I had an odd experience the other day. I had accepted an invitation to be a speaker at the SEA (Self-Employment in the Arts) conference out in Naperville, in part because I think it is a good idea to teach younger artists how to make a living and give them some ideas about how to best achieve this. They paid me well and in the speech I found myself enjoying the audience–they were young and it was all in front of them. I gave them some strategy that has worked for me and also made remarks about the current show I was working on–The Hobo pieces–and lamented the presence of so much hunger in America; particularly urban America. I also said that the last election proved out the equity of the American dream; that your Dad could be from Kenya and your Mom from Nebraska, and you, too, could become the President.
All in all the talk went really well and the kids were great. I also got to meet and spend some time with Brian Dettmer, (who is one of my heroes in this business) a really great artist , whose work I’ve admired for years. In the course of my speech I had also mentioned that these young artists were to be mindful of the political “dark ages” they’d just grown up with; the eight years of greed, blood and stupidity that comprised the Bush presidency. It had been a good talk and afterward I met with a bunch really wonderful young artists who were all about doing as much for themselves as possible. Everything was ducky.
Before the conference, they’d given an award to an older gentleman who’d sponsored the whole deal and was all about self-employment. I’d not really heard his remarks because I was working on my notes for my talk. He was 82 years old and evidently had taken umbrage at some of the remarks I’d made during my speech about Bush and the collection of dildos he surrounded himself with. He pulled me aside afterward “to have a private word with me,” but mostly to attempt to take me to the woodshed. This older guy started shaking as he told me how I’d no idea what The Great Depression was like. I told him that the fact that I was 50 years old attested to this–I was not alive during The Depression. I also told him that both of my parents were children of The Depression and had remembered it viscerally. This wasn’t good enough for him, and I sensed he was actually pissed about something else–and then he outed with it, still shaking. “I’m a George Bush supporter. . .and you’re shilling for that thug, Obama.” Before I could even think about deferring to his age and being polite, t was out of my mouth: “Then you’re a stupid motherfucker,” and then it was off to the races. I’d tried to be polite and failed, and I can tell you that at 50 years old I no longer have any patience for old, rich, white guys telling me how tough they had it. Every one of these motherfuckers has a Horatio Alger spiel to spin, and I’ve grown tired of it, because at the end of each of these tales is a tough-love bromide about how the poor should “help themselves;” as if we all start in the same place in life. Blow me.
This one is called “The Hobo King.”