Monday, May 31, 2010

I Remember You




In honor of Memorial Day.

When we went to see Pelham "the Gallant" in Alabama (http://melskinner.blogspot.com/2010/05/may-trippart-1-insanity-makes-for-fab.html), there were other heroes honored.

Right across from the small car park was the monument you see above. It needed just a bit of cleaning, so we did the best we could with what we had on hand. This Ranger, Dwayne Williams, died during the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. My mother and sister wept as they gently wiped away debris from the polished stone. The heat and the wind worked against us, but we fought until the breeze surrendered.

Our military gives so much. The very least we can do is remember. I think we owe them a hell of a lot more.

We are to recall the fallen on this day. Mine is a military family. We've endured losses in many wars. But out of all my memories, I can’t help thinking of one soldier who is not blood kin and has not fallen.

He worked in the Pentagon, just as Dwayne Williams did. Only this man happened to have an appointment on 9/11. Everyone else in his office went to work. Just a normal morning, as far as any of them could tell.

There were no survivors in that office.

Soon thereafter he contacted someone in the Air Force. In his quest for vengeance against Bin Laden he needed the aid of the best and the best agreed. From what I understand, he put together a team, went overseas, and has been fighting ever since.

I can’t help thinking that wherever he goes he carries the ghosts of that office with him. Though I’ve never seen him in action, he must be great at what he does. He has to be, don’t you see? And on this Memorial Day I wonder how much he suffers the memories of the fallen.

We do what we must, what our souls compel us to do. If we are War, then let us be. War can want Peace and never find her. Indeed, the forces of each are great.





Sometimes the battlefield of life is dark and ominous.




Other times it’s haunted by lost souls.



I once wrote..."I realize now that I walk the edges of a holy battlefield few ever see. The sight has a divine beauty beyond compare. To set foot on this ground you need only give your life in exchange. And then you too can feel the ultimate rush, moments of Heaven on Earth. But beware that I fight for every step. One day, I want to fly right into the fray."

It convinced Mama J that I'm nuts. I already knew that.

In the end, we are all battlefields. Whether you have Peace or War reign is irrelevant.

On this Memorial Day, I remember those who fought and died, whether in battle or in an attack that preceded a war. I respect them.

Most of all, I remember you.


Mel

Sunday, May 30, 2010

May Trip/Part Four: Art Is Key



The sky above a mountain in WV. When in West Virginia, often only the sky can remind you there's a way out.

Note: I made Memorial Day a separate blog post. It seemed the right thing to do.


13. Sometimes a really old painting makes you think of "The Ring." As in, the horror movie...



It's called "Head of a Woman" by Sebastiano Del Piombo. He painted it in the 1530s. Looking at it in person though, I found myself thinking of that video in "The Ring." You know, where Mrs. Morgan is brushing her hair in the mirror and she looks up? Soooo creepy! I kept expecting this chick to look up at any moment. Of course, that would make me the weird little girl, or something. Anyway...

But, that's the mastery of the art, I guess. It's something you have to see for yourself. Like Michelangelo's first painting (see earlier blog post)...you'll be in awe.

14. When I go to see an art collection, I play "Where's Waldo" in my search for unusual watchers in odd scenes. Hybrids are bonus points!



It's supposed to be a "wary dog." I've never seen a dog like that in my life. It's like a dog-cat hybrid or something, and it's wary of the so-called "menacing cat" on the other side of the painting. I had to wonder why. Had the reason to do with hybrid genetics? ;-) So awesome!

The painting is "The Supper at Emmaus" by Jacopo Bassano.

15. There's a cursed scroll at the Kimbell, in the Asian section. At least, that's my opinion.



When I first took this picture of the center of the scroll it reversed itself. I showed two witnesses. Later, it reversed itself again. And I showed two witnesses. Maybe it's a technological glitch? Maybe it's cursed? At times, people say they can see things in the photo.

Note: When I previewed this blog post, it had reversed again. It's upside down. On my computer it's right side up. I'm leaving it alone, even if it stays upside down. Just stand on your head to look at it, or something. Freaky.



Left side of the scroll. I couldn't fit the whole thing into one take with my camera phone. It was the only scroll raised on a table. Difficult.



Right side of the scroll. "Returning From a Visit" by Zhu Derun is a Chinese work created in the mid-fourteenth century. It's said the time was very "traumatic." This is reflected in the Handscroll.

I'm going with beautiful, but cursed.

16. A magical mask that allows the wearer to identify the guilty--including those who cause disasters.

Butterflies all over the world would go down. Wait. Butterfly Effect aside, would it work on other species? Ah, never mind.



So this is a "Diviner's Mask" from Africa, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola. The Yombe people, in the early 20th century had these hella rad ceremonies where past, present, and future events were revealed. A divination specialist would wear a mask like this one, special to each ceremony. This one was used by a specialist looking for the tribe member responsible for a crime, accident, or a disaster. Awesome, right? And scary. Hate to be in their sights. B*itch of day, or night.

17. That night, I had a nightmare that I was affianced to Frederick H. Hemming. In other words, I dreamed I was Mary Anne Bloxam but I had my mind.



I'd seen this painting of her at the Kimbell.



And I read about Thomas Lawrence's--the painter of her portrait--dealings. Somehow, at the end of the day, my subconscious created a historical horror for me.

So there I was in the nightmare, poised to paint porcelain. Ugh. I had an awful fiance who made me sit for a portrait to enhance his status in society. Lawrence didn't really want to paint me, and I had to hear about it. But paint me perfectly he would, 'cause Lawrence had to live up to his name. And he coveted those drawings my fiance is holding over his head, right? Yep.

No options in life. I can paint porcelain, but I can't have achievements like b*itching Lawrence over there. It's "sit pretty" no matter how many hours it takes or how uncomfortable I am. Everything is stuffy, smelly, and constrained. And all I can see is a legacy of plates and a status symbol painting with me faking a smile for Super Lawrence over there.

Ah, here comes my future husband. Looks like it's time to be his arm decoration. Wonderful. Then I wake up. Thank God!

The painting is lovely. I never realized why it bothered me until the next morning.

Great art can touch emotions in the coldest heart. It's simply a matter of finding the key piece. Some people have to wander through a thousand galleries.


Preview of Part 5...



She's not quite a Turkey Vulture. But she's a little editor. :)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May Trip/Part Three: A Balcony Scene



Mama J says it looks like someone gave this horse a real good kick in the rear. At the time, I just thought it one of the better pieces at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, TX. Now I see it and I laugh.

8. Sometimes one of your cousins gets married and you have to sit through an outdoor wedding--but it has some surprises.



I love surprises at events that would otherwise be hot and uneventful. Who doesn't love an impish little cousin who takes off during the ceremony? The ever-present threat of rain that comes out of nowhere? Oh, and the relatives that just don't fit in and have no particular want to, the same ones who end up at a table together...they were talking sh*t too good to miss. Little Bo Peep would have taken the crook to her black sheep.

But I think what I liked most of all about the general atmosphere of the wedding was the admittedly geekish theme that kept peeking through. Star Wars played into the music and the intros. In what was, otherwise, a very, well, shall we say "upscale" ceremony that tried to look modest, our family's geek showed through. Gotta love that! We are a family of sci-fi, if nothing else.

9. I have a soulmate, and it can never be.

The details of this are a secret, naturally. But when I could I slipped away from the wedding and went to stand on the balcony overlooking a meadow.



There I felt him in the rising wind. I could imagine those stone walls were protecting me, merely keeping me in wait of his return. If I looked across the meadow long enough I could see him riding--but always away. And I forever wished the wind to be at his back. So it was that I willed my spirit to be the wind...the air that guided him, protected him, whispered of enemies unseen.

That's all I can ever be to him.

Every once in a while we cross paths. We live and die in those moments. We're drawn and are thus compelled to be repelled. Time isn't stolen; it's torture and rapture.



Night came. The path to the balcony was lit, as you can see, but the meadow was dark. It took me a little while to adjust. But the wind was there all the time.

When I wander off by myself, people tend to think me strange. Maybe I am. Ah, but to stand on the balcony at night and think of him with the wind in my hair... I think back on it now and my heart aches to return.

I'll remember my cousin's wedding, if only for the balcony scene.

10. If you go to the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas--go early.



You might see something weird or really funny. Take, for example, this picture of Marky Mark. I took one picture in the Alamo Drafthouse. The candle is for orders, and so you can pay in the dark, later. All I was thinking about was taking a pic of the theater...totally random. The place stood empty since we were early. And I got a memorial-looking photo of Mark.

They put on music videos, short documentaries--just funny stuff--before the movie. Even their "shut your phone off" run-through made me laugh. Just show up ahead of time. Food and drinks were novel for me, too. Crazy Austin.

11. Sometimes a crow flies over your head and lands on the van nearby just as you arrive at the Kimbell. So you take a picture. And then you get a little weirded out by the statue in front of the museum when you walk up to it. So you take another picture and compare them later.



The crow.



The statue outside the Kimbell Museum--Fort Worth, TX.


Is it just me or is that trippy? Yeah.

12. I want Peter Paul Rubens' confidence.

There's a quote next to the Oil on Panel I showed in closeup in my last blog post. Rubens once confessed, "My talent is such that no undertaking in size, or how varied in subject, has ever exceeded my confidence and courage.”

I want to be so skilled that I can confess this. So I continue to learn. I write. And I'll never stop. I am a writer or I am a dead writer. If I'm smart and lucky, I'll be a great writer. We'll see.


A preview of Part 4...



Michelangelo's first painting, "The Torment of Saint Anthony." He painted it at age twelve or thirteen. The painting is recently acquired by the Kimbell in Ft. Worth, TX and the first by Michelangelo to enter an American collection.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

May Trip/Part Two: I Walk On Graves




Why would you even build this? I'm calling it the "Suicide Staircase." There must be a purpose, but I don't have the time or inclination to find it. It's kind of funny and I'd thought I would share, anyway.
From my recent visit to the Nutter Center in Dayton, OH.

Disclaimer: Do NOT commit suicide. Do NOT try walking down or off the staircase.

I can't believe I need to put that up. This world we live in.

Part Two...

5. Sometimes you just find a tank randomly parked in Alabama and have to take a picture.

Upon leaving the Alabama graveyard I spotted this:



We'd passed a pitiful looking base (compared to what I'm used to, anyway) a few miles back, so this seemed a little lost. I don't know, maybe you can just own tanks and park them there. If I hadn't been on high alert because of the Titanic sighting of earlier that day, I might have missed this gem.

6. I'm descended from royalty--one of the Henrys--and I know this because my mother is a genealogist who is fascinated with all our dead relatives. I should also mention I'm related to at least one historically notorious killer and quite a few criminals.

It's kind of funny because the elderly living relatives don't like to talk about the shameful parts of the family tree. They'll hush you if you bring up, well, even the horse thief our Great Aunt impulsively chose to marry. I just giggle behind my hand as my mom's crowd tells the rest of the tale. You know, how Great Auntie waited until her hubby was hung, moved to a new area, and got her a different man? Yep.

Before heading into Austin, we stopped in a tiny Texas town to take pictures of graves in the family tree. One stood out to me. You see, graves that old in this graveyard were little more than weathered chunks of rock. Mom looked so hopeless. And then, there he was...there they all were. Our family's heritage had been preserved for pictures:




I had acquired burs at that point--not the famous family that sounds similar--so I was relieved. Now I'm a bit sarcastic, as you can see. Apparently, there were so many of the Tullous boys that they formed a whole unit/division(word?) of the Calvary when they joined the C.S.A. during the Civil War. I can only imagine that much of my family in a Calvary charge. Ah, the stories I could have written.


7. On the way to Austin, there are a lot of big, eccentric ranchers and one of them owns a gazelle.

Like the Titanic, my shock was too great for a picture. Then again, there are rich people who have rare animals at their houses, right? Maybe gazelles aren't really rare, just unusual. It's a rather random choice, though. And you'd think it would be difficult to contain...

The mysteries of that drive still confound me. Heck, maybe they just like to have safaris on their property.




A preview of what's to come in Part 3...



A close-up of "The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Maidens" by Peter Paul Rubens.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

May Trip/Part 1: Insanity Makes for Fab



Don't Giraffes seem...majestic? I watched them for some time. I went to the zoo with them in mind. Thought I should start this blog series with that pic and thought.
Fort Worth Zoo, TX.


I'm going to list some of the highlights of my insanely fabulous trip in chronological order with pics. This will have to be broken up in parts because so many incidents came up.


1. In Kentucky I experienced the sci-fi movie feel of sitting on the interstate in my parked car and watching people behave...strangely.

I couldn't see anything except vehicles lined up in both directions. There was no sign of an accident. No news. And after keeping the car on for so long in park, we had to turn it off. The heat became stifling. Though I rolled down the windows, it made me nervous considering the surroundings. I didn't allow anyone in our car to get out, under the circumstances.

During our sitting, some people within my sight got out. Some people came running down the interstate in packs or simply strolled there. Some just wandered around as if lost. Some chatted, leaning idly against their vehicles. I saw a guy exchanging CDs with a stranger. Another guy drove off into the bushes. One lady did a wild maneuver with her car to get it between two parked trucks, across the medium, and moving in the opposite direction. Only one motorcycle passed by, and at a leisurely pace.



(I didn't want to black out faces and tags, so this is one photo with enough weirdness to prove the point.)

After so much oddness and as the time stretched on, the writer in me began to wonder about scenarios beyond accidents. I joked with my companions about zombies, alien invasions, the Apocalypse, and what plan we would follow in each case...how we would survive. Then I had someone call and find out the truth--massive accident, miles down the road.

Still, I've never seen people act that way on the interstate. Fascinating.

2. In the middle of a small town in Alabama, someone has a gigantic blowup float of the Titanic sinking into the ocean in their yard.

We drove by on the way to see a Civil War graveyard where John Pelham is buried. The GPS took us by on this random road and I was like, "What the...? Is that the Titanic sinking? And why are those people leading their horses around it?" But there wasn't time to take a picture in my shock. Yeah, someone in Alabama has a huge blowup float of the Titanic half-sunk into the yard with the ocean waving around it and everything. It towers. I guess those people just happened to be leading their horses around at that time. Who knows?

3. I stood on a shabby brick wall over a busy road to take a cool picture of Pelham "the Gallant," or his grave, anyway.

One shot with the camera phone. I only took pictures of things that I thought were worth my time and I had time to take pics of. Lately I've been so different, so into the rush and ready to go. I'm old enough to know the consequences and I don't care. Awake and alive. It's kind of funny when I think about taking pictures in graveyards.



4. Louisiana is a state for street racing and survival driving.

Disclaimer: I do NOT suggest breaking any laws. You might die or end up in jail, etc.

But I have to say that my trip through Louisiana was an experience in racing and survival driving. I LOVE that state! Everyone drove 20 over the speed limit, at minimum, except for the occasional people considered by the majority to be obstacles in a game. The interstates in the day have hella awesome views. The roads are thrills like roller-coasters to maneuver on. At night, I came upon teams of racers who sometimes put on shows of their skills. Other times I got to race with a pack. And the bridges...oh, yeah!

Due to the adapt or die mentality I experienced in Louisiana, my driving in extreme situations has improved dramatically. I'm also a lot more confident in my abilities. I always thought when I go to Los Angeles, CA, I would just hire someone to drive for me. Now I'm cool with the idea of driving there. It's a step thing, I guess.

The one pic I got of Louisiana happened on the other side of New Orleans. I thought to get a shot of the water with my phone. At that point I'd adapted to flying down the road with everyone else. The cops went twenty above the fastest cars. As far as I could tell they only pulled over suspicious cargo vehicles, etc. Speeders would've had to go to overly obvious suicidal lengths to get their attention.



Though I didn't know it, a cop had shot up on my rear as I went to take the pic. I moved into the right lane soon after and he passed me. But you can just see his car in the rear-view mirror in this pic.



Mel

To be continued in Part 2...