Incongruous is the only word to describe this month. As the definition below suggests, things are “not in harmony.”
Charles dies, Dec. 9
How true. My great love died on the 9th of this month. We separated in early 2013, divorced in early 2014, but remained in loving and regular contact right up until his death, way too early, from alcoholism. He even lived with me again this past April, quite sick, until his wonderful family and I could get him moved out of Austin and up to New York where he lived his last months with one of his brothers.
In hindsight, I know his death was inevitable, but all of us were shocked at the speed with which passed.
The shock extended beyond family. Word of his death swept through Austin like a Texas wildfire. The calls and texts and emails did not stop for 48 hours, and the posts on his Facebook page was proof of things I knew: he was madly gifted, smart as hell, and kind to his core. While alcoholism destroyed it all, I’m so grateful that he was remembered for his best and not his worst.
That was December 9th. Three days later I found myself setting up a booth at my first juried art show.
Cherrywood Art Fair, Dec. 13-14
I remember applying to the Cherrywood Art Fair on a lark at the suggestion of a Facebook friend. Twenty bucks for a snowball’s chance in hell, I thought. When I learned of my acceptance, I set to work–not just on painting but on making prints, note cards, and even coasters and magnets of my art to sell. I wanted there to be something for every wallet. I researched how to set up a booth, how to price the work, and how to talk with people. I rented, borrowed, or made the fixtures, tables, and displays.
Thank God all this prep was done before the 9th. The news of Charles’ death overwhelmed me those first few days (it still does). Setting up my booth should have made me feel giddy, but I functioned on autopilot, referring often to the checklist I’d made over the past six weeks.
More than 20 friends made a point of coming to the show to lend support over the next two days. They were checking in with me, and many were there to talk about their own grief. Again, those conversations, in hindsight, were so incongruous with the setting–a crowded holiday art show with families and children and music and food.
It was an exhausting two days. On one hand, I found myself compartmentalizing grief. On the other, I was there to honor the kid inside me who’d become a very happy painter. On the third hand (yes, doesn’t it always seem like there’s a third hand?), I was learning how to treat my art professionally.
The upshot was that I made a tidy sum of money. I made rookie mistakes on day 1 and corrected them on day 2. I learned what sold well at this particular show and what I would do to improve sales at shows like this in the future.
Did I enjoy it? Honestly, no, but it had nothing to do with the show itself, and I’ll certainly apply again in 2015. For better part of the next week, other than work, I did nothing but sleep.
Charles’ Memorial at One-2-One Bar in Austin, Dec. 21
His death, so noticed by the music community, was celebrated this past Sunday night at One-2-One bar here in Austin. A great friend from earlier years, Wayne Sutton, made it all happen–a lineup of peers and friends who played for six hours.
Here’s the last incongruity for this long post: we were gathered to celebrate the life and mourn the death of an alcoholic in a bar. Incongruous, yes, but just as it should have been. Clubs and bars — this is where his tribe works, lives, congregates. This is the tribe’s church and town square. We could not have met anywhere else.
I opened the show with some words from his family and words from me. I played two songs. One about his inevitable death which will be on love & blood, one Charles produced and truly loved from the last album, Girls, Good & Otherwise. The track, “Nothing But Love,” is here:
Christmas is coming. This one will be very, very quiet. The new year is coming next. I have no idea what it will bring.