Orange House in Ernakulam, Kerala, India
Oil pastel on paper
Once upon a time in 1992, I hitchhiked around Germany (and other Western European countries) and met up with my dear pal Trevor in a magical, fairytale town near the Rhine River called Rhodt unter Reitburg.
To earn some deutsche marks, we would gather chestnuts in the woods, and sell them to the tourists who enjoyed eating Kastanien, boiled, while drinking the excellent local wine. While passing time at our “stand,” I painted the local environs.
Now, with the wonders of the Internet, I can find photos of the scenes I only remember has faded watercolour pencil sketches. In this case, one of “crazy” King Ludwig’s summer villa/castle of some kind… Resplendent with ancient grape vines in the foreground.
My pals in the defunct Provo, Utah band from the 1980s had a song called “The Devil Lives in Moab” and the Canyon Country Zephyr newspaper also had an article about Satan sightings in the area. With these facts in mind, i wrote a story about Satan living in Moab and (as the song dictated) sold hot dogs.
Then, for a spoken word performance of the story, i (and Marty Kendall) painted this mixed media mural on a refrigerator box. Along with a few others, it lived in my VW bus for many years and now it is gone.
No secret that I love to make scrapbooks – both building them and showing them – and sometimes even encourage my friends to do so. In this case, Robert Scales made one as a guestbook for his resort in Bali. I gave it a little tuneup and encouragement and then, it lived at the bar and was filled with wonderful words until… One day, the bar burned down and sadly, the book with it (plus all kinds of great ephemera he had collected from world travels including loads from his home province in Quebec, unlike the booze, unreplaceable objects d’ art). I’m glad some of these comments are preserved digitally as well as the Curious George cover and boardgame backboard.
Seems like he needs a new one, so maybe I need to make a trip there to deliver who’s coming with me?
Insomnia used wisely can produce correspondence and cultivate friendships. I write and mail more than the postal services of the world can deliver it seems. Here are some sent and others before sending. Keep in mind, folks sharing their treats in Facebook aren’t shared here.
In Palau (an archipelago of islands in Micronesia), the artisans make remarkable relief-carved wooden boards – appropriately called “storyboards”.
This idea of creating a loose/non-linear narrative to visually accompany an oral story was the spark that ignites did my whole public speaking/story making style.
When I wander far, I rarely take a camera beyond a disposable unit but instead, chronicle my journey through assembling ephemeral artifacts which then become scrapbooks and/or storyboards of a kind.
In this example from Palau, you’ll see a mix of disposable camera snapshots printed on distressed hemp paper along with various tickets, shells, lighters, maps, newsclippings, stickers, stamps etc. plus… I wrote a brief narrative structure on Japanese rice paper envelopes, and then assembled the whole collection on green hemp canvas attached to a wooden cradle — then added paint, straw, bits of dead coral and so on.
I went there with little knowledge, no plans, and few expectations but managed to hop between islands on various intermittent ferries hauling drums of diesel, small plane, random boats and goodwill of others.
Caught in a tent in a rainstorm on Anguar, made a driftwood fire for fish, tromped to the top of bloody nose Ridge on Pelilu, saw tanks resting in the jungle and sealed up a escape tunnels, drinks at Jeff’s pirate cove in Koror… Met a friend and helped deliver mail to a live aboard dive boat then surfed a dangerous coral break, scuba dove solo at blue corner (saw sharks turtles and the very middle of the earth), free dove for a giant clams and cooked the giant clam meat on a little fire on a perfect tiny island.
Saw the Southern Cross, bought a handmade wooden spear gun, plus a hand fishing reel with thick line for trolling off a boat or casting from shore and traded dive masks for kayak rides and packets of zigzags for local herbs (which were exceptional) and used comically large shells as ashtrays.
The old folks on the islands spoke Japanese so I was able to hear stories of the occupation, traditions and life during wartime without filter of go-betweens. I am Magent the tens of thousands of lives lost in meeting last battles as I rumble down potholed airstrips made pre-World War II while the plane literally drops off the edge of a cliff before catching itself while waves crash below.
This was just before the bridge collapsed between the island with the small airport which connects to the capital “city.”
I went deep down their historical rabbit hole and learned of their tussles with foreign fishing fleets, nuclear submarines, handoffs between colonial powers > United Nations > and finally (re)independence, plus their pushback against encroaching tourist hotels and the deep respect for their natural environment.
The hundreds of islands look like heads of broccoli and the people have a remarkable combination of a sense of the outside world while maintaining their traditions and culture without giving into the shiny temptations of material trappings.
This is all. I planned to return for too many years now and, hesitated to tell anyone about this because I want to vanish here perhaps.
While visiting in Pe Ell, Dave sits before a warm fire with pipe and shows the new batch of handmade, Japanese-style, notebooks he made from reclaimed paper, discarded boardgames and various paper bits of ephemera.