Here's my advice: bend, twist, spindle, and mutilate.
My mentors were just that, mentors. Several couldn't afford the expense that having an actual apprentice would cost; others were not interested. But then by the 1960s, the old apprenticeship programs in crafts like carving were gone.
It's nice to be remembered.
Careful is not a word in the official governmental vocabulary. Procedural is.
We'd remember this night and laugh about it years from now. Yeah, Right.
That's right, the booze-filled evenings with crazy dance tapes. Dancing till four AM, even if it was sometimes with enemies, was normal. Tomorrow in the colloquium was tomorrow. Tonight we danced our unity as a tribe.
There was a tradition when I was in the Navy of the "Short-Timers Rope." The rope, or sometimes chain, had as many knots ( or links) as remained in the sailor's enlistment. At the end of each day, a knot, or link, was cut off. I saw this happen at meals.
National Maritime Day - May 22, 2020
Names have consequences.
Just a few weeks ago, I was talking about bloodroot, Dutchman's breeches, and trout lily. Those early ephemeral spring flowers are gone as I write this in mid-May. They come and go as things warm up and as the days become longer.
We make haste slowly.
In January, I started what I thought to be a quick project for a portrait of the halibut Schooner Republic. There was not much online where I began, and even less available in terms of print sources. My collection at home also came up dry. I was able to complete the project in March but wished that I had better documentation.
Accuse someone of having poor skills as a sailor. Accuse them of being a lousy cook. Accuse them of stupidity. But, the worse thing you can do is stick the Jonah label on anyone. It's like a stripe of paint down your back. It holds and ruins your reputation.
Clancy was a bloodsport type of cat. If no other cat or dog were available to pick on, he'd pick on me.
Free is a dangerous word, and worse, it's a slippery concept. Why? Well, it opens the path for the abuse of generosity.
I am not a super fan of Bob Dylan, but a line from one of his songs has always summed it up for me: " He not busy being born is busy dying." Grow, change, keep being born.
New England spring is not extravagant. Miss something today, and it'll be a year before you see it again. Don't waste time; Spring is fast.
During the summer, give me a lobster roll from any of the local places serving them up. There's an incredible Haddock stew at Gilbert's on Commercial Street in Portland. I've probably never met a finnan haddie I hadn't liked, and the sweet Gulf of Maine shrimp are far better than the southern cousins. In short, despite a medically determined avoidance of bivalves, I am a big fan of coastal cuisine.
Some people can't deal with complexity.
All was well; it was spring in New England. Patience, abetted by some mumbling and stumbling, helped you get through.
Most of us have events that echo through the corridors of our lives. Thirty, forty, fifty years later, it remains like a rhythm track beating at an intersection from a car seven cars ahead. You can't make out the song, but you hear the beat. I have that sort of track inside me, and it emerged briefly to thump into action this morning as I emerged from the house into the downpour to go to the store, out of quarantine.
Well, here it is. It took about an hour of digging around to locate. It's a list. A setlist. It contains a listing of the songs that I regularly performed when I composed the list. It's very late, probably around 1977.
Spinney's yard was no different than lots of yards on the mid-coast, and in most ways, Spinney was not too different than the run of yard owners.
Ego? Sure, I do. Why else would I have done all those shows? Blog posts and blather about my carving from one end of the internet to the other!
My all too wise Canadian feral cat Clancy saw himself as a tough guy. Nothing much could get the better of the wily Ottawa born roustabout. Weighing in at about twenty pounds, he figured that he could easily punch above his class. He had successfully intimidated burglars, large german shepherds
My friends described the backside of Beacon Hill in the '60s as a working-class slum. Not at all an accurate description. Worn at the heels, seen better times, shabbily genteel; those were better descriptors.
A part-time occupation of mine for years was teaching media and television production to students. The area of teaching the course that always provided the most significant issues was Copyright and usage rights for the music.
We were sitting around in a circle. As one song ended, the next person in the ring would pick up and add her or his voice with a song of their choosing: Josh, someone new to us, joined the circle. Josh was carrying the Stella guitar that no one ever used. It had action so high that fretting was almost impossible.
I sat down to watch the movie " a Mighty Wind" with some trepidation.
Bill and I had a sometimes business carving "genuine" Tiki gods, and other countercultural junk. This we accomplished mostly with a Dremel tool and routers. One of us had to find cheap wood for these projects, and scrounging was my specialty.
The Cap'n and his wife Cora were not children of the Great Depression. They preceded it but lived through it. The Cap'n happily reminded me, whenever I was about to indulge in anything he perceived as a frivolous expense that " In Maine, when the rest of the country got a cold, Maine got pneumonia." …
Sailor's - being superior sorts- were well in advance of the modern world when it came to reducing, reusing, and recycling. They made new from old.
We all traverse physical distances as we travel. But most of the pleasure of travel is traversing experience—the cultural, culinary, linguistic, adventures of a new place. Or of watching schooners tacking on a bay.
"You can't gain mastery unless you can do slowly what you now do at full speed."
The scent of place ties me to the memory of it. Walking into my shop and smelling varnish and linseed oil transports me to boat shops and boatyards where I've worked. Without a moment of transport, I've returned, even if it was long ago.
Some books make a difference. I've had a favorite game for years; I'll give a friend five minutes to pick the two volumes they'd take with them if they had to leave all the rest behind in an emergency.
While growing up in New York, my Merchant Mariner father sought to teach me how to survive either ashore and afloat. Here are his rules:
You might have a hancing piece in any place that needed a graceful transition.
Salvaged from the Titanic, this carved panel still looks like the woodcarver finished yesterday despite having spent most of a century in the darkness of the North Atlantic.
For many years, my constant associate was a large gray cat with attitude issues. Clancy J. Bumps ( with an umlaut over the U) was a feral cat who claimed me while I was living in Ottawa, Ontario in 1969. Clancy entered my life by walking up to my friends and me one day. He looked us over, and choosing me proceeded to climb up my leg, my back, and onto my head. He thereby claimed me as his personal property.
In 1963 I had been expelled from high school in New York. I spent more time in the coffeehouses of Greenwich Village than in class. Present any of my colleagues from the 1960s with a photo of me in front of a class teaching; they'd have told you it was absurd, laughed, and walked away. But, there I was in a tweed jacket, khaki pants, blue oxford button-down shirt, and regimental striped tie.
From where we crouched, we could see the police car's searchlight and the sounds of the night watchman walking by the stonewall. The watchman's flashlight was bobbing up, and then down, we could see the vapor from his breath in it's light every time he stumbled on the stones.
Vendetta, my father told me, was an art invented by the Catalans. Hot, cold, mild, or spiced, Catalan's mastered it. That was where I left it until I moved to Maine. There I learned it was a bit more complicated.
Boundless inspiration. It's not always available. That's why art books and museums are so valuable.
"Now let the tool do the work. The edge is sharp. All you have to do is guide it." That was me to a student at the WoodenBoat School years ago. More recently, sensei said to me, "Lou, the sword is sharp, let it do the cutting. All you have to do is guide it." …
As an adult, some of my "research" grew bolder. Friends in Boston took me out for seafood and drinks the night before I shipped out for the first time. The ship sailed directly into heavy weather, and I spent the midwatch worshipping the throne. I deny that I was seasick. It had been the clams.
The gilt-edged age for the ship carver had to have been the 17th and 18th centuries. The figureheads were the least of it. There were gilded coats of arms, allegorical figures, swags, and elaborately carved moldings everywhere.
Advice can be a curious thing. Especially when the same advice comes from sources that would seem to be juxtaposed.
keep your dollar in your pocket, and never say never.
The mailbox is full. Please call again. Goodbye."
No matter what I did, something was wrong with the grapevine I was carving. My mentor Warburton took one look and snickered. I decided that as a sign that it was terrible, quite terrible.