Thursday, May 25, 2017

A Scrap of Fabric

Dedicated to Bunny Goode, July 13, 1945 – May 25, 2016

It was just a scrap of fabric, as best I could see. A scrap of fabric jammed into a pile of scraps on a shelf full of fabric pieces of all sizes. If the scrap had fallen to the floor I probably would have been tempted to just throw it out.

After almost 30 years together at that time, I knew better. You do not ever throw out fabric scraps, no matter how small, no matter how tattered. I still have vivid recollections of our early days together when, in an act of sheer stupidity, I tossed a bunch of little pieces of fabric into the waste basket. How was I to know that I had just ditched a complete pattern? Not only a complete pattern, but an original design pattern!

Back to the fabric scrap … I’m standing in Bunny’s studio, just shooting the breeze, when she asks me to get this scrap from the seven-foot-high bookcase with 9 shelves that served as her fabric waiting room at the time.

Obviously, I can’t find the piece at first. I mean, how am I supposed to find an 8” square amid what seems to me to be 10,000 different pieces of material? Patiently, she directed me to the proper shelf, the correct pile and the bottom 3” of the pile. And there it was, this little scrap of fabric, white-on-white with a pale design, that is smaller than a man’s handkerchief.

But I don’t think the grill decal from a Mercedes Benz sitting next to the scrap would be considered “normal’ studio contents, and that wasn’t the strangest thing you’d find in there, believe me.

And, of course, fabric was everywhere. It’s impossible to focus on any single point in the room (ceiling included) and not see fabric. So, I think you can see why I was so impressed with my ability to actually locate the scrap without Bunny having to get up and get it herself.

(For those of you who are not artists, or in a serious relationship with an artist, you’ll never understand this next thing.) Bunny takes the piece of fabric and starts to stare at it. Holding it in her hands and staring at it. Like the idiot that I had, over the years, proven to be, I asked, “What are you going to use that for? A dress of something?” You could see the incredible self-restraint she exercised. You could actually see her shoulders slump down, mired deep in the knowledge that she would never be able to explain it to me, since I’m not capable of even a single creative thought … “I don’t know yet” she said. Her body language clearly suggested that I beat a hasty retreat from the studio. Wisely, I yielded to the implication and bailed out.

Over the next week or so I noticed that the scrap moved from place to place. First, it was on Bunny’s cutting table, a mandatory work surface for the serious doll artist. This table was much higher than most, designed for her 6’ frame so she didn’t have to bend over so much. Then the fabric appeared on the weirdo ironing board, made a trip to the top of the TV, back to the ironing board where it was pressed, and even went into the living room.

Bunny always had a spot in our living rooms where she would stuff assorted doll body parts while we relaxed and watched television at night. These spots would be loaded with stuffing, needles of all varieties, strange looking “stuffing tools” that included a hemostat, a screwdriver with the head broken off, dolls in various stages of creation and even a special color corrected light that cost more than a monthly mortgage payment. When friends came over they would just have to deal with the “doll spot”, and if they didn’t like it they could just go home.

At any rate, there was the fabric scrap. My first inclination was to say, “Did you ever figure out what to do with that piece of fabric?” But I had learned my lesson and just ignored the whole subject. That scrap sat on the arm of her chair for three days, and every once in a while I’d see her pick it up and stare at it. Just hold it in her hands and stare at it.

Bunny was in a blazing burst of activity. If you’re in a relationship with an artist, you know what I mean. Artists have these periods of intense productivity, where they can bury themselves in their work and produce breath-taking results. Then just as quickly, they will come to a screeching halt.

Well, this was a hot time. Bunny was absorbed in the process of creativity, and the results of her efforts were showing. Beautiful stuff, even to a lame brain like me, was appearing. I was taking some pictures of the newly created dolls when I noticed the scrap of fabric, neatly folded in a small square, strategically positioned back next to the Mercedes Benz grill decal. I could tell it wasn’t there by mistake, it was deliberately put there for a reason. But again, genius that I had become, I ignored the entire topic. No questions asked about the scrap. No questions about the Mercedes Benz decal. Nothing that could ever be construed as even the slightest interest about any of it.

The creative storm died down and she was now in a period of quiet reflection. During these times, Bunny always needed to have some motivation to spark the creativity. That motivation might be as simple as a photo in a magazine or the label on a can of paint at Home Depot. This time, though, it was the small piece of fabric.

That scrap had found its way back to the work table. I saw it lying there, perfectly flat and square, right dead smack in the middle of the table. Later that day I saw her staring at it once again, and then again later in the evening just before bedtime.

That night she was up working, she said she couldn’t sleep. By then I could recognize the beginning stages of another creative burst, and Bunny was in one of them. She said she had a new doll idea in her mind that she just couldn’t shake, and she wanted to get some of the ideas into form. She was sketching out the new design … It seemed like there were hundreds of pieces of paper all over the floor.

For the next several days, all her efforts were dedicated to this new doll. I knew enough after all those years to stay out of her way and let the creative juices flow. And then, it was done.

This doll was beautiful, in my own opinion one of the best dolls she ever designed and made. As I focused the camera to memorialize the piece, there it was … a small piece of that little scrap of fabric.  It wasn’t the main fabric in the doll, but, to my amazement, that small scrap of fabric grabbed my attention and held it. The fabric piece was just an accent to the doll, but it fit in magnificently, a soft contrast to the rest of the color scheme.

It was just a scrap of fabric, as best I could see. A scrap of fabric jammed into a pile of scraps on a shelf full of fabric pieces of all sizes. And that’s what makes the difference between an artist and the rest of the world. I would have thrown it out. Bunny created a work of art.

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Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trying to Leave Jersey

Let’s get serious for just a moment … everyone knows that you can leave Jersey but you’ll never get rid of the internal Jersey. You know, that overall snark that becomes part of your DNA when you’re born and raised in the Garden State, that aggression that stays with you even after you’ve mellowed out, the “don’t mess with me, I’m from Jersey” stink eye you give people who are trying to pull a fast one on you.  That stuff never, ever goes away. Sure, maybe it gets a little dormant and repressed when you’re surrounded by pleasantness and relative contaminant-free breathing air, but it’s always there.

I was living here with Sheila for about 2 months and she mistakenly assumed that I was a very calm guy. Hey, I’m living with a pretty lady in a beautiful home in Georgia … of course I’m calm! Or, at least I was until I got the third marketing phone call in one day for a warranty extension on a piece of furniture I bought from Ashley that I had to THROW OUT ON THE CURB because it was so horribly made and they were such a pain in the butt to deal with (no lie, threw it out on the curb after 3 replacements over 6 months). When warranty call #3 came that day, my Jersey erupted and much loudness/profanity/angst ensued.
So that was the first day Sheila programmed the sheriff’s phone number into her speed dial … she didn’t know what to make of the outburst from her new life partner, or the immediate calm that returned after the eruption. “Just part of my Jersey charm”, I informed her, “nothing to be concerned over”.  “But you were so loud and red-faced, how can you be so relaxed now?” “It’s just my Jersey leaking out”, I said.  You Jersey people know exactly what I mean.

Last week I was up in NJ at my house in Spotswood, taking a few days to go through everything and see what it is that I wanted to keep. My new home/life here in Georgia with Sheila is quite complete, and in reality, I need nothing whatsoever. Most things that are important (paperwork, passport, tax records, etc.) are already here with us; anything that was still in Spotswood had questionable value … if I hadn’t needed it for the past 6 months, did I really need it at all?

Two pieces of furniture were still up north that Sheila really liked (a secretary and matching coffee table, nicely hand carved oriental style stuff and worth some coin, too), along with books and records and photos that I knew I would regret tossing out at some point in the future. Plus, Sheila is like a book fairy godmother, protecting anything with a binding from miscreants like me, so there was no way I was leaving that stuff up there. And a refrigerator, which is only two years old with about 6 months’ worth of real time usage … may as well bring that down, too, since our fridge here in GA is getting a bit old and has some minor issues starting to crop up.

After checking with commercial movers and realizing that the cost to move this piddly amount of junk would be over $3K (minimum billing for such a trip), I decided to rent a 12’ truck from Penske, load it myself and drive back to ATL. I was able to enlist the help of two of my brothers, Buzz (the oldest) and Frank (the youngest), along with Frank’s wife, Jill. Sheila was staying in Georgia with family issues, plus someone had to look after these two knuckleheaded dogs we have. And it was just a small amount of stuff, right?

The flight north? Flawless. Renting the truck? Perfect. Getting stuff packed up? No issues. Moving the fridge to the truck? O—M—G *!#%!*^$#%!!!
This thing weighs 330 pounds … you would think I would have looked at that little piece of info before deciding to do this, right? You have any idea how heavy 330 pounds of bottom loaded dead weight is, especially when you have two older-than-dirt guys and one starting-to-get-broken-down guy moving it? With no ramp or liftgate on the truck?

Don’t get me wrong, Buzz, Frank and Jill were a tremendous help with everything. But Buzz is 4 years older than me (and I’m soon to be 66) and Frank is pushing 58. (There are 6 Goode kids … Buzz is the oldest, then 4 years went by while Mom tried to recover from the trauma of giving birth to him, then in every two-year order after me once Mom saw how perfect a child I was, me, Tom, Mike, Barb, and Frank). Here were the oldest, and 2nd oldest, along with the “young one”, moving this 330-pound behemoth that wouldn’t fit through the doors without random dismantling of parts and mucho Jersey expressions of malcontent.

Of course, the absence of either a tailgate or ramp meant trying to lift this moose straight up with about ¾” clearance (you’d also think I would have given a bit more thought to that as well, wouldn’t you?) … that wasn’t happening, not with the crew we had available. But we already had the piece of junk at the truck, what do we do?

A quick review with Professor Google showed we could lay it on its side, if I let it stand upright for a minimum 24 hours before plugging it in, to allow the Freon to settle. That settled, it went on its side and into the truck, carefully protected with comforters on the floor of the truck to protect from scratching. And Sheila, God Bless her incredible soul, had contracted some local muscle to unload the truck in ATL.

The trip back to GA was uneventful … the truck was great, relatively fuel efficient, nothing shifted from where we packed it in, books saved by their patron saint, furniture secured with zero damages, replacement fridge inside for its damaged ATL cousin, and young able-bodied men moving it all. I was feeling pretty darn good about everything, figured I might even score some bonus points with Sheila based on the book rescue (hey, I take the credits where I can …)

Everything is in place, and 24 hours later I’m plugging in the fridge. A little prayer, and wham!  Fridge is powered up and lights are working and compressor kicks on. Press in the water dispenser bar, and wow! Water spurts a bit, gets the air out of the line and there it is, water in the glass. Right about then I was letting my Jersey cockiness air out a bit, show you that you can’t hold a Jersey guy back, everything is working and I’m thinking maybe I should chat up Sheila a little bit since things are going so darn good!
“Why is there water on the floor by the freezer door?”, asks Sheila in her beautiful southern charm way. Southern ladies never say what they mean, out of sheer politeness, although I’m sure Sheila was thinking, “Hey, there’s water on the floor, did you break something?”

As soon as I heard Sheila’s question I had flashbacks to the freezer door dangling off the hinge as we wrested that pig out the door in Jersey. Yup, I’m sure that was the moment we damaged the water line, which runs through the bottom freezer hinge and up into the ice maker. Realizing chatting up Sheila was now a faded memory, I got my nearly 66-year-old self onto the floor to confirm that I was going to be screwed, and not in a fun way, either. Yup … screwed …

Y’all know the rest of the story without having to read it … GE repair comes by, confirms that I am, indeed, screwed and as an added bonus to my screwed-ness advises that the only way to repair the line is to replace the entire freezer door for a final screwing of $910.84. Yup … thoroughly screwed …

As of this writing, here is where I am … two refrigerators, both with the same identical common problem of the ice maker/water dispenser not working, both of which weight more than a ’54 Chevy, I haven’t told Sheila yet (she is at work today), I still don’t have any ice water (although I’m considering a steady diet of Scotch) and I’ve spent the last few hours realizing that all of the effort involved in moving that thing down here will only result in me buying a new fridge (I am NOT paying $910.84 for a new door … it’s a nice fridge, but it’s just a GE, not a SubZero) (and it’s something I should have done in the first place instead of being cheap) and leaving no fridge in the house I’m selling in Jersey.

Lessons learned:

  • There is a reason why I have always hired movers

  • New Jersey is clinging onto me like a rabid dog, determined to make it as hard as possible to totally separate myself from its tax-laden grip

  • Never, ever think about chatting up smart, pretty ladies until all the facts are known
  • Don’t ever move again

Anybody want two refrigerators? You’ll have to come and get them yourself, though …

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