Sunday, January 22, 2012

Rembrandts, Cheeseburgers and Mudslides

How could I have let this happen?  Rembrandt had been hanging out (no pun intended) in Raleigh since October and I was about to let him slip out of town without saying hello.  Rembrandt in America - the largest collection of authentic Rembrandts ever assembled and shown on American soil - was entering its final weekend at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh.

So on Friday night I grabbed the phone and called my daughter to see if she and the baby were up for a good Saturday adventure.  As luck would have it, she was giving a presentation on Saturday morning at the university where she works and it just happened to be an hour toward Raleigh - which is three hours away from us.  We decided to bundle up the baby, pack the diaper bag and make a day of it.

We warned Miller when he was born that his Mama and his Bebe were prone to wild-hair adventures on the spur of the moment and that he would probably be pulled into the fray by virtue of having no other choice.  His Daddy just shook his head and laughed, saying "Son, I can't help you with this one."
Translation:  "Anyone up for a nice round of golf?"

Saturday dawned rainy and foggy.  Miller dozed in the car seat and we made it to campus with time to spare.  The presentation went well, and after a quick dash through the rain back to the car,  we headed toward Raleigh.  We had barely given the rain a thought.  Raleigh was two hours away, and without any meteorological data whatsoever to bolster our position, we were fairly confident that we would drive out of the rain before we ever got there.

And then, as babies will do, Miller decided to muddy his diaper just this side of Asheboro - probably in honor of all the rain, and probably just to make his Mama and me aware that we were exactly three weeks from anywhere remotely conducive to changing a muddy diaper.  And just for the record (Miller, don't kill me when you grow up and read this) it was the muddiest diaper in the history of mankind.  And we changed it in the rain, and the cold, in the parking lot of a gas station that looked like it had seen happier days.  At that moment, so had we.  His mother gamely said "Well at least he didn't do it in the presence of Rembrandt."

That little glitch behind us and with sunshine at least in our hearts if not in the skies, we forged ahead.  We knew exactly where we were going for lunch, too.  There is a burger joint in Siler City, NC - the stuff of legends - called Johnson's Drive-In.  It was right on our way and neither of us had ever been there.  They are famous for their Velveeta Cheeseburgers. Google them.  You'll see.

 They are only open for four hours on Tuesday through Saturday.  They buy whole sides of fresh beef every morning before sunrise and grind it that day.  They only buy enough for the day, too, and when the beef is gone, they are closed. We rolled toward Siler City thinking good thoughts - and sure enough, the parking lot was still full of cars when we arrived.  After a half-hour wait which was worth every tick of the clock, we did enjoy the best cheeseburgers we had ever eaten.

Back on the road, however, we realized we had a long way to go and a short time to get there.  And Jerry Reed wasn't driving the car and Burt Reynolds wasn't up ahead running interference.  So it was that we arrived at Mr. Rembrandt's doorstep fairly late for the advance ticket time we had purchased.  And contrary to our earlier prediction, we had not, after all, driven out of the rain.

Apparently, the residents of seven states and four foreign countries had all driven their cars to the North Carolina Museum of Art that afternoon for the exact same ticket time that we had purchased.  We were directed to the parking lot on The Outer Reaches Of Muddy Hell, half a mile away from the front door, because that was the only parking lot with any vacancies.  Now, all due respect to the fine folks who run the Museum, we know they were doing the best they could, given the fact that the whole world waited until the last weekend to come and see Rembrandt.  That said, however, you haven't lived until you have plowed a baby stroller through an unpaved muddy parking lot in a January rainstorm.  I highly recommend it for your next vacation.  Once inside, though, we settled ourselves and joined the throngs in the East Building for an extraordinary look at some of the best art the world has ever seen.  
We learned that not all Rembrandts are created equal.  Not all Rembrandts are even Rembrandts, it turns out.  Art historians are now of the opinion that some of the works bearing his signature were actually executed by other artists in his workshop, and only the most careful examination can determine whether a Rembrandt actually came from his hand.  The exhibit fully embraced this and educated us beautifully along the way.  Even the fakes were to die for.
And, in the midst of the masses in the galleries, we literally bumped into our friends, Rob and Lydia, who live just around the corner from us! Hopefully their journey had not been as fraught with drama as ours had been.

Little Miller, attending his first viewing of art masterpieces, took it all in stride.  He flirted with the guards and gazed up at the paintings with the same awe he accords to Elmo every morning on TV.  In fact, he can tell his grandchildren that he actually viewed Rembrandt in person while taking a bottle of formula.  I do know this: after hanging with us all day like the little trouper he is, he had absolutely nothing left to give as we trudged back through the rain and the mud to the car for the drive home.

His t-shirt should read:
"Rembrandts, Cheeseburgers and Mudslides. I survived".

Monday, January 16, 2012

Market Wrap

We just returned home from Atlanta Market, and, as promised, here are a few snapshots from the trip.  I was honored on Friday to be one of the featured artists at a signing session for Legacy Publishing.
 Meeting the retailers who carry Legacy products is always such a treat.  Here I am, below, with Legacy's Carlos Llanso.
 Here is a picture of their great display of my new Gentle Blessings 2013 Calendar and related products.

 Atlanta is always full of quirky surprises.  You never know what is going to be right around the next corner.  Here are two "finds" from the trip - my new friend, Mr. Bear - made entirely of chenille pom-poms - and - a gorgeous chandelier made entirely of old silver spoons!

 On Friday night, as we have for the past several markets, we met with a large group of artist friends at The Westin Hotel for a big hug and a precious few minutes of conversation and catching-up.  One of them suggested that we turn this into a convention of sorts!  Not a bad idea, because we never seem to have enough time with each other.
 Included in the picture are Terri Conrad, Paula Joerling, Joyce Shelton, BJ Lantz, Gina Linn Wilder, Jane Maday, Janet Wecker-Frisch, Sharon Himes, Robin Davis, Shelly Comiskey, me, Phyllis Dobbs, Sue Zipkin, Beth Logan, Audrey Jean Roberts, Karen Embry and Robin Pickens.

Client response to my work was very positive and I have a boatload of work to do as a result, so it's back to work this morning.  Until next time, Atlanta - and thanks for another great show.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

To Market, To Market

In January 1983 we packed the car and drove to Atlanta for our first ever Atlanta Market.  With the exception of one January when I broke out in hives, I have been to every market since.  Little did we know or understand the path that would chart the course of our lives for the next three decades when we first rolled in to town that day!
I am so looking forward to seeing my artist friends, can't wait to see all of the new products, and I am blessed to have a very busy schedule of client meetings over the next few days.  There are a couple of those days where I'm wondering how to squeeze time for lunch - a very nice problem to have!
The camera is going with me, and I hope to post some great pics when I return.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

All Things New

Funny how the simple turn of the calendar page can trigger a mindset.  We go to bed after ringing in the New Year still hearing the echoes of Christmas carols, still in party food mode - and we wake up on January 1 ready to go plow the garden and buy new tomato stakes .  Well, okay, SOME of us do.  Well, okay, maybe I'm the only one.

Optimist that I am, the New Year always calls me with promises.  This will be the year that I finally get it all done, lose the weight, organize my life, scale new heights, discover new worlds.  Those promises are so delicious.  There may be snow in my garden, but my ears already hear mockingbirds and my face already feels the warm April sun.  This is so tangible for me that I have actually gone into Lowes in early January and purchased my zinnia seeds.  I exchange a glance with the check-out girl that says "Yes, I'm crazy.  Just humor me and ring them up."

Hope springs eternal in January.  Hope eventually gives way to those mockingbirds, and the zinnia seeds make the journey home with me from Lowes.  They live in my mind as flowers all the way through a couple of snowstorms, spring winds, a late frost or two, and the occasional dry spell in June before finally opening their eyes in July and telling me hello in person.

Something in me wants to take the first bouquet to the girl at Lowes with a triumphant smile on my face, saying "Here you go, you of little faith!"  But, of course, I don't.

  Instead, I've come to be grateful for that thing in me that feels April sunshine in January and sees a green garden full blown in the dark of a winter afternoon.  I recognize it as the gift that allows me to create and to do what I do for a living, calling up images from thin air and giving them my version of life on paper.  Just like those seeds, sometimes the reward doesn't come right away - but the promise of it is as good as the real thing.