I was moving out the clutter: the doggie beds, foot stools, and from under the bookshelf, the old, rather large, photo album I have from my first marriage. Naturally, I became distracted, and opened it up, looking for a favorite picture of my boys playing with their "transformer" cars, and a younger me in the "witchie" hat I have worn every Halloween for the past 30 years, which I still haven't taken back down to the basement after this year's Halloween festivities.
While going through this album, I came across an old picture of my ex-husband posing with a man who was one of his best friends when we first came to Omaha in the mid-eighties. I have a social networking "friendship" with that man, so I snapped a picture of the snapshot with my iPhone, and posted it on his "wall".
What followed was a series of comments and memories from folks whose names I find only vaguely familiar, but whose memories bring back sharp recollections of a time in my life that was uncomfortable, and sometimes unbearably sad, but for these old friends of his... something else entirely. It made me realize that my ex-husband is something of a cultural icon in this town.
A true multi-media artist, he painted with whatever he had handy. He had a couple of Art Shows here in Omaha back in the day, and made about two dollars. But I liked his work. He always said it was his Legacy to his children, but unfortunately, I do not think any of his children, mine included, own any of it. Once, about ten years ago, the Manly Spouse and I walked into a Gallery in the Old Market, a fashionable, artsy part of town, and there it was. An oil painting. On the wall. With a price tag of several hundred dollars.
Having had no musical training, my ex decided he wanted to become a jazz musician. Not the Dave Brubeck kind of jazz, but the Ornette Coleman "Harmolodics" kind. He taught himself how to play the clarinet and saxophone (with my help), and the drums. These instruments being too traditional for him, he graduated to monkey wrenches, pots and pans, and really any object that might make some sort of percussive sound. He became a professional busker, and in about 1991, actually raised enough money (again, with my help) to make a recording. In a Recording Studio with a real sound engineer.
Cultural Icon? Well, maybe a Counter-cultural icon. Today he is living his dream, I think. I found a web video of him a few years ago, busking on the streets of Portland, OR, where he is now living, making music. His instrument? An old bicycle. http://www.cosmicjoke.com/ShaneIntro.html
He came to Omaha a couple of years ago when my son's fifth child was born. For several years now, He's been living with Parkinson's Disease, and seems a little frail, although the fire is still in his eyes. My son says he's stronger than he looks, and does Yoga every morning, but sometimes he falls down. He can't play his instruments, or hold a paintbrush any more, because his hands don't work the way they used to. But he can, apparently, still dance. http://www.flickr.com/photos/interarts/with/4518095093/
I hope he comes back to town soon, not just to see his grandchildren, but because there's a whole bunch of people who want to help him relive some very wild days.
While they do that, I'm going to stay at home. I'll be sitting in my freshly shampooed front room, snuggled in with the Manly Spouse, watching T.V., talking about our delightfully hum drum days.
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