This is how the ebay listing reads. (I share it here 'cause it's a pretty good story):
I don't mean for this listing to be confusing, but the images are of
two different but nearly identical jugs. One has the blue "2"
Bee-stinger decoration and is marked with a large "M" at the back of the
base. The other is plain and unmarked.
Obviously they represent
the work of the same pottery -- the same shape, the same lip, the same
color clay, and the same perfect, luscious salt glaze.
That's one reason why I want to sell them as a pair. I could no
sooner break them up than I could send twins off to live in separate
Neither have chips or cracks of any kind.
The one with the blue decoration: I was walking out the door of an
antique store on highway 12 in southern Michigan when I noticed a man
carrying the jug toward the door I'd just exited. The jug was only
distinguishable by the shape. There was absolutely nothing of color or
decoration visible through the thick layer of barn dirt that completely
covered the surface. It was a dull, oily, thick, grey-brown.
I knew what it was. I couldn't help myself. I asked the fellow what
he was going to do with the jug. He said he intended to go into the
antique store and see what they'd give him for the jug.
him a price right then and there. I waited outside in hopeful
anticipation of what I knew would be a strong probability -- my offer
would be better than the store's.
I was right. I handed the man
my money and drove home with the jug in my truck. When I got home I
cleaned it up. As the grey-brown washed down the drain and the
brilliant blue began to appear, I knew I had made one of "those"
purchases -- the buy of a lifetime.
Many years later I came
across the other, plain jug in the loft of a collector. I knew I had to
have it. The two jugs belonged together.
The great extraction begins. Seriously, I knew this day was coming. If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you know that four years ago I signaled it. Still, in the past few years hence I've figured out small and large ways to continue to survive. It's been a big puzzle. It's one thing to know that you're coming to the end of something. It's another thing to know how to shape what's coming next. So, you know that the biggest burden and hindrance to your survival is the place you live. So you simply leave and set up elsewhere, right? Well, maybe. But what if where you live is also central to how you make whatever living you're capable of making? What if you can't make a greater annual income -- no matter what you do? What if you are 60 years old and have never been employed at anything else...so you're essentially unemployable at anything else anyway.... ....unless somehow you can survive on a whole lot less? What if the problem isn't how much you're capable of making so much as it is that your circumstances -- the very circumstances you require to make your living -- take too much of what you make? In the words of Yul Brynner: "Is a puzzlement!"
Well, I now have an outside source of income. And it involves doing what I do. I still make pots. I just don't make MY pots anymore. Oh, I do make my pots still -- or, at least I will until I finally move from this place, at which point I won't make my pots anymore unless I can figure out a way to set back up. Anyway, as I said, the great extraction has begun. I'm selling off stuff. I'm going to have to learn to be a nomad. No more grand old house with the two kilns out back. No more pastoral poetry about life in this old place with its wooded acre and 40 acre conservancy across the street allowing me to feel as though I'm in the country. No more poplar floors that I refinished with a belt sander. No more 11 foot ceilings and 12" baseboards and 6" mouldings with wooden shuttered windows that I made. And I can't see lugging my pottery collection around. 40 years of collecting things that simply don't fit in a nomadic lifestyle of cheap rental houses. The antique furniture will mostly go off to live with the next generation of my family if they want them. I remember hearing someone saying something like, "I hold the things I own lightly, that way it won't hurt so bad when they are someday pried out of my fingers." It was good advice.
I'll be trying ebay to sell off the pots. I have a few of them up right now (it's a long process).
I was the one who decided to run the risk of being misunderstood as
taking a "side" in the debate leading up to the passage of the ACA years
ago. I did so to raise the awareness among my artist friends that,
because of our inherently erratic income, we were particularly
vulnerable to a strange aspect of the way the ACA is set up.
shouldn't have wasted my breath because no matter how much I pointed out
that I wasn't arguing for or against the ACA, that's the only filter
through which people have come to understand discussions about the
particulars of any public issue. We're tribal now. We don't discuss
issues and decide. We know which side we're on and from there we then
learn from our tribe's sources how we're supposed to frame the
discussion. But there I was warning about the possible financial
dangers inherent in the ACA's subsidy system to my artist friends.
Nobody listened. I was just another person who wanted them to die
without health insurance. Well, poetic justice happens. I'm stuck in exactly the situation I warned about.
I've been struggling to get out from under a perfect storm of financial
circumstances ever since the big crash of 2008. And, no, it's not that
I was invested in the market and lost a bunch (if that had been the
case, that would have been sort of self-healing, right? I mean, if that
was the case, allI would have had to do was stay invested and I'd not
only have recovered -- I'd be better off than ever. TARP was a fix for
those who HAVE.).
No, it's that the market crash marked a
decided drop in buying in that final quarter of that year...and like
many art fair artists, I rely -- to an unsafe degree -- on making a good
bit of income from the sales in the final quarter and a half each year.
That year I didn't. And I was too close to the edge, financially. For
the first time in 30 years, I went into the new year already in debt.
And I've been struggling with that ever since. If it's ever happened
to you, you're painfully aware that you pay off a previous year's debt
with the current year's income. If you happen to be so close to the
line of solvency that you barely make it each year, you can figure out
the consequences -- when you pay off the previous year's debt, the IRS
says that you made that significant amount of income more than the
previous year and suddenly you owe the IRS even more than the debt you
And the perverse thing is that the ACA doubles that problem.
It works something like this:
You get a subsidy based on the previous year's income level. You make
more the next year. Now, not only do you owe more in taxes for which,
as a self-employed artist you may or may not be prepared, but you also
have to pay back the previous year's ACA subsidy. WHAM-WHAM, the
one-two punch of higher taxes and the subsidy payback.
from what I read on facebook that many are blithely unaware of how much
their subsidy for the ACA is. I'm guessing this only because I witness
conversation after conversation in which one party is complaining about
the degree to which their health insurance premiums have gone up...only
to get the response that the respondent's premium either hasn't gone
up, or has gone up from, say $17 to $85 a month. In other words,
blithely unaware that the $17-$85 a month premium is ACTUALLY a premium
of in excess of $1,000 -- for which the other taxpayers are paying the
But should you have the good fortune as I of making
significantly more in a year than you have in a previous year -- good
for you. But neither the government nor the ACA give a damn -- whether,
or for how long, or how it happened -- that you are still in debt.
They expect you to pay your increased taxes AND pay back the $10,000 you
got in subsidies the previous year.
If you're prepared you may
be able to figure out some way to borrow the money to pay both. If
you're not, you won't. And god help you if you paid off any lingering
debt from previous years.
Now don't I dig the big time rock and roll To sit in the darkness and be somebody else A time which after all is under control Crank out the music Give me music Let the music fill the air.
"Did you happen to catch the Kennedy Center Honor show last week?" my
friend asked as I folded myself down into the passenger seat of his car
and off we drove to Saturday breakfast.
And I was off to the races. His question started up a rant in me that's been boiling for weeks now.
I have been bothered by that show ever since I saw it. Okay, I've been
able to not obsess about it for a few days now but, doggone it, now my
friend done brought it up again.
I'm sure I wouldn't have been
bothered by the honors show except that James Taylor happens to be THE
musical idol of my entire adult life (and my teens, too).
has always been a passion since I first started playing "Oh Suzannah!"
on my dad's harmonica at about age 5. I'm pretty typical for my age. I
loved the Beatles and the "British Invasion", Motown....basically, all
the music of the 60s. I grew up listening to my parent's big band
records and soundtracks from all the Broadway Musicals (and can probably
still sing every word to every song of every Rogers and Hammerstein
musical to ever be struck to vinyl).
But then came Sweet Baby
James. And my sister came home with that Apple record with "Carolina In
My Mind" and "Brighten Your Night" and "Something In The Way She
...and me a blooming guitar player. I became obsessed.
In my teens I learned to play much of the Taylor catalog wrong. In my
thirties I started to relearn that catalog "righter". My chord
vocabulary grew and I could make the guitar sound a little more like I
was hearing it on the recordings.
But lyrically Taylor was also
scratching an itch of mine. I love words. Not just literal,
journalistic, concrete words, but playful impressionistic words. Words
that say things obliquely and yet somehow end up expressing the concept
more accurately that way.
Somehow Taylor always managed to
say things as he saw them....but leave just enough room to shoehorn my
own experiences into those words and relate.
So I was
disappointed by the profoundly underwhelming tribute the Kennedy Center
managed to cobble sloppily together to celebrate the career of James
First of all, I get it -- a president acting as the emcee
for the Taylor segment of the honor show wasn't nothing. But it was
the honor turned exactly on its head.
For one thing, Bill Clinton came off as though he was ad libbing his lines....and that, not even well.
But what I mean by the honor turned exactly on its head is that Clinton
left the impression that somehow Taylor was the one graced by the
attentions of two presidents (Clinton and Obama). It's exactly the
opposite. Taylor graced them. Taylor's art will have more, and a more
lasting effect on our culture than will presidents. Politicians reflect
the culture that the Taylors of the world create.
that personal annoyance (yeah, I get it that nobody else will understand
what I mean by the Taylor and the presidents thing. Maybe I'll take
another stab at it some other day), the whole segment was strangely
produced as though they had little or no idea who James Taylor was --
or, more to the point, who was the audience he created.
Darius Rucker? Garth Brooks? Are you KIDDING me?!
My boss's husband and I had been talking and speculating anxiously
about the program for well over a week. We had gone to a JT concert
this past summer and when we heard about the Kennedy Center show, hardly
a day went by we didn't talk about it.
We speculated who they
might have honor James with performances. After all, James honored Paul
Simon -- peers if ever were. And Aretha Franklin honored Carole King.
Again, peers if ever were.
And if honors shows in the past had
performers who weren't exactly peers of the honoree -- they at least
always seemed to have some obvious and long-standing connection to the
But Darius Rucker? And Garth Brooks?
So, Mr Disgruntled Bauman, if you're so smart, how would you have done the Taylor honor segment?
The stage would be dark. The audience quiet. A single spotlight would
illuminate a chair sitting at center stage. A lone, anonymous guitarist
would walk out into the spotlight, sit down on the chair, spread some
papers down on the stage in front of him, lean over the guitar as if
reading the sheets of music on the floor....
....and launch into
the guitar part for "Fire And Rain" -- just exactly like millions of
young men were inspired to do the first time they ever heard the song.
That would be the perfect intro to the segment because that's an
important -- almost critical -- part that James Taylor played in our
culture. Inspiration to make music. I'll bet James Taylor is
responsible for the sale of more guitars than Martin. Okay, maybe a
slight exaggeration. But THAT is a big part of James Taylor's influence
on our culture.
The other day, Dar, my boss, and my boss's
husband were talking. I was kidding around saying "I kept waiting for
Taylor (at the concert) to say, 'man are my fingers tired tonight. I've
played so many dates in a row, I'm just not sure I can play tonight.
Is there anyone in the audience who can do my guitar parts for me
Before I could finish with "...and I raised my hand and Taylor said, 'well, come on up here, then"...
...Dar, my boss, and her husband said, in almost perfect unison: "...and half the men in the audience raised their hand."
And they're right. Assemble 50,000 guitar players from age 40 to age
70 and ask them what inspired them to take up guitar. You won't get
very far in your inquiry before the name James Taylor will be brought
Oh, and a short list of people more appropriate than Darius Rucker or Garth Brooks to be honoring Taylor in music:
Paul McCartney Carole King Paul Simon Ben Taylor/Livingston Taylor/Kate Taylor
I looked up from my work at the trimming wheel yesterday just in time to
see a fox running across the frozen lake. For sure it was a fox. It was
too low to the ground to be a coyote and far too fast to be a muskrat
Even from my vantage point on a distant shore,
though I couldn't make out any details of color or anatomy, I still
sensed an urgency to his gait. He was in a hurry and he was going
I was immediately more unsettled than amused. Why
would a fox be running across the lake in the middle of the day? Was he
running to or from something? He was dead center to the lake --
equidistant -- quite distant -- from the safety of any shore. And sure,
he was small, agile, and light, but the ice was not only thin in some
places -- some of the lake wasn't even yet frozen.
What if he was running from some danger and the lake was his only -- and equally dangerous -- option?
even if he had just set out into the unknown to forage, it was just as
likely he was leaving slim pickins behind for even slimmer.
started to try to imagine a narrative that might comfort me. Maybe I had
looked up just in time to see him returning from mid-lake rather than
crossing it. That helped some. If that was the case, most of the
imagined fears and dangers of thin ice and unknown territory would be
ameliorated. Maybe the fox was returning home.
Or maybe I was
simply projecting. It's the beginning of the year. There's a lake to
cross. I don't know what's on the other side. I don't know where the
good ice is -- or if it is. And I'm running like mad. Like a fox on the
“Looks like you’ll be having puppies in a few months!” I shouted
over to the next door neighbor. She was carrying a bag of groceries
from the driveway to her back door as I was making my way from the kiln
in my backyard to my house.
I was smiling as I shouted it, but
there was an underlying anger in my words. I hadn’t been living next
door long, but it was long enough to have observed the lack of care they
showed their dog, a black and tan “shepherd mix” named Dusty.
The neighbor asked, “How do you know?”
“That you’re expecting puppies?” I responded.
That pulled me up short. Since everyone knows how puppies are made, I
had to assume she was wondering what I knew that she didn’t. “Well,
every male dog in the neighborhood has been visiting Dusty for the past
few days now.”
The neighbor took enough steps in my direction to
allow a peek around the corner of the garage that was standing between
her and Dusty. She looked back at the dog that happened to be, at that
very moment, looking hopefully at the back of the house. The woman then
let out what I assumed to be a resigned “Huh.” I didn’t actually hear
it, but she turned back around wordlessly and walked into the house.
I know I should have been more sympathetic to the family next door.
Maybe now, as an old man, I would be. I was 24 or 25 at that time and
my own hard times were yet to come. But the family next door consisted
of that woman -- my age – 24 or 25 herself, but with 4 kids already who
appeared to range from about 7 to 9 years of age (I’m guessing not all
hers) and a sometimes man. He showed up occasionally. Very
occasionally. I can see it now. She had it hard.
itself was a tumbledown rental with a garage that leaned badly – much of
its skeleton showing through rotted siding and blown off roofing.
Rumor had it that the bathroom in the house had a hole in the floor that
opened straight down to dirt. Apparently they straddled the hole to
stand at the sink.
So the situation was a sad one next door. But
there was Dusty. And Dusty was who I saw every day. Every boring dog
day. Every boring dog day that progressed from the springtime of our
arrival, to the heat of summer and on through that first year of our
life on Clark Street.
My pottery was in the basement back in
those days. I can remember the warm early summer morning I heard Dar
calling me from the backyard, asking me to come quickly. I dried my
hands, walked up the stairs, out the door and back to where Dar was
kneeling over a proud and smiling Dusty. Six puppies. Mixed lineage.
One or two at a time, somehow the puppies found homes and life returned to boring normal for Dusty.
Dusty’s entire existence was limited to what lay within the reach of
her 10 foot chain. Her world was a wooden box for shelter, holes she’d
dug for the cool of earth, and a food/water bowl that got filled
whenever her owners remembered to do so.
You’d think with four
young kids around, Dusty would get some attention and play. Rarely.
Every once in a while. Every once in a great while. Mostly she lay
around or sat up and perked at the least environmental change that held
the possibility of relief from her boredom.
Perhaps the most
painful thing to witness from our distance was Dusty watching as kids
played in the backyard, totally oblivious to Dusty’s existence as she
sat at rapt and hopeful attention looking on. But there was that
day I heard some shouts of play. I stepped out the back door to the
miraculous happening – the kids had let Dusty off of her chain and they
were actually throwing a tennis ball for her. And she was retrieving it
like a champ. I’m not kidding. Having watched Dusty languish at the
end of her chain 24 hours a day, I almost couldn’t believe my eyes.
She was lightning fast.
One of the kids, noticing me, hollered, “Hey, watch this” So I watched
as, with all his might he heaved the ball into the empty lot behind
their house. Sure enough, before the tennis ball could bounce twice,
Dusty had already grabbed it out of the air and was circling back toward
the boy, tennis ball in her mouth and ready for more.
I made my
way over to the kids playing and realized that that had become the game –
the fact that they couldn’t throw the ball far enough that Dusty
couldn’t retrieve it before it bounced twice had become the game. One
of them asked me “Hey, mister, you throw it. You can throw it further
than we can. See if you can throw it far enough that Dusty can’t get it
in one bounce.”
Well, I probably could, but given the confines
of the empty lot and the surrounding streets, I wasn’t going to throw it
for all I was worth and send Dusty running into traffic. But even
throwing it further than the kids could, Dusty did still get every throw
before the second bounce. She was amazing.
But the play was too soon over and never happened again that year.
And as that year went on, we didn’t just let the neglect of Dusty
happen. Without confrontation or permission, Dar and I just started
feeding Dusty and making sure she had water. Her box was only about 30
ft from my kiln shed, so I would talk to her as I loaded firings.
And if she did happen to ever get loose – like the time that in her
terror she broke her chain during a thunderstorm – she didn’t run away.
No, she would make her way over to our back stoop and lay on it ‘til we
came outside. I never took her back. I made the neighbors come and
get her. I couldn’t bring myself to hook her back to her chain. They’d
have to do that.
Dusty was a beautiful dog. Really beautiful.
She was proportioned nicely – trim and athletic – and in spite of the
lack of care, her medium length black coat was glossy and thick with a
mahogany underside that added a richness of color. The tan eyebrows made
Dusty’s gaze quite expressive.
When we left for shows we hired a
young neighbor girl to feed Dusty and make sure she had water. And
there was the day Dar shouted down to the basement again. “Come here!”
She led me back to Dusty who was lying by her box. Dar talked gently to
her and rolled her over to expose a belly absolutely crawling with
fleas. So flea dusting became yet another part of our routine.
Then one day Dusty was gone. Gone was the box and chain. Gone were the
neighbors and their children. It wasn’t unexpected, but it was sudden.
We were left with an empty feeling. We did what people do – we hoped.
We hoped, with no good reason behind that hope that maybe the family
would pass Dusty along to some family who could appreciate what they had
in a great dog. We wrote ourselves a fiction to pacify our minds.
Since we would just never know, maybe the fiction would hold up.
That was my mid-twenties.
In my mid-thirties – some 8-10 years on -- I was teaching a class of
youngsters in Sunday School. We were between class and services when I
happened to overhear a conversation between two of the young boys in my
“…and no matter how hard we throw it, Dusty could always get it in one bounce.”
“What?!” I interrupted the two kids.
“This neighborhood dog. It belongs to an old woman in the
neighborhood, but we all play with the dog. You can’t believe how fast
this dog is.”
“Seriously?” I asked. I was incredulous. “The dog’s name is “Dusty”?”
“Well, what does Dusty look like?” I prodded
“She’s kinda like a German Shepherd except she’s kinda smaller and black and brown.”
I didn’t know where this kid lived but got that information from him. I
had to know. I mean, sure it’s probably more than ten years later, but
what other dog could it be? So I arranged to meet the kid in his
neighborhood that next weekend. He promised to show me where the old
woman lived with the dog named “Dusty”.
Dusty was apparently still alive.
I showed up that next weekend and, true to his word, the young boy
walked me down the street from his house to the house in question.
Along the way some of the other neighborhood kids -- having gotten wind
of my curious quest -- joined us. We acquired a small band of young
I walked up the short drive and the walkway and pulled
open the storm door so I could knock on the wooden front door. After
some time the door finally opened. There stood a tiny, fragile, and very
frightened older woman who couldn’t imagine what was going on.
She had the paranoid eyes of someone who has suffered enough in life to
know that her worst fears were usually warranted. What good could come
from a tall young man standing at her door asking her about the ONE
thing in life that gave her joy – her dog?
None. That’s what.
She had no way of knowing.
Thankfully, Dar was along. Dar has a way with older people. I don’t
know how to explain it or describe it – I think it’s in Dar’s eyes – but
old people are drawn to Dar like gravity. As Dar stepped around me and
started talking to the older woman, I could see at least some of the
fear melt away.
And she finally understood the gist of our
visit. We weren’t there to take her dog away (though she never totally
let go of that fear – continually explaining how she cares for the dog,
long after we’d tried to assure her that we only wanted to see the dog
we used to care for).
At last she reluctantly let us in the door to see Dusty.
And there she was. Dusty. …lying totally spread out and relaxed atop the couch
in the middle of the living room -- the obvious center of this old
woman’s existence. Dusty had a fan gently blowing across her. A queen
on her throne. Cleopatra on her litter.
A few of the
neighborhood kids had barged their way into the door behind us, made
their way around us in the small room, and were kneeling around Dusty on
the couch and petting her – obviously a common welcome in this home
where this woman -- and in this neighborhood where these kids -- loved
this dog. And Dusty was …uh…heavy. Well-fed. Spoiled, even. A little grey around the muzzle, but it was definitely Dusty.
Allow me the fiction that Dusty looked up at me and smiled?