June 14, 2017 – Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl

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It’s still hard to put into words when I look back on these two. I met the husband and wife musical duo at a 4th Avenue bar in Tucson, Arizona back in 2005 or 2006. The two were playing music in the bar lounge. It was a week night and there was no cover charge, which is really the only reason my girlfriend and I went out that night; we were both going to university and didn’t have a tremendous amount of spare cash, so free music and cheap happy hour drinks were always a solid draw.

I really enjoyed the music. Amy and Derrick always had magnificent chemistry. They always seemed happy and in love, and that came through in their music. They’d take breaks in between songs and interact with the crowd, ask questions, take requests, and make jokes. It was impossible to walk away and not take some of that joy with you. As relatively broke as I was, I had to buy one of their albums, and it become a regular part of my musical rotation.

Years down the road I secured a job in the old copper mining town of Bisbee, Arizona. With the mining operation all but shut down, the town had long-ago become a mecca for artists, musicians, drop-outs and various other vagabonds. It’s unique color and history also make it a draw for tourists, which sustain a healthy hospitality industry – restaurants, bars, and hotels abound in Historic Bisbee. As it turned out, Amy and Derrick called Bisbee their home; they played multiple sets at various venues each and every week. My favorite times were Wednesday nights at The Copper Queen saloon where Amy would play solo, seated behind her keyboards, and take requests from anybody who happened to be there – funny, improvised, and ingenious performances. I quickly learned, when dropping by Doug Stanhope’s Super Bowl party, that the couple actually rented a house from the comedian and lived adjacent to the Stanhope compound.

In a small town, everybody seems connected to everybody else in one way or another.
I could never boast a close, personal relationship with Nowhere Man and Whiskey Girl, but I always enjoyed their music and their kind, generous energy.

Amy Ross suffered from lupus and kidney problems. After spending more than a week at the Tucson Medical Center, she passed away at the age of forty. She’d been suffering from a blood infection and died shortly before a scheduled surgery. Derrick shot himself in the head in his home in Bisbee with a firearm he purchased shortly after his wife’s death. Amy’s death was announced on her Facebook page:

“Hey kids! Bad news! I died this morning and Derrick didn’t know how to tell you. I love you all and hope you go out and be nice to someone. Funerals are a bore so hopefully I don’t have one. Give Derrick some alone space…He stinks at this stuff so leave him be for now. Thanks for all the kindness…Please spread it around.
~Whiskey”

We learned shortly thereafter that the message was penned by Doug Stanhope after receiving permission and password information from Derrick.

It’s hard to tell if anybody had any idea that Derrick would take his own life. He’d mentioned that he might kill himself while speaking on Stanhope’s podcast before Amy’s death, but such a public proclamation – and on a comedy podcast no less – didn’t seem to bend too many ears, especially when speaking with a man known for humor that’s regularly pretty dark.

The whole town, still absorbing the loss of Amy Ross, was in shock after learning about Derrick’s suicide. A gathering of locals descended upon The Grand Hotel Saloon in celebration of the lives of Nowhere Man and a Whiskey Girl. Local musicians sang songs, covered tunes from the deceased couple, and many glasses were raised. The bar was packed with glassy-eyed locals, and I like to think that it was a decent send-off.

Today’s photograph was taken in the green room at The Bisbee Royale, a short-lived night club that is now home to the local radio station.

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June 12, 2017 – The Pit Fire

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For several years, while I was living in the borderlands of Southeastern Arizona, I made it a point to attend the annual Cochise College Pit Fire. The entire evening surrounds a main event, the lighting of the pit fire itself; it’s an ancient method of baking clay pottery in which the pottery is placed in a trench dug into the ground with a wood fire burning above it. The result is pottery covered in interesting patterns and colors.

The evening is peppered with various musical performances on several outdoor stages, dance performances, acrobatics, theater art, gourmet food supplied by the college’s culinary arts club, and other vendors. It’s free for anybody who wants to attend, and it is genuinely one of the more interesting (and little-known) events in this somewhat remote area of Cochise County, right along the Mexican border.

I wouldn’t even be able to tell you if today’s picture depicts a booked performance artist or if it’s just an enthusiastic attendee who decided to spin poi in the field where the pit fire’s lit. It doesn’t really matter – it illustrates the energy and creativity of the event.

If you live in southern Arizona and want to attend, all you need to do is mark your calendar. You can check out their website here.

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June 06, 2017 – Logan Phillips

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Lifted from his website, Logan Phillips explains what he’s all about in words more eloquent than I could conjure. Suffice it to say, being in the room while this man speaks is an experience; I have never been moved by spoken word or poetry, ever in my life, until I met this man. I’ve been moved to tears by Steinbeck and been affected by Virgil’s “Aeneid,” had my mind twisted and perplexed by Hume, questioned my reality because of Descartes and questioned my morality because of Kant, but I had never been struck, emotionally, by spoken word poetry. I had never seen an artist so skillfully weave his stories.
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“Poetry is holding the center, not hiding in the margins: we construct our world through words. Poetry is the art of putting into words all that which is otherwise unsayable, of constructing other ways of knowing.

No matter where I’m working––the DJ booth, the classroom, the art studio, the stage––I’m creating a poem; stringing together disparate elements to say something new, creating connections in collaboration with everyone in the room––

E.E. Cummings said he was ‘overly fond of that precision which creates movement.’ Poetry is word precision, poetry moves the world forward.”

~LOGAN PHILLIPS

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A lot of people immediately disregard poetry as something that just isn’t for them. The word itself, ‘poetry,’ elicits the trauma of under-enthusiastic English teachers and classmates murmuring, passionless, one after the other, lines of Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost in sterile high school classrooms. Many of us have a negative association with all kinds of art specifically because they were taught so poorly. Logan’s mission is to illustrate that poetry can be meaningful and moving, that it’s accessible and culturally significant. He participates in education programs and seeks to inspire creative passion in our youth, which is no small task.

I’ve enjoyed sitting-in during several of his readings, and encourage you to take a look at his work. You can learn more about him at his own website here.

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A Lost Portrait

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Almost ten years ago I was laid off from work. It was like being dumped for the first time – I didn’t know quite how to take it or what to do, and it hurt. I had recently moved into an old cinder-block garage that had been converted into a guest house. A dreary place with low ceilings, no climate control, swarming with termites. The air was so thick during the monsoon season that my photographic prints stuck to each-other, ruining them, and the lower areas would collect pools of water.

In short – it was an adventure. Enough time separates the ‘then’ and the ‘now’ that I have some fond memories of sitting on the “living-room” floor with my friend Tammy, playing songs on the acoustic guitar by candlelight when the monsoon storms knocked out the power, a ceramic plate between us on the floor with tobacco and rolling papers. I spent all of my time reading the backlog of books in my collection and would go on bike rides around town.

Another of my friends, Megan, spent a lot of time being a lazy bastard with me, too. Many, many years ago I promised her I’d make a painting of her. As time passed, she would always remind me and I would always tell her I’d get to it eventually. While digging through some old hard drives looking for material for the ‘Image A Day’ project, I found an old folder with some snapshots from that summer of uncertainty, alongside a halfway completed digital illustration. I decided to set everything aside and finally finish it.

The irony, of course, is that Megan has vanished from social media, so I don’t even have the pleasure of tagging her. Smart phones were barely a thing, I was too poor to have one at the time, and none of my old flip-phones survive. So she’s lost to the ages, floating out there somewhere. With any luck, this post will magically cross her path.

In either even, it feels good to cross another project off the infinite list.
Onward and upward.

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May 16, 2017 – Downtown

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
~Leonardo da Vinci

I think there’s an elegant truth to this quote, in both concrete and abstract ways. I have always had a difficult time explaining to people why I enjoy abstract and minimalist artwork, and a lot of what I enjoy has to do with the absolute lack of concrete meaning; the viewer can bring their own ideas and emotions and sensibilities into their individual interpretation.

An abstract piece of art can be something different for each and every person who sees it.

When it comes to lifestyle, simplicity can also be an important thing. We seem to be in the habit of accumulating things, surrounding ourselves with mountains of stuff. There’s no judgement as I write these words; I am a textbook example. I often describe myself to others as a ‘collector’ – of films, albums, books, graphic novels, trading cards, photographs, artwork, and so much more. But letting go of things can be incredibly uplifting and liberating.

Today’s image is of an old auto repair shop – you can just barely read the old lettering on the sign. This was downtown Tucson, sometime around 2010, as the whole city crumpled under the economic downturn. Construction projects shut down and half-completed houses and apartments and businesses became graffiti magnets and squatter territories. Small businesses closed down and others trimmed their workforce to try and stay afloat – I was eventually laid off from my own job, and I spent my time in-between job interviews riding my bike around town taking photographs. Houses were abandoned and plywood replaced windows. It was a strange time.

At some point I may go back and re-photograph some of the scenes I’ve shared during this ‘Image a Day’ project. I’d be curious to see what’s still there and how things have changed. But that’ll be a project for another day.

Hope all is well with you.
Cheers.

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May 01, 2017 – Vintage Tucson

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We’re beginning the new month with a theme of ‘interesting places,’ but this will be a loosely interpreted theme. I don’t always uphold the rules of the month entirely, but there certainly isn’t a a dearth of interesting, weathered, creative, or otherwise unique little corners of the world.

There are a lot of interesting old buildings in Tucson, as the desert city rose into greater prominence in the middle of the 20th Century. State highways were lined with service stations and motels, and American ‘car culture’ was alive and well. In some ways, Tucson was something of a stopover as people made their way to California, and that’s precisely where many of the old motor lodge neon signs come from along the Old Benson Highway.

This image, just south of Downtown Tucson, has recently been rehabilitated and the neon sign has been repaired and re-lit. I’m happy that the structure is being preserved, but I also have this strong affinity for these old, rusty, rickety buildings. I guess there’s something to appreciate on both sides of that coin, and there’s definitely something to appreciate when an old relic of a building is once again inhabited, rather than vacant and in danger of demolition.

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April 29, 2017 – Painted Bricks

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“If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up.”
~Garry Winogrand

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