young; I was green.  I didn’t yet know the ways of the postal service.  But when Christmas rolled around and I received neither pineapple-glazed ham nor multi-million dollar bonus, I knew the jig was up.  They’d duped me.  I stormed the postmaster’s office, demanding my due.  For my bravery, for demanding what was mine, I was promptly tossed rump-first into a dirty snowbank.  Meanwhile, my stamps remained in circulation.  It was a travesty.

I hear the post office is better these days.  But on principle, I still privately contract out any mail I need delivered.  I’ve found recovering narcotics addicts to be the most reliable couriers, followed by children, with recent college graduates at the very bottom of the list.


Lycracycle Instructor

February 19, 2010

Not just a craze, a lycraze.


February 18, 2010

Cruelly cropped from a photo whose concept I suggested.

If you have attended a soiree at my home, you will remember that as the waitstaff enter with the sausage and citrus platters, it is my tradition to regale my guests with a medley ancient German carousing tunes.  “Why have you not started a band?” the crowd often cries out, interrupting me around the 40-minute mark.  “How can you keep this talent from the world?” they weep, so touched are they by the delicate interplay of my voice, tuba and accordion.  I do not like to call attention to the fact, but I did in fact once start a band.  A very successful and beloved band.  Many have called it “the best band in all the world,” but I think it is tied for that title with another band that I wrote all the songs for in the late 90’s– a little known group called “Hanson.”

It started like all bands do– with a classified ad in the local paper and a slough of fliers tacked to coffee shop corkboards, stapled to lightposts, and taped to urinals.  Auditions!  Tuesday, 5pm at the Community Center!  Be there or be squared!  Hundreds showed up, toting along their zithers and harps, xylophones and mouth harps, theramins and autoharps.  I had requested that the auditions be cut down to an amusing montage with plenty of cutaways to me and Office Abbie woefully shaking our heads, rolling our eyes, waving goodbye, mouthing “we’ll call you,” and sleeping, but alas I was forced to sit through all six hours until the last two folks stepped though the doors.  We had been packing up, dismayed at not found anyone to join our band, and were reluctant to even let these two milk-fed bumpkins step on the stage.  But we agreed, and boy were we blown away.  We signed them up immediately.

At first things were good.  Practices were so fun that we forgot to take hallucinogens.  They happily filed the paperwork to change their last names to the name of the band.  It was too good to last.  Things started going south when I the girl refused to eat the salami and blood orange sandwiches I brought to each jam session.  Next thing you know, she was penning insulting lyrics about birds following me around.  It was very Hitchcockian, and I knew what she was implying– that she wanted me pursued and attacked with nothing short of avian bloodlust.  I feared for my life.  I could see the madness in her eyes.

I stopped going to practice, and on the very day I planned to quit, they kicked me out.  This time I didn’t mind being beaten to the punch as long as it meant that I no longer had to keep Office Abbie secreted away in my wine cellar, lest Karen decide in her fury to abduct and torture my poor darling.  Now I am content merely to entertain house guests each night, and enjoy the royalties that continue to fill my coffers.

Raise your martini shaker, oh barkeep!

Tour Guide

February 18, 2010

You know you're elite in plaid skirt and loafers with riding crop in hand.

When it comes to fibbing, there’s really no profession in which you can get away with so much as being a tour guide.  As long as you have your authoritarian riding crop in hand (or badminton racket), folks are prepared to believe anything  you say.  It is similar to putting on a policeman’s uniform in the morning– people will believe that you have the authority to pull them over and solicit bribes.  Or pushing an ice cream cart, which I learned the hard way.  All I wanted was to eat an ice cream sandwich whenever the mood struck, but I quickly found myself accosted.

What I’m trying to say is that the most important thing is your outfit.  As long as you have a basic understanding of what tour guides look like, you can hijack any high-paying tourist group and take them where you want to go.  As long as you are prepared to spew a litany of “facts” for an hour or two, you can get pretty much anywhere.  This is how I made my way across India (I think it was India, but it might have been Florida…) and around the Cape of Good Hope (which also might have been Florida).

Where doesn’t matter.  Where is incidental.  The point is practicing your abilities to think on your feet, to cadge sweet lemons off sweet couples looking for memorable Polaroids, and to convince British aunts and their wards to give you piano lessons and bottles of wine in Venice.  If you plan to marry, working as a tour guide is your best bet.  My first three marriages were a direct result of leading tours.  I don’t remember much about the marriages themselves, but I do remember this one fact, and also that I vowed never to marry again not long after, but to make do with just an assistant and bodyguard, which has worked out splendidly.

Caricaturist Rescuer

February 4, 2010

This one really skewered them!

There is no greater political act than to pick up one’s nib and sketch out an exaggerated version of a well-known public figure.  That is why caricaturists are so beloved by the proletariat, the workers of the world, and so vilified by those bourgeoisie pugs in power.  That is why the most talented caricaturists were so often thrown like rabble they represent into makeshift, moving jail trucks, heavily sedated and dumped into the dry ravines of Arizona, New Mexico, and even the bedeviled republic of Texas.

In the halcyon days of my youth, I often sat beneath the ancient, wizened oak in my backyard, a straw in my mouth and a loyal yeller dog by my side, dreaming of becoming a caricaturist myself and sticking it to the pugs that were oppressing my dear mothers.  But as I grew, it soon became clear that my aptitude for this fine art was severely limited by my walleye.  (Which many surgeries have now corrected.)  Yet, the idea still plagued me… there must be some way to support them, our nation’s finest dissidents.  I thought about starting an endowment, a national endowment for the arts, but any way I sliced it, it didn’t seem like enough.  I thought about catering the international caricaturist convention, but doubted I could steady my hand to carve a roast whilst in the presence of such greatness.  Then I realized the greatest service I could render– to begin a rescue organization, so that at least a few of the hundreds of caricaturists that died each year, choking on the desert dust and pummeled by tumbleweeds, might live.

When I started out, it was only me, a van, and a trusty yeller dog with a good sniffer.  Each night, armed only with a metaphorical sword of justice, we’d climb into the van and drive the back canyons of the desert until the sun broke red, orange, purple and gold over the mesas.  On a good night, we’d find one caricaturist, but that only happened once every few weeks.  More often than not, we’d wind up giving rides, water and food to lost immigrants.  I was glad to at least accomplish something each night.  The dog was glad to be petted.  But those rare occasions when we chanced upon a caricaturist, we’d spring into action– bringing her or him to a safe house (usually my own), where a local physician (usually myself) would clandestinely attend to the poor soul.

Word spread quietly amongst those sympathetic to the cause, and soon an entire legion of young folk had thrown in their lot with my own.  We were saving nearly 75% of drugged and dumped caricaturists.  The pugs in power were pulling their hair out.  They tried cracking down on us, but because we were so loosely organized, we evaded nearly all their raiding attempts.  And when a few of us were caught, the newspaper rags took up our cause and public opinion was with us.  We had become a legitimate, respected institution.

That is why you hear nothing of caricaturist kidnappings today.  Once we had the people, on all levels of society, on our side, the practice stopped and caricaturists were once again free to sketch as they pleased without fear of premature death.  These days, the organization is mostly back to helping immigrants.