An Interview with Rockabilly Musician Al Hendrix

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Born Clyde Allen Hendrix in 1934, and inspired by the Grand Ole Opry, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Chuck Berry, Al Hendrix went on to become a legend in the world of Rockabilly. Making his debut on Los Angeles’ Rocket to Stardom Al was well on his way to establishing a name for himself in the world of music. Often playing with Buck Owens in Bill Woods and the Orange Blossom Playboys, Al later went on to be the frontman for Jolly Jody and The Go Daddies. After the song Monkey Bites was banned from some radio stations for being too risque in 1962, Al went on to perform in various mediums around Bakersfield with is band Al and The Country Mixers. Al’s work in the industry won him the recognition of Rockabilly Legend by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2008. Time Life recently partnered with him to digitally release seven albums featuring a 107 of Al’s most iconic songs.

 

Can you tell us a little about you earliest days? Where are you from and what are some of your most fond memories of those times?

I was born in Miami Florida on 11/12/1934. I spent my childhood in FL, CA, GA and when I was 13 we moved to Odessa TX. I loved to fish, ride my bike, gigging frogs and playing the guitar.

When did you first discover your love of music? Do you happen to remember what your very first favorite song was like?

My momma loved the Grand Ole Opry. We listened to it every Saturday night and she would make homemade French fries and hamburgers. My momma encouraged me to learn the guitar and sing. Home on the Range by Gene Autry was the first song that I learned to play on the guitar.

What do you enjoy most about making music?

Pleasing people with my songs!

Who were some of your earliest influences? What about their work spoke to you most?

Hank Williams, Sr, Ernest Tubbs, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Snow, Red Foley and Roy Acuff. I loved Hank Williams, Sr – his voice, the way he wrote his songs and performed, he was a very exceptional entertainer. He encouraged my way of writing songs and inspired me to sing from my heart.

Do you remember when you first met Buck Owens? Can you tell us a little about that moment in time?

It was in September of 1956 at The Black Board Café in Bakersfield, CA. One Saturday night I asked Billy Woods if I could sing a few songs. Billy was the band leader and Buck worked for him as his lead guitar player. That is how I met Buck and we became friends. Buck wrote a song called Hot Dog and he wanted me to record it, so I recorded it on the Tally Label. However, Louis Tally and Buck decided not to release it. Then several years later Buck recorded it under the name of “Corky Jones.”

What was he like as a person? What are some of your most fond memories of working with him?

Buck and I got along very well. We didn’t buddy around, we were friends though our music. Buck always liked backing me up when I sang. We joked about the scar on his upper lip – I told him that he should get it fixed when he got famous. We also joked about the girl at the hot dog stand. He never would tell who she was or where she worked, he said that if he told me I would probably try to take her out and I probably would have. (laughs) Buck also wanted me to teach him my back stroke on the rhythm guitar. I told him no because he would steal it.

Looking back over the course of your career are there any moments that stand out most in your mind?

In 1952 I won the High School talent contest in Odessa, Texas and the trophy is still there! That same year I won a countywide contest in Midland, Texas. Leon Payne, who was known as “The Blind Troubadour” band, backed me up and I sang Hank Williams, Sr’s song, Lonesome Whistle. I brought home $50.00 and gave it to my Mom, she was so proud of me. The next day Leon Payne came to my house and wanted me to go on tour with him and his band, but my mom said NO, that I was too young. ‘And what about his schooling,’ she asked and Leon told her he would hire the best tutors for me and she still said NO! Then in 1960, I signed a contract with Herb Monte and Phil LaGree. Herb booked me to appear on Wink Martindale’s Pacific Ocean Beach TV Show which was known as the West Coast American Bandstand. Herb had a heart attack and died, and that was the end, or so I thought. Then in 2008, Bob Timmers nominated me to be inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. What an honor that was! In 2010, I was one of the headliners at Viva Las Vegas at The Orleans Casino and Hotel with Jerry Lee Lewis. He played at the car show on Saturday afternoon and I did Sunday night in the Grand Ballroom. In September of 2013, I was invited to headline the four-day High Rockabilly Festival in Calafell, Spain. Then in May of 2014, I headlined the Hemsby Rock ‘n’ Roll Weekender in the UK.

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How do you think the music industry has changed most since you first began working in it? The music industry has changed tremendously. When I was younger you could understand the lyrics! Rock ‘n Roll is nothing like it was when I was singing. It is now called Rockabilly, when I think it was really Rockabilly. Alan Freed was the one that termed it ROCK ‘N ROLL.

What advice would you offer the musicians of tomorrow?

If you love the music and it’s in your soul, stick with it and never, never give up. Develop your own style and try not to imitate someone else’s style and enter as many talent shows as possible.

What did it feel like to be recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2008? Why do you think that particular genre has withstood the test of time?

It was an amazing feeling to know that I was recognized to be inducted in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. When Bob Timmers called and told me, I didn’t know what to say other than “Thank you so much.” This has opened doors for me! I think “Rockabilly” has lasted so long because it is Rock ‘N Roll and Country music combined. When you go to any Rockabilly Festival you feel like you are stepping back to the 50’s and 60s, everyone is dressed like we did when we were young.

Can you tell us a little more about the collaboration with Time Life? Are you excited to be able to offer up 107 songs in digital format?

A good friend of mine who is a DJ by the name of Scott Wikle introduced me to Kirt Webster, who is now my PR man, got the ball rolling and what trip it is going to be.I am very excited to have 107 of my songs being heard all over the world.

Do you have a dream project you’d most like to bring into being?

Yes, I want to write and sing a gospel album.I already have one song written, the title is Flicker of the Flame.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

At my age all I can say is stay true to your upbringing and God! Having faith is everything. You don’t think too much about it when you are young, but it is very important when you get older.

How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I would like to be remembered by my loved ones and fans as someone who has touched their lives in some way!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Yes, I want to thank you again for this interview and remember: “Never Stop Rockin,” it will keep you YOUNG AND WILD.

 

Al Hendrix, America’s Lost Rocker

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An Interview with Graham Masterton

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Graham Masterton has long been considered a master wordsmith. He went from being the original editor of Mayfair and the British version of Penthouse, to writing self help sex education books. His first novel The Manitou went on to be filmed starring Tony Curtis, Susan Strasberg, Burgess Meredith, and Michael Ansara. Long considered on of the best authors in his field Masterton was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers’ Association in 2019.

How did you land your first professional writing job? What did it feel like to be doing something you love?

When I reached sixth-form level at school, my mother’s second husband changed jobs and we had to move to Crawley New Town (as it then was) in Sussex. I had been attending Whitgift, an all-boys’ public school in Croydon, but now the hourly commute to school every morning was too tiring. I was found a place in the sixth form at Ifield Grammar School (as it then was) only five minutes from where we now lived. The most dramatic difference about the grammar school was that it was co-ed, and I found myself in a small A-level English class with four of the prettiest girls you have ever seen. I totally forgot about Shakespeare and Milton and Sheridan and spent all my time chatting up Jane and Jill and Valerie and Charmienne.

After only two terms the headmaster told me that I was wasting my time there and I was asked to leave. That was probably the best thing that ever could have happened to me. I got a job at Gerrard’s the Greengrocers and soon became skilled at twisting paper bags full of potatoes and Brussels sprouts (I can still do it.) Although I was only 17 I was asked if I would like to take over the shop as manager. That same day, though, the local youth employment officer got in touch with me and asked if I would be interested in a vacancy that the local paper the Crawley Observer was offering for a trainee reporter. I jumped at the chance. I had been writing stories ever since I was seven or eight years old…stories based on Jules Verne adventures and Edgar Allan Poe horror tales. When I was about 15 or 16 I had discovered the Beat writers like Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti and William Burroughs and I was really impressed by how outspoken they were, and unafraid to discuss any topic, political or sexual. At the same time, though, their writing was so rhythmical and so direct that you felt you were actually living their poems and their stories rather than reading something on a page.

I started to emulate their writing and also wrote to William Burroughs (he was living in Tangier at the time.) We corresponded regularly and eventually became friends.

I loved being a reporter. In those days the editors and the senior reporters were all retired Fleet Street men from national newspapers, and they really knew how to identify a news story and how to write it so that it would immediately catch and hold their readers’ attention. They taught me how to be concise and clear and how to use the simplest language. Most of all they taught me how to ask people the most intimate questions, and how to listen to the answers. On my very first day I was sent to interview a woman about her husband winning a cycling trophy (not exactly front-page news!). I got all the details but as I was about to leave she said, ‘He beats me.’ I asked her if she wanted to talk about it, and for the next hour she gave me all the details of his physical and mental abuse. Of course I couldn’t put that in the paper, but for me it was a Damascene moment. I realized that if you are unafraid to ask direct questions, and listen to the answers sympathetically, even total strangers will tell you almost everything about their lives.

The Observer not only taught me writing discipline, the editor allowed me to be creative. I was given my own by-lined page to write about pop music and youth stories, and also to write a humorous column called Private Ear.

What do you think it takes to create an interesting story?

There are interesting stories everywhere you look. That was another thing that my four years of training as a reporter taught me. One key to creating interesting stories is to be completely original. My first horror novel The Manitou was based on Native American mythology which only Algernon Blackwood had touched on in his terrific story about the Wendigo. It sold half a million copies in six months. I have written about vampires a couple of times. Descendant was a vampire novel but nobody in a cloak bit anybody’s neck…it was all based on the original legends about the strigoi in Romania. I have never written about werewolves or zombies. There are so many fascinating demons and ghosts and terrifying spirits in the mythology of other cultures that you could never run out of fascinating ideas. Another key is to contrast or even clash two very different ideas against each other – maybe a real-life story based on a current news event with a fictional drama. That was the basis of some of the political thrillers I wrote and also the 11 crime novels I wrote about Det. Supt Katie Maguire. There were so many riveting news stories in the Irish Examiner that I never ran out of ideas.

Who were some of your favorite authors from early on? What was it about their work that spoke to you most?

I loved Jules Verne when I was young, especially the giant squid in Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea. I wrote several books of my own based on a harpooner called Hans Lee, bound them in cardboard and sold them to my friends for a penny (my first royalties!). I graduated them to Edgar Allen Poe and loved the gothic originality of his stories. Then went on to hard-bitten but very professional American authors like Herman Wouk (The Caine Mutiny) and Nelson Algren (The Man With The Golden Arm). I loved their believability and the way they were able to construct their plots so that the readers’ point of view could be turned on its head. After those writers, I went on to discover the Beats.

BURROUGHS

Visiting the Church of Scientology in 1967 under assumed names with William Burroughs for an investigative magazine feature.

What was it like when you discovered the Beats? What do you think it is about that particular culture that draws people in most?

You have to remember that when the Beats started writing, society both in the United States and Britain was still very conformist. Nobody had used a rude word on television or the radio. Homosexuality was illegal. There were plenty of restaurants where they wouldn’t let a man in unless he was wearing a tie and I was refused entry to Annabel’s night club in London because I was wearing jeans (!). Suddenly the Beats were saying things that couldn’t be said, expressing both love and defiance, and expressing it in highly unusual freestyle poetry and audacious stories. We were the children who had been brought up in the rigid and austere 1950s by parents who had been exhausted by war and the Beats wrote about everything we wanted: bright clothes, exciting music, sex and freedom to say what we felt, without constriction.

How did being an editor for Mayfair come about?

After four years on the Observer I was keen to work for a national newspaper. I went to meet my uncle Bill who was property editor of the Evening Standard in Fleet Street. I bought him a pint of beer and asked him if he could help to get me a job. He said I should first go and get a few years’ training on a Northern newspaper such as the Manchester Guardian. The last thing in the world I wanted to do was go up North. I was a Mod and into Kings Road fashions and Soho blues clubs. Next I was given an interview by the editor of The Daily Telegraph. He suggested I should go up North and get a few years’ training on the Wolverhampton Evening News. I was quite depressed and didn’t know what to do next, but my good friend Katherine O’Sullivan who was a reporter on the rival newspaper in Crawley told me she had seen a man on the London Underground reading a new magazine called Mayfair that looked a bit like Playboy. I bought a copy and immediately wrote a letter to them saying how much they needed a brilliant writer like me. The publisher Brian Fisk gave me an interview and said he had never read such an arrogant job application in his life. He took me to lunch at the RAC Club in Pall Mall and offered me the job of deputy editor. That wasn’t as grand as it sounds because all the photography and design and most of the articles in Mayfair were farmed out to freelances and the staff consisted only of Brian Fisk, the editor David Campbell, the secretary Jill, me, and Brian’s Alsatian. From day one, I wrote almost everything, including sexy humorous articles, cartoon captions, and even the readers’ letters when we didn’t have enough.

You have written countless sex instruction books as well. What is the most challenging thing one faces in writing instruction books of any variety?

It was writing for Mayfair that led to the sex instruction books. We were trying to find a regular monthly feature that would ensure that our readers would always be hungry for, like the letters in Penthouse. I thought up Quest, which was a question-and-answer sex survey, interviewing young women about their sex lives. I wrote all of it myself, but it wasn’t completely fiction, because I based it closely on intimate talks that I had had with the girls who appeared in the centre spread of the magazine every month – using the same interview techniques that I had learned from being a reporter. These features proved to be so popular that they greatly increased the circulation of Mayfair and eventually led to a publisher Neville Spearman asking me to write a book in the same q-and-a style. Out of that came Your Erotic Fantasies and Girls Who Said Yes, under the pseudonym Edward Thorne. Three years later, when I left Mayfair and took over as editor of Penthouse, I started writing sex instruction books under my own name. The first — How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed – was a huge seller and is still on sale today. The most challenging thing is the language you use, especially with sex books. I wrote 29 of them altogether, and one of the main reasons they sold so well was because they discussed sex in non-medical terms that people could understand and relate to, but at the same time I didn’t use obscenities. So many instruction books talk down to their readers, too. You need to write as if you’re a friend who’s listening to their problems sympathetically, nodding, and then making a few helpful suggestions.

As someone who has worked as an editor as well as an author do you enjoy one more than the other?

I enjoyed both equally. I loved every aspect of running a magazine. Not only did I devise the contents of each issue, I was able to meet and make friends with some terrific authors that I commissioned to write articles. Stirling Moss used to write motoring articles for me. Jan Cremer wrote brilliant travel features. Brian Aldiss contributed sci-fi stories. Humphrey Lyttleton was my food critic. John Steinbeck Jr. wrote some great pieces, too. And so on. I also negotiated all the print contracts and even bought the paper. And I can’t say that having all those stunning girls around with no clothes on was the most dispiriting part of the job. Being an author obviously means that you have to spend most of the day on your own, but I still like to involve myself in other activities, like attending book signings in other countries like Poland, France, Greece and the Czech Republic. I have also been co-authoring short horror stories with a sparkling new writing talent, Dawn G. Harris – the first time that I have found an author whose ideas and writing styles completely click with mine. We have published two of those stories already in the United States, in Russia, in Greece, in Bulgaria and in Poland and we aim to put out a collection of them in a book.

How do you think the literary world has changed most since you began delving into it?

Publishing has changed enormously. When I first started writing horror novels and thrillers and historical dramas, I was writing for gentlemanly publishers like Hamish Hamilton and Penguin and WH Allen and St Martins Press and Simon & Schuster. Novels were commissioned over leisurely lunches in fine restaurants and advances were usually very generous. But then publishers began to be taken over by larger international companies and became conglomerates. The old guard retired or died. I am extremely lucky today to be writing for Head of Zeus, which was founded by Anthony Cheetham, whose publishing history goes back as far as mine. HoZ is a wonderful independent publisher, highly professional but also extremely friendly. Of course ebooks are one of the most fundamental changes, and I really welcome them. They have meant that almost all of my backlist has been brought out again, mostly by HoZ and Bloomsbury, and of course that never would have happened if my publishers had had to reprint them all on paper, because it simply wouldn’t have been cost-effective. For me personally, one of the most exciting developments has been the rise of independent publishers in Poland since the end of communism in 1989. I have two great publishers in Poland – Albatros in Warsaw and Rebis in Poznan, and I have been friends with them right from the beginning. I also have two publishers for my books in French, Bragelonne in Paris and Livr’S in Belgium. Livr’S are a very young and exciting company and have been bringing out my latest horror novels Ghost Virus and The Children God Forgot (Les Anges Oubliés).

What are some of the most challenging aspects one faces being a writer in today’s world?

Writing original fiction is much harder and more exhausting than most people think. There are countless would-be authors out there, and while I always try to encouraging, I come across so much work that is well-meant and sometimes quite original, but which sadly doesn’t stand a hope of being accepted by any publisher. The usual problems are awkward plot construction, flat characterization, and clumsy use of language. William Burroughs and I spent hours and hours working on ways in which to make a story come to life, dismantling and reconstructing sentences so that the author vanishes, and readers feel as if they are living in the story rather than reading it. William used to call it becoming El Hombre Invisible. I try to write fiction as if I am writing music. Clarity and rhythm are essential. Of course another challenge is finding a good agent – or finding an agent at all. There are plenty of literary agents listed on the internet, but they are even pickier than publishers.

What advice would you offer to others wishing to make writing their lifelong craft?

Be surprising. Be brave. Don’t try and write like anybody else. Be prepared for rejections and disappointments but never give up. Understand that fewer than 14 percent of writers make enough money to be able to live on it, so you may never be able to give up the day job.

DEPUTY WARDEN CHONIN

With Deputy Chonin of Wolow maximum security prison in Poland to give the prizes for the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award in 2019.

For those not familiar with it can you tell us a little about the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award (Nagroda Grahama Mastertona W Wiezieniu Pisane) for the inmates of all of Poland’s penal institutions? Do you think writing in and of itself can be a sort of freedom even in the worst of times?

I thought up the Graham Masterton Written In Prison Award five years ago when I visited Wołow maximum security prison near Wrocław in southern Poland. I spoke to about 100 prisoners there and signed books for them, and it was immediately apparent that they were avid readers – no prizes for guessing why. It occurred to me that if they were encouraged to write short stories themselves, only about 1,000- 1,500 words, it would give them the opportunity to put down their thoughts on paper – either stories that they had dreamed up or their own personal experiences – and that they would know that people outside the walls of the prison had read them and shared them. I considered that it would help to improve their feeling of self-worth – and like all the people I had interviewed as a reporter and as an editor – it would give them the chance to get some burdensome secrets off their chests. I was given the enthusiastic support of the prison’s director Robert Kuczera, as well as the Polish Prison Service, and very special assistance from Marcin Dymanski of the Wrocław Conglomeration, which is an association to improve arts, sports and culture in and around the city of Wrocław. The winner receives a brass shield and the winner and ten runners-up all receive DVD players and certificates. I write a personal letter to every entrant and all entrants receive a souvenir pen. Tight prison restrictions mean that I cannot give them more than that. All of Poland’s penal institutions take part in the contest, and each year we have averaged around 120 entries, which are translated for me so that I can pick the best. Each year – with the exception of this year, because of Covid-19 – I go to Wołow to present the prizes. The stories that have been entered have been extraordinary. Some of them are fantasies. Some are horror stories. Some are heartbreaking personal memoirs. This year I should have enough to collect them together and publish them as a book, both in Polish and in English.

How did it feel to receiver the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Horror Writers’ Association in 2019?

It’s always gratifying to be acknowledged by one’s peers. I’m not sure how I felt about a ‘lifetime’ award when I still have so many more books to write!

How did you meet your beloved Wiescka? What would you say is the most important thing you learned from her? How was she instrumental to your career over the years?

Wiescka was my secretary at Penthouse magazine. I think we were attracted to each other right from the very beginning. One day she came to work and her dress was unzipped by about six inches at the back. I just went up and zipped it up for her and we looked at each other and I always count that moment as the beginning of what eventually blossomed between us. That Christmas I organized a lavish party for all the staff and contributors to Penthouse at the Penthouse Club in Mayfair. Our printers took us for a slap-up dinner afterwards at the 21 Club and that night the inevitable happened. From her I learned patience, and good humour, and kindness to other people. She helped me enormously because every day I would give her what I had written and she would ruthlessly criticize it. After I parted company with my US agent Julian Bach she took over as my agent and had a matchless way of demanding very large advances! Because she was so attractive, publishers invariably gave in. After she sadly passed away in 2011, I was greatly helped by Maria Raczkowska, who was the publicity director at Albatros publishing in Warsaw at the time. I emailed her each chapter of Community as I wrote them and she read them and give me her opinion. She is happily married now (Mrs Pstragowska) and we are still in regular touch.

How do you think you have evolved most as an author over the years?

I hope that I have become more daring and inventive. My latest horror novel The Children God Forgot deals with a fairly extreme and controversial subject, and I mentally wrestled with myself before writing it. In the end, though, I thought what the hell, if nobody wants to publish it, too bad. But it has just been published by Livr’S and HoZ will be bringing it out in February 2021. I would love to write more historical sagas but they require so much time and so much energy that I doubt if I will write another one just yet. Over the past couple of years I have published two crime thrillers set in the 18th century, Scarlet Widow and The Coven but the research required is incredibly demanding. Did women in 1760 wear knickers? (No, they weren’t invented yet.)

What are your thoughts on the current state of the world in general? How have you been spending your time during the pandemic?

I have political opinions of course but I keep them to myself. I have to be well known to be a successful writer but that doesn’t give me any special authority to spout off about diversity or sexuality or anything else. During the pandemic I have been working as usual although I sorely miss the frequent evenings out with Dawn and the endless conversations we always have.

What projects are you currently working on?

My new haunted house novel The House of a Hundred Whispers is published on October 1 so I have been promoting that. I am also promoting the story Cutting The Mustard the last story that Dawn and I wrote together, which will soon be appearing in The Horror Zine Book of Ghost Stories, and I have just finished a short story of my own The Red Butcher of Wrocław which will be published in both the USA and Poland in time for Christmas. I am writing a third horror novel Blitz Mentality featuring Det Sgt Jamila Patel and Det Jerry Pardoe who featured in Ghost Virus and The Children God Forgot.

What would you like to say in closing?

My website and my Facebook pages have given me the opportunity to make personal friends with so many readers, and I really appreciate that. When it comes to writing I am up the walls (as we used to say in Cork) and so I don’t have nearly enough time to reply to every one of them, but I would like them all to know how much I appreciate their enthusiasm and their warmth.

HALLOWEEN BOOK PIC

With the co-author of new horror short stories, Dawn G Harris

“Anelle” by Michael Fitzgerald

Annell

“Head of an Old Italian Woman” by Frederic Leighton.

 

 

 

ANELLE

 

After my divorce I moved into a very Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, Carroll Gardens. My apartment didn’t have a washer and dryer so I had to lug my bags of laundry down to the local Laundromat. As I waited for my clothes to wash and dry I took in the cast of characters, I was lost in a Fellini movie. I knew to fit in I had to immerse myself into some aspect of the surroundings. I went over to the message board that was filled with local ads for apartments, selling furniture, fix it jobs etcetera, then one of the ads jumped out at me. An old blind woman needed someone to read to her twice a week for an hour, she left her number her name was Anelle Anotelli. I thought it strange that an old woman would leave her number in a public place but I decided to call anyway.

When I called Anelle, she was excited at the prospect of having me read to her. She seemed very sharp and well read and wanted to get started as soon as possible. My question concerning her well being at leaving a phone number in a public place was abruptly answered when I tried entering her apartment building. A guy I would’ve cast as a mobster in a Fifties movie stopped me at the entrance. He didn’t say a word he just looked at me and gave me this nod that said, “Who the fuck are you?”  I told him I was here to read to Anelle. He smiled “your a the guy” then wrapped his arms around me, “Franco will be pleased.”

I entered the building walking to the back apartment the door was ajar. I gave a quick knock and a friendly hello and entered.  Anelle was sitting on an Empire couch in a black gown that was probably very stylish in the Fifties. She was now a woman in her early eighties.

Anelle stood and moved spryly about the living room fetching me a cup of tea and homemade cookies. She gave me a full landscape of her life, which was quite interesting. Hanging out with Henry Miller and Anais Nin she was a respected painter in her day but her career succumbed to her gradual blindness. She had been to India, Asia the Eastern block during the McCarthy era. Her stories were wild and sometimes lurid. I was shocked on some level at her freeness of spirit. It was like hearing your grandma curse, you never expected this old women to be so entertaining and unguarded.  I adored being around her likening her to a grandmother I never had. We agreed to meet twice a week and she would pay me for my time. I at first told her I was willing to read to her for free and she waived it off as nonsense. She told me my time was worth something and she was glad to pay. I told her I was a struggling actor and she would have to be flexible with scheduling sometimes. She was thrilled I was involved in the arts and that I could bring my own stories to share.

A story she told of Henry Miller had us both in stitches of laughter.  They were both staying in a small village in Spain working on present projects.  Henry asked Anelle to dine with him. Both imbibed heavily in the local red wine and ended up in bed together.  The next morning Henry couldn’t find his pants. Anelle smiled broadly as she told me “because I was laying on them.” The following evening I showed up for dinner in his pants tucked into riding boots. “Have I been naughty?” she asked coyly. Henry smiled, “the punishment was delightful.”  We both broke into hysterics. She halted the giggling by moving in closer and touching my face. Suddenly I felt myself exposed. We sat in silence for several moments with her hand on my face. “Dear Boy, you don’t have to give it all away, save some for yourself.” I put my hand on hers and she said “the Divine doesn’t judge us, we’re too busy doing to ourselves. Let life in.”

The next few weeks were hectically filled with new acting work.  Finding time to meet with Anelle with all the busyness was trying but wonderful things started happening to me. I mentioned to a neighbor that my parents were coming to dinner and I wanted to grill some New York strips for them. When I went to the butcher the steaks were wrapped and waiting for me. The butcher commented, “It’s a nice thing a ya doing. Make ya mama and papa a nice meal.” I told Anelle how much I loved her espresso and an espresso maker was left at my door.

Shortly after I was washing my clothes at the Laundromat and one of the locals, Vito, who ran the shoe store around the corner told me who Anelle was connected to. He was shocked I didn’t know. “Really? Ya don’t know. That old lady is Genovese’s older sister. She was quite an artist in her day I was told.” “Genovese as in mafia Don?” “You got it” Vito replied. “You treat the old girl with respect and you are the new prince of the neighborhood.”

Soon after life got really busy I scored a part in an Off Broadway show. The only times I could meet with her were evenings and weekends. I was getting to the point where I needed a little time to decompress. This brought back feelings of my failed marriage, sacrificing life for career. Memories of the fights still haunted me making me feel selfish. Still when I would show up at Anelle’s apartment there would be amazing food to eat and scintillating conversation. I was truly torn on what to do.

Rehearsal ran late on a day I had scheduled a meeting with Anelle for dinner and reading. I had decided to talk to her about cutting back on my visits because of my schedule. Running an hour late I entered her apartment dreading having to tell her of my situation. As I pushed the door softly ajar I could hear her talking on the phone.

“He’s never late. Maybe he’s depressed and won’t come. He needs me now. He’s a lonely poor boy, such a sweet person. He sure enjoys my stories. I feel like he’s a grandson.”

“Hello! Anelle can I come in?”

She turned to the entrance-way smiling broadly, “there you are.”

We stood in silence facing each other for an extended moment, me in my uncertainty letting out a deep sigh and Anelle in her lucid blindness reading me from across the room.

“Ah, well life has taken its course hasn’t it”, she said, her smile widening.

 

 

Michael Fitzgerald is a first generation Irish American who has recently published short stories in “Concho River Review”, “Down in the Dirt Review”, “Westwind Review” and “Golliards.”

 

 

An Interview with Joe Exotic by Tina Faye Ayres

JoeExotic

During the pandemic of 2020 a vast majority of the world found itself fascinated by the story of The Tiger King. The creator of the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park is now residing at the Fort Worth Federal Medical Center. Before becoming one of the most well-known tiger breeders in the United States Joseph Maldonado-Passage worked his way up to chief of the Eastvale Texas Police Department. He later went on to run for President of the United States in 2016 and Governor of Oklahoma in 2018. Following the success of the documentary series on Netflix most everyone featured therein have had the chance to express their point of view as they see fit though not much has been said by Joe Exotic himself on the matter.

It is my belief that everyone deserves the chance to tell their story, in their own words, from their point of view. I offer up this interview in support of that belief. The following is from Joe written June 5, 2020. Many thanks to Joe and his legal team for giving me this chance, with the understanding that no profit will ever be made from it. It is an honor to have had the chance to help bring this story to light. Thank you all.

Can you tell us a little about your family? What was it like growing up with your parents and siblings? What were each of them like as people? What do you think is the most important thing you learned from each of them?

Wow, growing up with my family, I spent most of my childhood on farm in Garden City, Kansas. Born as slaves, to work in the fields, not very many memories worth keeping as a child because most are horrible but engrained in my memory forever, like being molested by my oldest brother about 5 years old in the bathroom of our old farmhouse, and to be made to kneel with your arms straight out for punishment and beat with a wooden slat if your arms came down, to watch your dad, mom, oldest brother fist fighting and hitting each other with chairs. Growing up dad was a very mean man and anything that went wrong was your fault.

Now I ain’t saying I never done anything wrong, I set the back field on fire once playing with matches, but the physical and mental abuse was something that I carry with me to this day.

You were particularly close to your brother Garold. Can you tell us a little more about him? What are some of your most fond memories of him? What do you think he would have thought of The Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park? Did it help you feel closer to him in some way?

My brother Garold who died, always said he was going to break that cycle with his kids and he did. He was the best dad, and the only sibling who ever just accepted me as a kid and as an adult. My oldest sister ran away from home and was with a guy who she ended up marrying who overdosed on heroin and died.

I never really spent much time with my younger sister, but me and Garold spent most of our teenage years riding horses in the mountains when we moved to Wyoming. That is where my love for weird animals came in. We had pet raccoons, porcupines and my little sister found an orphan baby antelope.

But my animal hobby started in grade school when I brought home the schools white mice for the summer and ended up with hundreds of white mice and we went around different farmers barns at night and caught pigeons to raise and show off for 4-H. At one time we had around 500 pigeons.

Around 1979 we moved to Pilot Point, Texas because dad was raising race horses. Garold got married and put a trailer house on the same ranch because he said mom and dad would never go to a nursing home.

I worked at the The Sundial nursing home with mom and became an E.M.T and worked on the Pilot Point Ambulance at 18 years old. Graduated High School in ‘82 and applied for a job as a police officer in Eastvale, TX and the city council said I looked too young to work on the street so I offered them a deal I would work 6 months for free if they gave me a chance. I graduated the Police Academy as the youngest chief in Texas history. In 1985 my oldest brother told my dad I was gay and my dad was standing in the front door of his house screaming so bad the spit was hitting my face and my mom was standing behind him crying. As my dad made me shake his hand and promise not to come to his funeral, so on my way back to the house where I lived, I drove my police car into a bridge. I spent the next 3 years in braces after 57 days in traction in the hospital.

After a year in Florida Garold and mom came to Florida to move me back to Texas, at this time I had about 45 parrots and on the way to Texas we stopped on the side of the road to check the bird and I fell off the side of the stock trailer and broke my arm and crushed my shoulder. They took me to the hospital in Mobile, AL and they wanted to put in over 200 pins, mom said no so they transferred me to OKC to the Bone and Joint Institute where they healed me without surgery.

Then mom and dad helped me get a trailer house in Arlington, Texas, where I got a job at a Pet Safari with Sandy and Stanton Kizer. They offered to sell it to me and Garold and finance it for us. It was 1400 sq ft store for $15,000 and $5,000 down. So me and Garold went into business and I met and married Brian Rhyne.

We worked every day together and Garold was then living on mom and dad’s ranch in Springer, Oklahoma and drove to Arlington to work, and stayed at our house 2 days a week.

He built the cat furniture, dog houses, and reptile cages we sold and he sold that stuff to almost every pet store in DFW.

My older sister moved from Florida to Arlington and stayed about a year and wanted to go back to Florida and everything was always about saving money. So dad talked Garold into driving her to Florida with her stuff. He stayed the night at our house and the next morning in my front yard he shook my hand and said, “If something happens there is enough money in CD’s to take care of Lois and the boys.”

About 6 p.m. that night the phone rang, mom saying that he and my sister were in a bad wreck and they were on the way to pick me up, we got to the hospital in Corsicana, Texas and he got out of surgery from removing his spleen. Both legs, his back and neck were broken and his head injury was so bad his eyes were bulged out of the sockets, he was awake but on a ventilator and scared as hell, he knew he was gonna die, they put him in a drug induced coma, and for 7 days I tried to get him transferred but every time I got it set up the doctor would tell the receiving hospital he was brain dead. I would not accept that, so I made a deal with Baylor, if they would come get him and prove to me he was dead I would donate his organs, when they rolled him out of the hospital to the helicopter huge globs of spiderwebs fell from the sky all over the helicopter, like at that moment he went to Heaven. So Baylor kept their word and so did I. My brother saved 4 other people and I got to meet the man who got his heart.

My brother was my hero, when we had the pet store people gave me a hard time so he painted the pole of the sign by Fielder Road the color of the gay flag and said, “Fuck em, you’re my brother and if they don’t like it they can deal with me.”

Garold was the only one who had anything to do with me. I have not spoken to the others since his funeral in 1997.

Me and Brian sold the store and put our money in with mom and dad to build a memorial park in honor of Garold. He always wanted to go to the jungle where the native people with bone in their noses lived, so it seemed the right thing to do.

Brian got sick in 1996 and contacted fungal pneumonia and went through a long battle of treatments and being sick. When we got the zoo started his health went downhill and I had hospice helping me with him while I built the zoo with mom and dad.

One night before Christmas of 2001 his pain was so bad I couldn’t stop it and he had quit talking days before so I called an ambulance to take him to Norman, OK to the hospital. The E.R doctor told me if they give him a shot it would kill him. It was like taking your dog to be euthanized, what could I do but tell them to give him the shot? His cousin was with me and they admitted him in the hospital so I went home and Amanda stayed with Brian. She called me the next morning and said they were releasing him. So I went to go get them.

And when I rolled him out of the E.R and pick him up to put him in the car he took his last breath. My heart just died, again.

The hospital would not let us back in with a dead body on hospice so I had to sit with a sheet over him in the parking lot waiting for a funeral home to come get him.

I had his funeral at the zoo.

Over the years people built cages as memorials of loved ones so animals could live for people’s memories. Mom and dad spent every day there telling their story to people who lost a child or loved one. It helped everyone.

Why do you think it is important to honor the memory of our loved ones?

My dad turned out to be my biggest fan in the world. He was so proud of what we did in Garold’s memory. Then jealousy hit my oldest brother, for years he blackmailed my mom to tell my dad that I donated Garold’s organs and in 2016 he held good to his threat and told dad.

By this time dad’s mental health was going downhill and I set all night with dad as he cried that we cut Garold apart. But after hours of talking he came to understand he saved 4 people even while dying himself. He died a hero.

Magic was the only way to get people’s attention to the message. People are tired of being preached at.

You honor those who die. You respect their memory. What changed me was when Travis died. I begged for a sign he made it to Heaven and out of nowhere the word, “Hi” appeared in the sky. It is on my Facebook. I got a picture of it.

You often helped children with various disabilities experience the wonders of nature via the Park. What was it like to be able to offer the chance to interact with the animals in such a way?

We never charged anyone who was sick to come to the zoo and I sit by the hospital beds of those who were dying with a baby tiger to only grant their last wish. People don’t stop and think people with Downs Syndrome or blind, etc. live in such a dark world for a life time and bringing joy and a smile to them is what Garold stood for.

I worked the next 18 years for my brother , people worldwide new who he was and were so proud to become part of it.

I toured the nation doing magic and singing the songs I wrote to millions of kids and adults, about saving or environment and not to bully others, and it worked. To this day people are writing me letters of support that seen a show in their town.

What are your feelings on the series? How do you feel about how the media has distorted your love of animals?

The media and the animal rights make me out as an animal abuser because it makes them money from people who don’t know better or do their own research. Just like Carole made millions but keeps her animals in small, rusty cages. It is all a scam. I’m not in jail for animal cruelty. It was for “taking” an endangered species that was born in my own zoo.

I have never been charged with animal cruelty. As you see my tigers love me and if you abuse a tiger you will not go in the same cage with it and live to tell about it

I had mixed feelings about the documentary because I had no idea what angle they were gonna take but I don’t think they expected the world to see I’m honest, hard working, and proud of everything I done, right and wrong, my videos of real life on Youtube helped people understand the real me.

What I am disappointed about is how everyone now who turned their back on me wants to make a buck and become a movie star. Look what it has even done to my husband Dillon, he is so busy being famous he has not wrote one letter to see how I’m doing, but during my trial he was so ashamed of me he wouldn’t come to the trial because he didn’t want in the press.

This has went to peoples heads. This was my life. This was my parent’s lives, this was the memory of 152 other people and it has turned into who can make a buck. Before meeting me who was Dillon? Jeff Lowe? Eric Cowie? Rick Kirkham? John Finlay? They were all people with nowhere to go that Joe gave them a chance and now where are they?

While Joe sets in prison fighting for the truth and his life, they are all movie stars at parties and having a time of their lives.

I feel so used and abandoned by everyone and I never in a million years expected this from my own husband. To be just forgotten over a little fame and money, which by the way not one dime taken in by anyone has been sent or spent on my lawyers. So please quit giving money to anyone’s Go Fund Me or Paypal because they are NOT taking care of my needs.

I lay here locked down, alone 24/7 in this tiny room with no phone, no email or commissary, counting my heartbeats, begging God to just grant me a heart attack so I don’t have to live in this Hell everyone put me in. And they can’t even take 10 minutes and send a letter of support but can be famous beaus they either were or are married to me or worked for me at some point. But now its to leave Joe Exotic in a prison room like a dog in a shelter. They should be ashamed.

There has been tens of thousands of dollars raised, paid, and spent on good times while Joe has nothing. My fans send me more letters of support.

How have you changed most since your earlier days?

Someone answer me one question, how can a person claim to love and care about someone and use every bit of money on themselves while you use the fame of that person to be popular to the point you can’t write a letter or even show enough respect to wear a wedding ring?

I’ve gotten letters saying I said it was ok to move on? The Hell with that, those words are not in my vocabulary, “Till death do us part” was the vows I took, “for better or worse” was what I heard. What I receive in the mail from people saying Dillon has moved on killed my soul. I have lost all hope. To be stabbed in the back once again and by my very own husband if this is all true…

But you know, fame goes as fast as it comes and I can only pray that he slows down and realizes that this won’t last forever. If it lasts 6 months and people will turn on fake public figures like wild dogs. I can say if I give up it will be Dillon’s fault. If I get lucky enough to get a pardon or win my appeal look the Hell out because we are going to change this system. But I love that man enough I took a job in Florida washing dishes for $10.50 an hour to make that man happy, and all I want is some support and a husband that don’t have to take his wedding ring off to go party with the boys while I’m fighting for my life. Move on? Not a chance, who does that? Who says that?

That’s what I’ve learned through this and my life that has changed me. You honor your word, you hold true to your vows, and you never leave a man down, or behind.

What would you like the world to know in regards to you as a person? Is there anything in particular you would like the world to know about you as an individual?

I’m a man with a heart, with feelings and I’m a man who can and does hurt by all of this.

This has really opened my eyes to how one nation and these politicians can lock people away and treat them worse than what we as Humans require animals in a zoo. And how fast people can forget you when you’re out of sight out of mind.

Right now I feel like the most famous homeless man there is. Am I married? Do I have a husband? And do I have a home if I beat this?

What do you plan on doing when you are released and free? Do you look forward to showing others that there is always a chance to turn things around for the better?

When and if I get out of this alive I want to be the first to combine comedy/music/magic in one concert and tour the world, and use that money to save people all over from starvation and homelessness, save our rainforests for the animals that need it, and advocate for people in jail and prison against the corruption in our justice system, to end the abuse in jail and hold prosecutors and agents accountable for perjury just to win a case for self gain.

The millions of people around the world see in my uncut videos who I am as a person, a man that would take anyone in and give the shirt off my back, a man that can see when someone is in a dark place and give up part of me to lift them up. A man you might be shocked by but a man who will tell you like it is and never lie to you to your face or behind your back. A man who opened his zoo and his heart to Jeff, Lauren, James, Allen, Eric, and many more just to be taken advantage of. A man who fought for a decade for Don Lewis and his family. A man who fell in love with a man named Dillon Passage and a man that was proud enough to take his last name. I’m a man praying to God he does not abandon me and move on while I live in this Hell.

How are you holding up under your current circumstances?

How am I holding up? I only wish right now to die because being used and unloved is the worse thing I fear in this life. To hear the words I love you is my drug of choice. We get one shot at this and it can end at any moment, does not matter in a mass shooting or a car accident, those unspoken words will haunt you forever. So be faithful if you are going to make a commitment, people’s hearts are not your games. You can cause heartache, misery, and even suicide because you’re playing games with someone’s life.

What has this done for me? The thousands of letters I get from 4 year olds to 89 year olds, people of all sexes, races, and styles with their phone numbers to a complete stranger offering support, and some looking for support that have tried killing themselves or hurting, but it shows we are all people who really want the same thing, to be loved, to get along, and to support one another.

I don’t give a rats ass about fame or money. I would give it all up to be home with Dillon. Hell I gave it up to move to Florida to start a life with Dillon as Joseph Passage, that was on my application to get that job. But now I beg just to be noticed by him enough he can be my husband, wear a ring in support and help me get through this. Am I asking too much?

What are your feelings on life and death and what comes after? How do you hope to be remembered when your time comes?

I’m gonna combine some of the last all in one answer, Death can come to anyone at any time. I’ve experienced more than most, there is an afterlife. Travis showed me beyond any doubt. No one honors commitment these days, because it is too easy to just move on to the next until you wake up alone and you’ve trashed what meant something.

My brother taught me one thing, your respect you have earned from you keeping your word is all you leave when you die and all you take to get to Heaven. And Karma is real. Its God’s way of making things right, big or small.

I want people to remember me as a man that tried to make a difference in the way people treat each other, for the good I did and tried to do, and for the love I poured into everything I’ve done, and for always honoring my word.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

You know I’ve made mistakes, and I have lived this hard life I was dealt to the best of my ability. Its been a hard road and I pray I don’t die in here an innocent man. Two things I wish from the people of the world:

Keep asking our President to make this right and grant me a pardon so we can move on from this and help the people of our nation and the world together.

And for you all to be my voice to Dillon to just slow down, be supportive, and don’t let this ruin his life by throwing away someone that will love and forgive him forever. The party will be there in 6 months and it will be much larger when I walk out of here. So please don’t abandon me in here when I need him the most.

Be safe, Be my voice, Hear my cry for help.

Love to you all,

Joe Exotic

(Author’s note: On July 6, 2020 I received a note from Joe stating that now he has a phone he can speak to Dillon twice a day, who assures him their marriage is going to be, ok. Dillon has also stated that he wants no part of the press or anything, and when Joe gets home he wants his animals and that is it. )

Joe&Garold

Joe & Garold

To see the actual letters as they were sent please see:

Joe Exotic handwritten to Tina Faye Ayres, June 05, 2020

An Interview with Investigative Reporter Jerry Mitchell

jerrymitchell

Photo by James Patterson.

Jerry Mitchell is an investigative reporter best known for his working convincing authorities to reopen cold cases from the civil rights era, where his work helped put four Klansmen behind bars: Byron De La Beckwith for the 1963 assassination of NAACP leader Medgar Evers, Imperial Wizard Sam Bowers for ordering the fatal firebombing of NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer in 1966, Bobby Cherry for the 1963 bombing of a Birmingham church that killed four girls and, Edgar Ray Killen, for helping orchestrate the June 21, 1964, killings of Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman. His work in those cases is also the subject of the book “Race Against Time.”

He is also best known from the Rob Reiner film Ghosts of Mississippi in which he was portrayed by Jerry Levine.

Mitchell went on to write a 10 chapter narrative titled Genetic Disaster in which he investigated a rare genetic element occurring in his own family and the 13 chapter narrative The Preacher and the Klansman which features the story of a preacher/civil rights activist who became friends with a former Klu Klux Klan terrorist.

His investigative work has won him upwards of 20 awards including the MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant, the first ever Journalist of the Year away from The Southeastern chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, and Columbia University’s John Chancellor Award for Excellence in Journalism just to name a few.

He is currently investigating Carole Baskin in relation to the disappearance of her late husband Don Lewis.

 

Can you tell us a little about where you are from and your earliest memories? How do you think your earlier years helped shape you into who you are today?

I grew up in Texarkana, Texas, which is very much a part of the South. When I was about 9 years old, I came home, saying the “n-word,” which a friend of mine had said. My mother treated me like I had committed a capital offense, and I’m so grateful she did. My parents taught me right about race.

What was the genetic disorder featured in the narrative Genetic Disaster? How did it affect your family over the years? What do you think people can learn from dealing with genetic disorders of any sort?

The genetic disaster is a combination of three diseases: frontal-temporal dementia, muscular dystrophy and Paget’s disease. My grandfather and one of his sisters both died in mental institutions.

There are many genetic diseases, and most of them are rare and, therefore, receive little funding. In fact, more than 25 million Americans suffer from a rare disease — more than any other disease, including cancer and heart disease.

What would you say is the most important thing you learned from your own family?

I am a person of faith, and the lessons my family taught me about God and His love for justice are the ones that have guided me through out my entire life. 

How did you come to be an investigative reporter? What was it about that line of work that drew you in?

I got into journalism because I loved to write. And once I got into the profession, I learned that I was a much better reporter than I was a writer. I had barely begun reporting when I read “All the President’s Men”. What I read inspired me to want to be an investigative reporter.

How did you go about convincing authorities to reopen cold cases from the Civil Rights Era? What was the most challenging issue you faced in doing that?

As a reporter, we can just report the truth or, more accurately, the facts we find. Reporting on a case repeatedly over time creates a drum beat that authorities feel like they can no longer ignore. How can they claim they are for justice when they refuse to pursue it?

What do you think is the most important element in convincing anyone to do…anything?

Make them think it’s their idea.

Can you tell us a little more about The Preacher and the Klansman? How did that come about?

When I was in graduate school in the 1996-97 school year at Ohio State University, I stumbled across serial narrative in newspapers, and I found it fascinating. I wanted to do one after I graduated, and that..’s what I did.

What are your feelings on the current state of Civil Rights in America? How have they changed most over the years and what do you think needs to be done to improve them at this time?

When it comes to race in America, it seems we take a step or two forward, only to take a step or two back. My hope is that this time of examination of race and our nation’s ugly and violent history will prompt us to search our souls and seek solutions that will help heal us.

What are your thoughts on the current state of the world in general?

2020 will be long remembered for these two pandemics: COVID-19 and the racial pandemic. How we address these pandemics will determine how future generations judge us.

What do you think is key to a life well lived?

Living for others instead of ourselves.

How did you become involved in investigating Carole Baskin?

I saw “Tiger King” like everybody else, and as I watched it, I saw this cold case. I feel like God, for whatever reason, has given me these gifts when it comes to pursuing cold cases. I felt obligated to share these gifts in this case because this family has yet to see justice.

How is that going? Is there anything that you are at liberty to share about that particular case?

I’m currently working on a project called “Poverty and the Pandemic” that will explore how Mississippi’s poorest places are dealing with the pandemic.

What do you hope the accomplish over the course of your career before your time is up?

No goals beyond what I’m doing now … seeking to shine in the darkness, expose injustices and tell the truth, because it is truth that helps bring justice.

If you don’t mind my asking what are your feelings on life and death and what comes after? How do you hope to be remembered when your own time comes?

I’m a disciple of Christ, so I do believe in an afterlife, and I do desire to live for Him. I know that He loves justice.

This may sound strange, but I don’t care how people remember me. I just want to do the right thing.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Investigative reporting can help expose truth, and that truth can help bring justice. Without truth, there is no justice.

raceagainsttime

“The Voice in the Vent” by Joe Exotic

Old Man with his Head in his Hands

by Vincent van Gogh circa 1882

THE VOICE IN THE VENT

As I sit and cry and wipe away a tear
The voice in the vent says “What’s wrong with you dear?”

I explain my feelings. I explain my fear.
The voice in the vent says, “It will become very clear.”

My soul is dying and it’s starting to harden.
The voice in the vent says, “You’ll get that pardon.”

I know the President is busy right now.
The voice in the vent believes it will still come through, somehow.

For I know the voice has been here 2 years.
I don’t know how? I’ve not even a year.

The voice in the vent says, “I’ve screamed and I’ve cried.”
I dreamed last night that I actually died

The voice in the vent says,”It can’t end up that way,
Because the world is waiting to hear what you say.”

So I got to push forward and move on along.
As the voice in the vent works on his next song.

If the pardon came through and this was my fate
The voice in the vent said, “Wouldn’t America be great?”

As the voice in the vent is starting to fade.
Was it real or was it fake?
Or did God mean it this way?
For the voice in the vent to save me today.

All I can do is bow my head and just pray
And wait for him to take me away.

This voice I have never seen a face to
Is the only thing keeping me from killing myself.

What a sad way to live.

TheVoiceintheVent1

TheVoiceintheVent2

Poem by Joe Exotic via Francisco Hernandez.  Written from solitary confinement. June, 10, 2020.

“Twilight Years Poem” by A.D Winans

MichaelParkes

“Dream For Rosa” by Michael Parkes

TWILIGHT YEARS POEM

I remember a poem by William Wantling
about how he never wanted to be a poet
that he would carry a lunchbox
just like the rest of them
if only the strange mutterings would leave him alone

Having turned eighty-four this year
I share those thoughts
the years behind me leave me naked
as a dead man’s shadow

these strange words rattle inside my head
like a bag of marbles rolling along a warped floor.

84 years feeling like the worn impression
on a buffalo head nickel
holding on to these fading visions
like an immigrant unable to escape the old country

the moods come and go
like cloud banks sinking slowly
like the Titanic where roam
the deck dressed in words of fire

each day brings yet another illusion
harsh as a hobo’s dreams
as I sing the song of my chosen grave

My words dance like a ballerina on a high tension wire
with no safety net below
while a friend of mine considered a success
in the business world
tells me that like him
I should make a list of priorities
and stick by them no matter what

but the hooks are too far in
too high up into the gut
to do anything about

A poet is like a train
a romantic trip back in time
he is good for a laugh or two
someone to on special occasions converse with
sleep with and always someone to stay away from
when he is down and out

d.a. levy was dead right
“some people cannot beat the system
and poets can’t even pretend
they are beating the system”

James Dean Visual Tour: “Jimmy Was Here,” an interview with Lee Raskin

James Dean at Bank on Czech mc #1 (1)

James Dean riding his Czech CZ 125cc motorcycle in front of the Citizens Exchange Bank at 102 S. Main Street, circa 1947. Photo: Nelva Jean Thomas / Fairmount Historical Museum.

 

JAMES DEAN VISUAL TOUR

”Jimmy Dean Was Here”

In the hope of educating and inspiring both residents and visitors to Fairmount, Indiana for years to come, biographer and author Lee Raskin is planning to debut the “James Dean Visual Tour” during the 2019 Fairmount Museum Days’ James Dean Festival.

Co-sponsored by Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, and the historic Citizens Exchange Bank branch of the First Farmers Bank & Trust…the visual walking tour will feature legendary photos along with brief captions pertaining to James Dean as a teenage student at the Fairmount High School, as well as during his final visit to Fairmount in February 1955.

Can you tell us a little about how this project came into being? What was it like to realize that there is a younger generation of residents who aren’t fully aware of the legacy left by James Dean?

I have been visiting Fairmount during the James Dean Festival since 2005. Looking back, I had noticed for many years that residents, especially a younger generation, was unaware that James Dean had actually been photographed while walking, talking, and even acting at various Fairmount locations.

I felt this was an exciting opportunity to replicate a part of James Dean’s legacy for the benefit of everyone to enjoy while experiencing Fairmount today — and for years to come.

JD on Main Street #2

James Dean is standing next to long-time friend, Bill Beck, twelve-year old cousin Marcus Winslow, Jr., and Everett Hiatt in front of Corn Auctioneers (now Fairmount Helping Hands) at 119 N. Main Street, as Bill’s wife, Roma walks along Main Street to greet them all. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

What has it been like to work with the individuals involved in bringing this project to life?

I first mentioned this project concept with James Dean’s cousin, Mark Winslow, who has been a close friend of mine for over 30 years. He liked the idea and suggested I convey it to Jim Hayes who was head of Main Street Fairmount. Mark introduced me to Jim and the association’s President, Alissa Meyer during the James Dean memorial service in 2018. I then submitted my initial ideas and worked with Alissa to formulate an exciting plan that grew to become the James Dean Visual Tour. In addition, I also got to work with Tate Powell, Jessica Rolph, and Debbie Shrout of the First Farmers Bank and Trust; as well as with several proprietors of Fairmount businesses where the James Dean Visual Tour signs would be displayed.

Why do you feel that the work carried on at The Fairmount Historical Museum as well as the James Dean Gallery is important to the keeping the town vital and thriving?

The Fairmount Historical Museum and the James Dean Gallery are the primary destinations for visitors throughout the year beyond the annual James Dean Festival. Today, the Museum and Gallery creatively utilize social media as a dynamic vehicle to promote their respective attractions and future events for James Dean fans and future visitors. Many thanks go out to the Museum’s Christy Pulley and Dorothy Schultz who have been very supportive while assisting with this project.

James Dean walking on Washington St. #3

James Dean is walking along East Washington Street…with the Citizens Exchange Bank’s golden dome in the background. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Do you feel honored to have the chance to further educate the world on the life of James Dean?

Yes, I do. As a biographer and author, I feel obligated to promote the James Dean legacy and to provide James Dean fans and devotees with the most relevant history, especially with respect to Jimmy’s passion for motorsports and his ownership of two Porsche sports and racing cars.

Interestingly, of the published authors who have written about James Dean, I take pride in being one of the few who continues to update my James Dean publications and documentaries with new factual changes and stories substantiated by first-hand research and attribution. I feel it is important to educate Jimmy’s fans to keep his legacy bright and untarnished from embellished and untruthful stories.

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James Dean acting in the play “Goon with the Wind,” a parody on the story of Frankenstein. Jimmy played the dual role of “The Creature” & the Villain in this Halloween play on this same Fairmount High stage in 1948. Photo: Courtesy of David Nall / Fairmount Historical Museum.

How do you hope this endeavor benefits the residents and the town of Fairmount itself in years to come?

The James Dean Visual Tour —”Jimmy Dean Was Here” establishes a sense of reality where Jimmy’s presence in Fairmount was very special for not just him, but for his friends, and his family. He was truly an easy going and fun-loving individual.

How do you think James Dean himself would have felt about the impact he has had on the town over the years?

I believe that Jimmy would have a huge grin on his face…in disbelief that he had become a real American Icon growing up in Fairmount’s rural environment. Unlike portraying the older and richer Jett Rink in Giant, Jimmy would most likely have been a very humbled individual…having much compassion and gratitude for being a Fairmount Hoosier.’

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James Dean is visiting Fairmount High and reflecting upon his performances as a young actor on this same stage. Photo: Dennis Stock / Magnum Photos, February 1955.

Can you tell our readers a little more about what to expect from the Visual Tour?

The visual tour will allow everyone to stand in Jimmy’s footprints — to recapture some of these historical moments — with a posed photograph and/or with their own ‘selfie.’ Additionally, Main Street Fairmount, the Fairmount Historical Museum, David Loehr’s James Dean Gallery, Fairmount Helping Hands, and the First Farmers Bank and Trust will have ‘hand-out’ tour maps to provide visitors with the exact location of the five ‘Visual Tour’ displays along the Main Street area and at the Playacres Park Pavilion.

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Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

I have always enjoyed the opportunity and excitement to be part of Fairmount as a visitor and a long-time contributing James Dean biographer / author. I hope that I can continue to make these small contributions in furtherance of James Dean’s wonderful and deserving legacy.

Lee Raskin, JD

Baltimore, Maryland

 

JD Festival Lee and Salinas book

An Interview with Toby Froud Regarding “The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance”

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Toby Froud is best known for his appearance in the film Labyrinth (1986) and as writer/production designer of short film Lessons Learned (2014). His work as a creature designer and sculptor has been featured in such films as I Am Not a Serial Killer, Paranorman, The Boxtrolls, Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. He also worked as executive producer on Yamasong: March of the Hollows.

You have said you grew up in Magic. Can you tell us a little more about what that was like? What are some of your most fond memories growing up?

I’ve been lucky to grow up the way I have, in a place that is engrained with magic and steeped in history. I will be eternally grateful for the way my parents raised me. For teaching me to be true to yourself and the things you strive to create.

Do you think with the world being as it is today that magic is needed more than ever?

It feels like the world is in a darker place and people need magic more than ever! An escape, a place to be able to experience something extraordinary. To make them feel like they belong no matter who you are. That’s what we always strive to do when we create something.

As a parent yourself do you strive to make the world more magical for your own child?

It’s hard as a parent to know how to show your child the world, you want to protect them and make sure they have the best experience but that’s not always real. I’ve learnt that my son is continually learning for himself and teaching me how to see the world, how to ask questions and view something that as an adult we have become blind to. I hope I can make the world a little more magical for my son and other people too.

What have you been up to since we spoke last? At the time you were working on Lessons Learned. What did you take away from that whole experience?

Lessons Learned was a truly amazing experience, one I am grateful every day! I’m grateful to the crew, the friendships forged, and the challenges overcome! The responses to the work and the journey that came after. I continued to work at Laika studios on Kubo and the Two Strings, and Missing Link. Before going onto the Dark Crystal, which was the project of a lifetime.

What projects are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio which is very exciting and I’m looking forward to all that may happen next.

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Are you excited to see The Dark Crystal be introduced to a new generation with the release of The Dark Crystal: The Age of Resistance?

I can’t wait for the new generation to see the show! I’m proud of what we achieved. And truly hope the fans love it. I am excited for the new generation to experience this!

I actually got to see the original Dark Crystal on the big screen again last year. I went with some of the crew working on the series. While watching it I kept noticing the young guy next to me was truly engrossed and would sigh and react!, jump and clap as the movie went on. After I asked if he liked it, he said “Absolutely! I had no idea what it was! My friend told me it was about lizards that lived castle! It’s so much more than that! I can’t wait for the series!”

That was amazing to see someone experience the film for the first time and be so excited for what was to come! That’s why we do what we do!.

What role do you and your parents (Brian and Wendy) have in relation to the show?

My father was the conceptual designer on the show, my mother consulted on the geldings and also built wonderful creatures for the world. I was the design supervisor.

We did all sorts with the amazing teams that truly deserve the credit for making the world come to life again!

Do you think it is past time we see more projects that rely only on puppetry and less on CGI?

I feel it’s the right time, that people want puppetry! They want to feel and believe a character might truly be present in the shot or story they are actually seeing. I feel CGI actually works beautifully to enhance and bolster that idea. Working together we can now create truly amazing things!

What are some of the most challenging aspects of creating, anything that is done entirely with puppets?

(Laughs) The puppets! They are such a wonderful challenge to create, to build a character that can emote and carry a scene, that the audience will follow and believe in is the best sort of challenge.

Actually, the whole thing is challenging, building a whole world 4feet off the ground, sets that can break apart and be used with the puppets.

The team that was brought together to achieve the age of resistance was astounding! Every department and there are many!! Rose to the challenges set before them! Helmed by Netflix and Henson’s guided and driven by Louis Leterrier. We all went to work to create the greatest and largest puppet production ever achieved.

What do you think of Helena Bonham Carter, Mark Hamill, Simon Pegg, Keegan-Michael Key, and Andy Samberg providing voices for some of the characters?

The voice cast is wonderful! The talent that came on board is very exciting to have. Voicing the characters can be tricky to make them believable but I’m very excited by the cast for this!

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What do you think it is about the original characters that have made them so enduring? Did you a favorite from the original film?

The original film has a magic about it! It’s was got people into the industry and what inspired people for generations. Everyone relates or responds to a certain character or part of that film. From Skeksis to Fizzgig.

I think it’s truly and simply that no matter which character you respond to. You believe them. They feel real! And that’s true magic.

I’m not sure if I have a favorite character, there are so many for me. Between the Chamberlain and Kira to the Landstriders!

Each one is wonderful to me.

How do you think the prequel series will differ most from the film?

The way the series is shot is amazing! The camera becomes a whole other living part of Thra almost. Moving around the world and characters as they battle their way through is stunning.

I also think it expands the world in a big way giving you a much richer tapestry!

This is the way you should film puppets!

Do you have a dream project you’d most like bring into existence?

Well I will say Dark Crystal was a dream project to work on! Truly the project of a lifetime for me! But I’m very excited for the future and things to come! I feel like this is the beginning and there are lots more stories to tell! Let’s hope the world feels the same.

Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Thank you! Thank you to all the fans who have loved the films and my family’s work for so many years. For the people who believe in magic and who want to see and experience more in their lives!

To the wonderful talented creatives who strive to show the world beautiful and wonderful things who work tirelessly to achieve greatness so kids and adults alike can be transported to strange new worlds and journey to realms unknown.

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The Art of & an Interview with Capat

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Romanian born Theodora Daniela Capat studied art at The Swedish Academy of Realist Art, where she later became a primary teacher upon graduation. Her lavish portraits have made a two time winner of The American Portrait Society with a Certificate of Honor and Certificate of Excellence. More examples of her work can be found at https://capat.art/ .

What was it like growing up in Romania? What are some of your most fond memories of that time?

Even though I was born close to the 90’s people think that I grew up in the 80’s. Was born in 1989 during the revolution on the 9th of December. Even though communism “died” out I still felt it while growing up. I always was an outsider. Never liked dressing up like a girl. Had my moments of girly times but I’ve always been a tomboy. At school we had to wear a uniform and I hated it. I wanted to wear black! My mother always told me I have to be a lady but like Arya, from Game of Thrones:“I am not a lady.” That kinda quote was with me all the time. Growing up in Romania was hard for me to be honest, for most children after 89. Since Romania had a lot to recover, as a child I was controlled and very protected by my family. I was allowed to play only in front of the building, where the entrance to our apartment was. My mum never let me go further than that, but I never obeyed my parents. I used to “run” in the back of the building and played at the garbage dump. People threw their trash there. Since I had a very strong imagination I always found something that made it look fun while scavenging in the dump area… Sounds sad but that made me the person I am today. The old communist building made the warm orange colour the dominate atmospheric colour for most of my dreams. When I dream everything happens at my childhood place. Since I was little I dreamt extremely vividly, created worlds, and invented stories, though when I was little I didn’t speak well till the age of 6. At school I had hard times adapting. I was called a handicapped and hit with a ruler. Those were the communistic traits.

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How does society tend to view art in that particular corner of the world?

I never considered myself a smart person because I feel limited when trying to explain my thoughts and ideas. Since I grew up in a communistic world art there was a bit… too political. Corneliu Baba is one of my absolute favourite Romanian artists. He refused to paint Ceausescu, the communist leader and for that he lost a lot… Many intellectuals died during the regime thus the repercussions were felt dramatically after the 90’s. Art became ugly. Abstract art made no sense. There’s good art and bad art. I love some abstract art with well thought colour composition but since most of the intellectuals were killed or in jails it felt like we started everything from the start. It wasn’t only in Romania, most of European academies just became a joke. Few kept the academic drawing teachings alive. Feels sometimes that we start things from the start just because we forget history and all that knowledge that the old masters worked so hard to achieve, people just threw it out because it was outdated and new views had to be adapted. It is very, very sad. Nowadays art is still kept under control by the modernists. In Romania you see that well. People get offended when their own creations are threatened by a higher quality of art. Philosophical and technical. You can’t do much since Romania is still very corrupted. I always say “Romania is a beautiful country, too bad it is inhabited by people…”

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When did you first take notice of art in general?

(laughs) I never thought I would talk about this again. When I was little I started drawing horses. My mother always liked art but she never pursued it because during her time it was very difficult. When she saw me trying to draw horses she drew one for me. I was amazed at how good it was! As a child the world is so small so for me that felt huge! I started drawing that horse drawing my mum did around the apartment walls. My mother didn’t stop me. She just loved seeing me happy. After that at the age of 11, my neighbour who had also been my headmaster at the kindergarten noticed my ability to draw, so she brought me a portrait, a small picture, of Alexander the Great. She also gave me a drawing pad, graphite pen, eraser and sharpening tool. Then she asked me to draw it. The longest 2 hours (as I recall ) of my tiny life! After that I was hooked. I was just drawing on my own and buying the only magazine that made sense with art called Mari Pictori (Great painters)

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What was the most challenging issue you faced when you were learning your craft on your own uninstructed?

I can’t go in detail about it. My friend that knows much of my past told me that his life is so calm and easy in compared to how I grew up. I got a Romanian friend who had it even worse than me. Learning on my own was hard. Locked in my room, skipping school, arguing with my mum, my father telling me to stop and do something more productive… Now that I think about it, people nowadays or some artists are so spoiled by their family supporting them early on. Our parents want what is best for us but even now I am told to get a job and do art on the side. At school my teachers called me “an American kitsch artist.” I went to an art school when I was 14. It destroyed me. It would have been better if I just went to a normal school and learned on my own. Between age 16 to 19 I stopped drawing. I hated it. During that time I did some small work. Deviantart was gently getting into my life though at school I was called stupid for liking that site. Didn’t even know about conceptart.org until I was 19 and a half. Before that I discovered some art sited made by Romanians. I got the worse push back critiques from those people. Mean, jealous people. Some were kind but I was too young to know how to defend myself, that is one reason I beg parents to explain to their kids what social media really is and toughened their kids instead of protecting them. I still hid away and watched my art magazines…and wondered if I will ever be able to do that type of art.

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What was it like moving from Romania to Sweden? How do the two cultures differ most?

When moving to Sweden is was very, very hard. Coming from a country that has the type of people who throw trash on the ground, mocks you on the streets for being fat, calling you ugly and everybody is the best and you are nothing to a country where everybody is happy and trying to help everyone was a shock to me. It felt very, very superficial. Still does sometimes. People are at their worse when they are in survival mode. Sweden doesn’t survive, they live. They can travel and they have space to live, green spaces and respect to their environment. I got my issues now with Romania and Sweden. We need to understand that culture is of two kinds: good and bad. It is what it is. Some say culture is your enemy. No. It is not. Look at the work that we do. Spiritual or satanic it is based on a political, cultural agenda. Romanians are very loud and we are close to how Italians are. We have a lot of gestures in our body when we talk. Swedish people are calm, talk low and don’t flap their hands while trying to explain. I had a Swedish friend who made fun of me because of that (laughs). That is the beauty of culture. We share and we have to adapt to other’s culture when you move to their country. Not the other way around because that’s when you destroy cultures. Swedish people are starting to change, I can see that. They had enough of others telling them how they should be, accept and sacrifice what makes them Swedish. And I am very proud to see that because their culture helped me become a more calm person and rediscover my own culture in a better way.

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How do you think proper instruction helped you hone your craft most?

At the age of 20 I started at The Swedish academy of Realist art (before they were located in Stockholm). Since I didn’t accept my past and my flaws it actually kept me from developing properly while at school. It is hard to say everything that has happened. Your art grows with experience, not only skill based but also what happens in your life. It did help me improve, the school, but It also helped me grow as a person. I had my issues when I was being critiqued and also being told how to draw. I was young! When you’re young you think you know everything and I can’t tell you now that I accepted how little I actually know. Anyway, the school helped me develop what I call sharpening your eyes, see forms and shapes, compare etc. When I started the school they still had a bit of sight size method in their way of teaching which really made me unhappy. But my teachers and founders of the school got away from it, which makes this school come forward compared to others. Comparing, understanding form, seeing things more 3D is more beneficial if you want to work from imagination. It makes you faster and also broadens your vision. It doesn’t get you stuck into copying point by point what you see. You learn slower because it is hard… took me 10 years to do what you see now and I still have a lot to learn.

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Why does portraiture appeal to your artistic nature?

What we deal most in life is ourselves and others. Is the constant jungle battle for survival and to do it we need each other. We still have tribal thinking which has is flaws. It works in a small community, hence why communism failed. We are too many and we have huge desires now with social media. We see so many faces on Instagram. Filters of beauty, body building… These things makes me cringe. Why are people so obsessed with validation from others? But then again don’t I do that with art? Faces are fascinating for me. You think you know people by just looking at them but you don’t really. One still image can tell you so much. It doesn’t even show the real you since again beauty filters, shoot from a certain angle so you will look thinner. Really? Think about how sad this is. We know it yet we do it, then we wonder why we get anxious. We wanna see this…we wanna be a part of the tribe of fame because we think that will bring happiness because you will make an income as they do. Listen… I can’t say I am a good person and wise, I am pretty much full of my bad stuff too. But like Jordan Peterson said… if we would stop lying the world would be a better place. When we talk to someone we look them in the eyes… have you noticed how rare this is becoming? Social media has created so much disconnection between people, rather than bringing them together. People don’t know how to act because they created an image of themselves online that they don’t know how to bring it forward in real life. Why am I saying all of this? Because it is interesting to me. Portraits that I do are a reflection of today’s society. “Look at me… look at my beauty. Make me important , show my grief, happiness, victimization and superficiality to the world.”  I feel that most artists are doing that because, what I believe, is that we paint how the world is. And it feels that way: lost and confused but desires fame and wealth by being emotional towards others suffering.

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What do you love most about the act of creating?

I will try to keep this simple but I have to explain why. We try so hard to make our art have a deep meaning because it does appeal to people nowadays since we are so lost and confused on what we should do with our lives. What I love about creating is how well it detaches me from the “reality” of the world. It is a way to release my dreams, my fears, my anxiety, my desires, my view of the “real” world… but most importantly it is fun! We forget why we do art as time goes by. The struggle of making a living and getting out there, or whatever you wanna call it, made us forget that art is just fun. Look at kids while drawing. They are having fun.

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What did you enjoy most about your time teaching others?

How much I learned from them. Best teachers I ever had. Thinking how to help them see their mistakes, getting into their world, failing with them, growing mentally, becoming patient, hating that they hate me, so much going on as a teacher that I can’t number them. It is very hard to be a good teacher. As a student you only see your world only, as a teacher you see others and unfortunately you have to be rude and get into their world uninvited to be able to teach them technique.

Do you have any dream projects you’d most like to bring into being?

Yes…I do. One day but until then I have to work hard to be able to have that great of a place and be more mature in mind and in skill to be able to achieve it.

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You have said that, for you art is a way to represent your feelings of frustration when it comes to your understanding of self and your surroundings. Can you elaborate on that a little further?

Not sure how to explain this but for me art is more like visual poetry. I have never been good at writing compared to others. That touches you through one sentence. I had to create images to explain to people how I feel. When low, happy or depressed I found art as a source to explain how I feel. To be honest I don’t really show most of those works. Now with social media everybody shares everything. I tend to do that too sometimes but I have moments when I feel I just want this for myself, to reflect on them on my own and not be vulnerable to everyone out there.

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You have said you have always had a curiosity when it comes to life and death. Where do you think that curiosity came from? When did you first become of aware of it?

I came aware of it when I was little through my vivid dreams that I still have to this day. Dreamt death itself. Everyone around me talks all the time about spiritual guidance, believing in a God or something after life. I asked my grandmother some months ago if she fears death. She replied that she does because she feels that she hasn’t lived her life at its fullness. Time for me is weird. It passes by too fast and I keep losing track of my present moments. I am getting old and in the end I will die. Since I was born my destiny, if I can call it that, is going to that point where everything will end. That made me curious about it in combination with how it felt when dying in a dream. When I was working as a teacher and my life was quite stressful I dreamt about myself living again where I grew up as a child. There I saw two men, playing chess. The colours around me where of a warm orange colour. Very saturated. It felt very warm but somehow I got curious of this two men playing chess. Then at a point while I was wondering what was happening I got scared of this 3rd person, a man, dressed up in this long coat with a hat on that started coming towards me. That scared me. I tried to run away but he got to me. He grabbed on to me, turned me around and put this metal long steel through my chest. It hurt very bad. I was holding his arm to not push it more into me since I could feel it getting close to my heart. I was afraid and started telling him that I don’t want to die… while I kept him from pushing I was saved by this two elderly men that where playing chess. They stopped this person by holding him and pushing him away, quite gently as I recall, like somehow it was normal what he was doing. They looked at me, these 2 men, and told me that My time has not come. I got confused and everything morphed within me seeing them again from that point I first saw them while they were playing chess and drifting away from them, while seeing bright colours like a rainbow distorting everything around me. It was like I was swallowed by a colourful black hole. After that I woke up. I had to stand up on my bed thinking, confused on what has happened. I felt almost nothing… just an empty feeling of why I was saved. There’s more of this dreams that I had but I guess this answers your question a bit of why I am curious about death.

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What are your personal feelings on life and death and what does, or doesn’t come after?

I don’t really know…I think once we die it all ends. We just stop being. We go back from where we came from: nothingness. We are so conscious, so curious and so self-absorbed into our own daily life, trying to create this image of ourselves that it becomes an obsession. Time doesn’t wait on anyone. Since we are born its decided: It will all end either you like it or not. Many don’t talk about it, feels like a taboo. Got friends who are afraid of it. Famous people who are afraid of it. I don’t know but the more I think about it I just know I will go from where I came from: nothingness.

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What do you think is key to a life well lived?

I think everybody has their own answer to this. My answer might sound cheesy but It is quite simple if you think about it. A life well lived is when you know how to be in the present. When we were kids, before we became too absorbed into the world of chaos created by our fathers, into a world of future goals…we as kids didn’t care. We could stare and do nothing and just enjoy being. Now, with all of this technology, everything has become fast, everything is about “me” and what I can do to show the world how awesome and caring I am. It is nothing wrong with being selfish. You can’t help everyone. The life you have is your own. Not saying you need to not care about anything but if you know what life is… I think you found the key of how to help others and just be with time all the way till your end. We perceive time but the more you look around you it doesn’t really exist. It is static. But our mortality has created it to define the past and the future. Future? It is not even written but the result is that it will end. It all depends on how you handle time right now rather than how you will. Of course, we all have a rent to pay and trips to plan, friends to meet and friendship to keep but time gets in between. You become so bombarded with things to do that the future is brought to you faster and thus…time passes too fast that you miss out on just looking around you and feel the weird push on your body from the surrounding atmosphere. I don’t know how to really explain it but my drawing serenity is about it. Simple, floating together with everything, surrounded by black crows who for me manifest death and how it flies with you until you will get grounded and can’t go back to the sky anymore. The water is liquid and you as well. It is static but moves from place to place but it feels like it never has time. It is just there.

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What advice would you offer to other wishing to learn how to best express themselves through their own art?

Don’t forget why you are doing art, your drive to do it. Is it for yourself? Is it for the world? Is it fun still? Look at yourself and not others. Look at how you can improve and not how you can improve and be like others. It is such a death trap for us artists and I speak from experience. Social media is great but it has killed most of us because we want to be seen so we do things that are popular…Some succeed with it while others don’t. Reality is harsh so maybe some of us will make it while others won’t. Nothing beautiful comes easy. I battle this demon everyday, to not get trapped and just be myself even if I have to sacrifice my own stability and not profit from my art. I have to do things I don’t like to be able to pay my rent and disappear from most of my friends life just to work hard on this vision of mine. It is my sacrifice and my view. That’s why I know that I might not be a mum, that I might not have a proper home and that I will live month to month. But, at the end of the day, I know I stood true to what I believe. For me that is a sacrifice worth doing that most of my friends and family thinks is foolish. Right now this is how I feel.

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Is there anything you’d like to say in closing?

Life, death, past, present, future. All of this is in our mind. Once you are gone all of them will end with you. Be kind and grateful for this time you have, take care of your surroundings and don’t hurt others. We are prone to great evil and takes a lot of courage to admit to your faults and be a better person. I do my best to live on those principles and I noticed how many people can’t stand this, to admit to their mistakes. Most prefer to just become a victim of their own bad decisions. Those decisions, even if you didn’t know why you took them or things that happens in your life, is a part of you. Mistakes are the ones who teach us how to become better. Tragedy as well is a part of your growing up, takes courage to be strong, to deal with all the suffering you have endure. It is not easy but like I said nothing beautiful comes easy. I wish you the best in your journey and may you find your peace in life that will truly bring balance. Ah yes… I find balance more important than happiness. Why? Happiness can lead you do bad decisions, (laughs) Balance makes you think and not be too emotional when making decisions but…hey, that’s just me, right?