Posts Tagged ‘work’

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

August 8, 2011

Editor’s Note:  This recession has been very hard on many of my acquaintances in the art world; especially those in their 50s.  Even the poorly paid, entry level jobs are no longer available.  And when they pop up, employers hire the younger workers.  If you’ve done this and that throughout your life just to keep the rent paid while you’ve thrown yourself into your art  in hopes of having a career – it’s not so hard to end up on the rocky shores of destitution by the time you reach 50.  The facts are that most artists are ‘unsuccessful’.  Rejection comes with the territory from right out of the starting gate.  The meager aesthetic credibilty many achieve by their later years won’t even buy a cup of coffee.  And with nothing to show for it, life can be hard on the spirit.

Okay.  Here’s Where the Going Gets Tough…

Shuffling Off This Mortal Coil…

“The weird thing is, I’ve been dreaming about being in Hell or Heaven, commuting with dead people, like my mom, grandma, other people I knew. Like last night, for instance, I dreamed of being in Hell, visiting Augie and his cronies, hanging out at a closed restaurant. The place was extremely run down. Augie and his mafia cronies were lounging around, doing nothing. I wanted to order coffee and a pastry. They all scraped up a dinner table, set plates, but the food left much to be desired. No pastries – a little black patty is all we got on our plates. I poked at it, not sure if it were meant to be eaten. Everyone acted festive, talking up a storm. Guess they don’t get too many visitors.
These kinds of dreams were very consistent lately. Like every night. That is so strange.
I remember most of them, too. The one before last night was interesting: I saw the water rising, I stood there and watched over the horizon, I watched the water level rise and rise, and the last thing I saw was just water everywhere and the sun setting above the horizon. To regress, a while before the end part there were lakes overflowing, and I remember standing on the shore of a lake, saying, “Look how clean the water looks,” to someone. And that person was saying, “No, it’s still dirty.” And I said, “No, look closely: it’s not dirt – it’s weeds, it’s the marine life!” It was after that, that the water kept rising. I knew it was from the melting icecaps. It was blue and clear with green weeds flourishing. And then it was the final scene: water from horizon to horizon, and the sun setting over it. Last thing I remember in that dream were the rays of sun on the endless sea. The weather was good – blue sky. Hardly any waves.
Other times I dream of being in St. Petersburg, with my mom and grandma, and I argue with my mom, like I never dared to before. Other times I search for the truth…
Very strange. Why these consistent dreams? Am I dying?
If so, then I’m extremely lucky, to have such a transition. Shit, by the time I’m dead, I’d be mostly somewhere else. I sleep more and more. The other dimension is probably taking up more than 50% now. When I’m here I think I’m mostly here, but when I’m there, I feel like I’m mostly there. I’m not too sure about the percentages, since in that other dimension I can’t email you or call you, because you’re not there yet.”  – Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson 

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

April 1, 2011

Rita Lands Appointment with Mini Mart Bigwig

People Who Can Make Things Happen Are Usually Busy

“I got a first REAL appointment with a guy who runs the mini marts in CD on Monday 5 to 7 pm!
I talked to him about it a bit every time I came into his store, and today he told me he will bring a list of all the stuff he wants to sell online at 5pm on Monday and discuss business. Yahoo! Wow! It wasn’t like a student whiny thing; I told him that I’m working real hard at learning how to market stuff online, and I just suffered 6 miserable hours of like picking rice grains from a pile of sand, because they spent 3 out of 6 hours trying to sell their e-store at exorbitant prices and almost kicked me out for being a web designer. I promised the asshole that wanted to kick me out that I was just a student and had no money and wanted to learn the best way to go about building an e-store, and he had no right to kick me out because I paid for the class. So he left me alone, and I got my net book and I picked a few grains of wisdom out of a lot of BS.
So I went down to the neighborhood store to get a pack of cigarettes and the manager of all the local stores was there, and we talked for a few minutes, and he agreed to meet with me on Monday.
I told him to write a list of all the stuff he wants to sell, and then to imagine himself a customer, and write down all the possible ways he could think of what they’d search for. Shit, if he actually sits down and puts in the effort, he’s mine for keeps. Because a busy man like that would value his time in doing homework. Once I got his list, he wouldn’t want to do it again.
So I will sit down with him and go over his list and give him an estimate of how much it would cost him to do all that, and it will be only a half of what anyone else would charge. So I think I got the deal.
Feels damn good just to be able to work with someone for real, not just a bunch of people that want something for nothing, getting referrals from college for free interns who will be their slaves for the next few months.”  – Rita

Caveat:  Photo of Mini Mart Big Wig by Carl Nelson taken using a professional model.  (Repy to this blog for contact information.)

From the Editor’s Perch

March 18, 2011
Ur Editor

“Over thirty years ago I worked for a local moving outfit where most of the endless days were spent loading or unloading vans at one of the many loading docks.  One of my fellow workers, Dale, was a huge Italian, who grew up in Hell’s Kitchen.  He would skip on his toes across the warehouse floor – like one of those dancing hippos in Disney’s Fantasia – flicking jabs, to amuse himself on slow days, while he went from here to there collecting bits of stray string or torn sections of cardboard in order to appear busy.  He was tall and powerfully built with olive-skin, oily black hair, large fleshy features, liver lips and an enormous beer belly – so enormous in fact, that in order to stay upright he had to lean backwards while skipping forward.  He was a former ‘deep-water sailor’ who harbored in Belltown and drank with his cronies at the Two Bells.  He was a binge drinker who now and then just wouldn’t show up for a while.

But when Dale was there, if he were in a talkative mood, he share with us the ‘adventures of the sea’: about sailors who’d strap bras to their back while out at sea to make a little extra money, and about visiting his retired pals who spent their days keeping track of the whores on First Avenue with red pins stuck in a large map of downtown Seattle – as if conducting military maneuvers.  Dale generally stayed above any argument that would break out from time to time in the coffee room.  But when he did voice an opinion, it was always the same one:  “The question is,” he would say with a chuckle as he lifted his meaty forefinger to make his point: “are you da Fucker, orderda da Fuckee?”  And I had to admit, Dale’s comment almost always hit upon the crux of whatever was bothering those guys.  His gnome-like silence notwithstanding, this ‘one-thought’ intelligence-of-his was downright uncanny, in fact.

One boring winter afternoon I asked Dale how his Christmas had gone.  He had been looking forward to spending the holiday with a woman and her young son in a cheap motel room along Aurora Avenue North.  I assumed she was probably a hooker who came with the room.  “Not so good,” he said.  “We got in an argument and I ended up throwing the tree and the turkey out the back door.”  In retrospect, the dark humor of it seemed to be its saving grace.  I had the feeling Dale was perplexed, and more profoundly depressed than he could admit. There was something in the nuance of a relationship which seemed to trip him up.  Nevertheless, he seemed to admire the dark humor of it – of those fragile Christmas tree ornaments hitting the asphalt with a pop!.  It was the kind of world he might have designed, himself.

Over the years, I’ve encountered numerous bright people who’ve tried to explain to me again and again the reality of the same situations Dale could have summarized with greater and more accurate ease, in a phrase.  I guess they repeat themselves again and again because they think I don’t get it; I can’t face it; I’m poorly read; I can’t understand it; I’m ignorant; I’m weak; I’m a waffler…    I miss Dale.  I think the reason we sort of liked each other was because we both grasp that their  ‘reality’ – just doesn’t work.  I could look at him and realize that he got the joke.

Photo by Scot Bastian

 

A Poet’s Lives with Lyn Coffin

March 14, 2011

Editor’s Note:  Lyn comments:  “I find it very difficult to write travel pieces. The strangeness is all in the details- the oven  burners turn on by turning them up; where you expect to push, you need to pull; when you thank someone, you are mildly rebuked- friends don’t thank friends, etc. And detailing the details does not make for fascinating reading. Still, I am thrilled to be almost exactly (12 hours) halfway around the world from my native town of Seattle. I am posting this here to see if there will be interest. Perhaps another someone out there is planning a trip to Tbilisi, or or or…. A mantra gleaned from my from one of my Buddhist teachers (Norman Fischer)- “Let’s see what happens.”

PARTY!

What Happens in Georgia, Stays in Georgia

 

 

“I went to a birthday party here in Tbilisi, Georgia, last night. a great way to mark the end of my first week here.
Picture: a kind of chalet tucked off the beaten path- One room with fifty or sixty people and a little band- two long tables in an L shape.
The tables were absolutely covered with plates of food- let’s see- chicken, bread, potato salad, some kind of “mice” (maize) dish, fish, caviar, fruit of every variety, mushrooms, cottage cheese, butter cut in circles with some kind of red pepper strips wrapping it, many more dishes I can’t remember- every place had two glasses, a big one for mineral water and a little one for wine- pitchers and pitchers of wine- iced tea-colored. The little juice (wine) glasses were kept constantly filled, many people smoked.
There was a toastmaster with a mike who toasted the birthday guy and then- our ancestors, our siblings, all those we know who’ve died, a special toast extending heartfelt sympathy to those suffering in Japan as a result of the tsunami– to our friends, Georgia, music, and early on, there was a big special toast to Me! My friends translated- We are so fortunate to have this wonderful poet and translator and Gia’s friend and we want to welcome her and then everybody cheered and saluted me by throwing back a few glasses of wine- and then it was time for me to make a little speech and my friend translated and everybody cheered and gave me thumbs up and clinked glasses with me and asked why I ate and drank so little and like that and then there was dancing and I don’t know what all.
And everybody knew the songs and some of them inspired people (the men) to stand or shout call out Hey!
At one point, someone cut the silhouette of a man on a very large orange, so that the figure could be raised up out of the fruit (still attached at the feet)- And when they sang one song that had all the men jumping to their feet in the chorus, I so wanted to stand up (all the women stayed seated) that I took the orange, and when they stood up, I made the man on the orange stand up! Everybody thought that was hysterical so I kept doing it.
And after it was all over, a man took the orange from me and showed me that when you turned the man around and looked at his front, he appeared to have a male appendage and when he stood up, it stood up too. That really and clearly embarrassed me and everybody got a big kick out of the fact that I had done this without knowing. And even the embarrassment was pleasant. And everybody was friendly.
I loved the whole thing- except for the smoke. My host, who has become a dear friend now in the non-e world, smokes like a fiend. Worse, he smokes Camels- which I think are the worst cigarettes for causing long disease. And he tries to be careful but I can feel my lungs suffering and I’m going to have to say I can’t be around him at all if he smokes or around the cigarettes. The concept of second hand smoke has not arrived here in Georgia.
Oh, and another thing that impressed me about the birthday party- sitting across from me was an attractive young man in black (the Georgian national color seems to be black when it comes to dress- most of the women at the party were in black slacks and black jackets or vests- I think I was the only woman in a skirt– a first in my life, who has often been the only woman in slacks- and it was a wildly colored one, at that.)
Anyway- the man across from me was addressed as “mommy” or “momiko”- (Georgian is the only language I know of where “mama” means father and “dada” means mother.) He was a priest, and he toasted and laughed and drank and danced with the best of them. (Priests here are allowed to marry.)
What maybe surprised me the most was that the whole context of the evening was “macro”- religous, patriotic, existential. There were sometimes religious references in the toasts and Virgin mother, and so on. And many people were fasting for Lent, meaning they didn’t eat meat.
And there was a toast to King David the builder (a kind of Georgian George Washington) and Tamar, the number one historical woman in Georgian history, great granddaughter of David, a kind of Queen Elizabeth, except twice-married. She didn’t like the first guy and patched him off to somewhere. Then she chose her own husband and they seemed to have hit it off.)
Anyway- what struck me was the sheer rough-housing joy of the occasion. I left way before the end (my friend said they’d probably stop around 1 or 2). When there were songs, everyone sang- People were talking all the time and commenting- The food and wine kept coming and coming.
A couple of times there were what seemed to be jousting matches in language- i.e., the man next to me teased a man across the table by asking if he was a Muslim; the man said no, his questioner was a Muslim, and other people put in their two cents’ worth and there was a certain amount of I don’t know confrontation- but it was punctuated by all these remarks from others that made everyone, including the two main players, laugh, and it ended with the two skoling each other. Neither of the two ever seemed angry or ashamed. And I don’t think there was anti-Muslim sentiment in this- Georgia seems to have a history of being one of the most remarkably religously tolerant countries in the world. He could as easily have called him an atheist or a Buddhist.
For me, a poet, one of the greatest things is that Georgians seem to love poetry as much as they love wine and song and there are statues everywhere to poets- a general or politician or two, here and there, but mostly poets.
And they love the fact that I am translating (with my friend/host, Gia) some of Rustaveli’s “The Man in the Panther Skin,” their national epic. One last note- there are underway passages for crossing the main avenues, and one I walked through yesterday was lined with stone panels in Georgian and English featuring whole stanzas of this 12th century epic.
This would be something like finding huge plaques with engraved quotations from Beowulf in the subway.
Wow. I’ve really got to get going. I have to polish off a Rustaveli excerpt today.” – Lyn

Photo, taken WAY out of context, by Carl Nelson

From the Editor’s Perch

December 23, 2010

A Christmas Story

Just about forty years ago my college career was drawing to a close, (I hoped.)  And my dream, if I could have described it, would have been to have lived in a small studio on the edge of town – out on the prairie – where I would live and paint.  Just make paintings, I had no idea of what.

My high school had what was called a Dutch Uncle Program.  As a senior, you could pick what sort of career you hoped to have, and they would match you as best they could with someone in the community who did just that.  And you got to spend the day with them.  I had never considered what I wanted to be.  I was completely overwhelmed just trying to placate the various factions who competed to run me.  The present (and past, I suppose) had me absolutely pre-occupied.  But when I heard the news, a voice rang out clear in my head as if a bell had rung and it said, “I want to be a writer.”  This was odd because I had never heard a voice in my head before.  And, I had never considered becoming a writer.  But I wrote that down and handed it to the teacher and it went off somewhere into the gears of the administration where it was processed, while I waited.  I had read Hemingway in class and was very taken with his simple, poetic way of expressing himself.  And across from our lake cabin where we spent a large part of our summers lived a fellow who it was rumored had retired from being a big game hunter in Africa.  So, in my mind, I conflated the two, and pictured spending a day in a writer’s bungalow – where he ‘wintered’ out on the South prairie – talking (and maybe even drinking a bit) with a guy who looked like Papa Hemingway and had large animal heads and trophies hanging on his walls.  What I got was a tired, pasty complexioned, middle-aged reporter in a black suit and shoes who wrote the obituaries and military news for the Spokane daily Chronicle behind a downtown office door with guilt letters on a wavy glass pane.  I, and another student from across town, met with him at the newspaper offices and chatted.  I tried to ask intelligent questions, and in return he wrote an assessment for the school councilor that said he believed I could achieve a career as a reporter.  This marked the start of the two worlds I tried to live in.

I didn’t move out on the prairie and start writing.  I didn’t really consider it.  Instead, I went to the local state university seventy miles south of town, because everybody in our family went to college.  Every day now I feed our dachshund, Noodle, and then take him out to “pee and poop.  Because that’s the next thing, Dad!” (as I imagine our dog, Noodle, saying).  Well, college was the next thing.

There was always a point in here when I imagined the pressures of the competing factions would abate, an opening would appear, and I’d escape through the grate.  Unfortunately I was either too dutiful a student, or too good at college, and I got into medical school.  Never pick something to placate people and then tell yourself, ‘Well that can’t happen.’  Because damned if it won’t. 

So there I was lifting the body flaps off cadavers and trying to have relationships with people who just wanted to get well (thank you very much).  But this time, after four years, I slipped away.  Because it became plain to me that if I tried any longer to do something which didn’t interest me, it was going to start killing people.  I joke, when people say, “what a waste of an education” – that I have probably saved more lives by quitting medicine than a lot of doctors have by continuing! 

A lot of my humor doesn’t get a laugh.  But I’ve learned to live with it.  (And you will have to also!)  Anyway, there’s the background, and now to the point of this story. 

So, I’ve set myself adrift from medicine and decided to become an artist.  This is about 35 years ago.  Well, the first thing you do is suffer.  There are no paid entry level jobs as ‘artist’, and the homeless have more status – because people, I suspect, in a grudging, horrific way, respect the homeless.  They’re real.  It’s actual.  It’s authentic.  Somehow, seeing oneself as an artist is neither real, actual, nor authentic.  And on the sliding scale of how normal  people think, you go right out the spit valve.

This suffering will continue until you suffer a personal enlightenment:  ‘What does it matter what they think?’  It’s not like they’re doing me any favors.’  Then you wrap that flowing scarf around your neck (bohemian), or get that ‘gawdawful’ tattoo down your calf (contemporary) and stride forth proud and undaunted. 

But you still need a place to live and work and money to eat.  And though I might have qualified for a better job, I didn’t want to have one – because I didn’t want to think about what I was paid to do.  So, as an artist, I often ended up doing a job where I was “not paid to think!”  (Fine by me!)

Unfortunately, people who will hire and pay you not to think, won’t pay you very much not to think.   And it was soon apparent to me that I was going to have to work all the time, just to eat and keep a roof over my head.  So how was I going manage time to do my real work?  (This is what aspiring artists call it: their real work.  A term which only estranges them more from the normal crowd.)

I decided I needed to lower and stabilize my living costs.  I liked certainty, so instead of leasing a loft I decided I would buy a home.  My top price was fifteen thousand.  But I wasn’t looking for nice.  I was looking for large.  And I found one: a repossessed, fixer-upper, in the poor southeast end of Seattle.  Say whatever you want about minorities, but they keep the prices down.  And this place was packed with everybody.  My neighbor two houses down, Hwang (I think), worked as a friendly cook downtown.    The Southeast Asians in the neighborhood would squat as they smoked at the bus stop.  Hwang and I discussed making his garage into another bedroom for his relations.  Kiddy-corner across the street was a quiet, comely single black mom with a shy young son who seemed – quite beyond anything she did – to attract rouge males: normals, Superflys, the gamut…  And, of course, there would be the dust-ups.  Early one morning (around 3 am) I remember waking up to the sound of pouring rain and some fellow yelling his head off.  I rolled over and remembered saying to myself, “I wish someone would shoot that Son-of-a-Bitch!”  “Pop!  Pop! Pop!”  That was the last I heard.  The rain continued.

Anyway, I succeeded in lowering my living costs to house payments of around $103/month.  And my studio was as big as the numbers of walls I decided to knock out.  I hadn’t anything to steal.  And I’m big enough I generally wasn’t bothered.  I purchased a wood stove, and one side of the equation was solved.  (I remember how outraged I was at the time when insurance and taxes had caused the payments to climb to around $130.)

The other thing I wanted to do was to make a living from my art.  It didn’t need to be grand, but I wanted that sense of moving forward and relishing each day.  (Forget marriage and having kids for far….. in the future.)  Drawing portraits seemed like it would fill the bill.  I’d watched others seemingly make a living at it.  Flattery and narcissism have given employment down through the ages and it hasn’t stopped yet!  I liked figure drawing, did it twice weekly, the face included.  Moreover I thought I could bring something to it, as they say.

So to get my feet wet I started off at the beach at Alki.  Not many customers and it was illegal, so I was run out of there fairly quickly.  The Seattle Center required all sorts of bureaucratic rigmarole.  The downtown waterfront looked ideal, what with the continual flow of tourists, but that area had been homesteaded long before I got there.  I considered paying the meter and setting up shop in a parking stall just under the viaduct, or better yet, right along Elliot.  Then I had the grand idea of going into business with Ivar.  He was our local restaurateur legend.  In all the ads he was very homespun and friendly.  He had run with the local art legends.  There is a statue of him now on the downtown waterfront feeding a bronze seagull.  Part of his building along the street was unused at the time. 

 Ivar wasn’t big on the idea.  He had plans to add on.  It seemed to me that live portrait art done in a front section of his business would be just the thing to attract the tourist crowds and “add a bit of artistic elan to the enterprise!” But when I pressed him on it, Ivar said, “What do you think?  I’m lying to you?”  (No, no…)

So, I ended up at the Market.  The Pike Street Farmers Market is where a lot of artisans ended up.  For around $3.50/day (I believe that was the fee) you could rent about 4 feet of counter space to show off your wares to a seemingly endless flow of people.  It was outdoors and cramped, but it had the crowds.  And it was romantic.  You had to show up early, around 7am, while they were shoveling in the ice at the fish stalls because that was when the stall placements were made.  Then you’d set up, and maybe go in for coffee at either Lowells or the Athenian (breakfast, if you were making money) until the crowds arrived.  You’d walk past the alcoholics at the bar setting up for their first drink of the day.  One of my friends there related how when the alcoholics arranged themselves before their first drink of the day, they would use a bar towel draped across their neck so that with one hand they could guide their other shaky hand with drink to their mouths safely, so as not to spill.   After a days work, we’d put our stuff away and have a beer ourselves.  (Again, if we’d made any money.)

Unfortunately, I wasn’t making any money to speak of, and as November arrived it was getting damned cold.  I dressed warmer.  I stood on cardboard.  I cut the ends out of my mitten fingers.  And I was getting tired of passing the time.  When you’re not making any money, there really isn’t a lot to say.  You’re not in the mood to talk.  You’re glum.  I started looking around.  A bright spot was the playing of the metal kettle drums.  That particular metallic banging for money carried down the Market concourse and out into the street – then seemed to echo and return until the cold air was a jumble of hovering notes.  The world, at times, never seems as beautiful as when you are poor.

But I was going to settle for less beauty and more money.  So I made my way uptown to the department stores.  Somehow or other I found myself in the office of the Manager of the Bon Marche (now Macys).   I showed him my portraits and pitched him.  When I think of a lot of the people I’ve liked, a large percentage of them are businessmen.  They tend to be honest and decent.  They’re tough, but then it’s very hard to be decent in this world without being tough.  Anyway, I liked this fellow.  And I think he liked me, for some reason.  We agreed on a percentage and hours and he took me to a spot in the lamp department at the head of the escalator on the 5th floor, which he thought would do.  (Later, I’d seen they’d even made up some posters for publicity.)  I commented on the way up the escalators that it had never made sense to me why we had to walk all the way around to continue our climb to the next floor?  Mr. Smith (that may have been his name) said that was because it gave them a chance to show off their merchandise on each floor as the customer walked past.  As we descended he added, “And know exactly how long it takes for a customer to descend the escalator, and what he can see of the floor below during each second of his descent.”  I found this very interesting.  I’ve always liked watching things.  And as I sat in my artist’s perch day after day watching the activity around me it was apparent that a department store is not the still display of wares the occasional visitor might think it to be.  Nope.  “If merchandise does not start moving within the first half hour that it is placed out there, it is either moved or replaced,” Mr. Smith said.  And I witnessed this, as I sat there through the Christmas rush.

I think the manager might have also been a nice guy, as I wasn’t doing that great a trade – yet he never threatened to can me.  “How’s it going?”  He’d say on one of his passes through the store.  “I don’t know,” I said despondently one day.  “I think I could take off all my clothes and I still couldn’t get their attention.”

“Well.  Don’t do that,” he admonished.

No matter where you are in this life, if you just sit still, you’ll see a lot.  If you sit in a department store, you’ll see how mobile all of the merchandise is – as I’ve said.  If you sit at the head of an escalator, you’ll get an idea of how dangerous they can be.  They would eat shoes, rubbers.  Childrens’ small fingers and mittens could get caught in the moving handrail, where it curved at the top of escalator to return.  There was an emergency button to stop the escalator which someone rushed to press.  An older wizened Jewish woman ran the lamp department with a younger middle-aged daughter who looked to me like a gypsy.   I think I was commissioned to do her portrait.  But I don’t think they must have particularly liked it, as I don’t remember them saying anything.  I couldn’t decide if the mother were trying to line me up with her or not.  On the whole, I think not.  She was too canny to want to introduce her daughter to a portrait artist.  Plus, she seemed a little old for me.

But it wasn’t like I sat still and waited for things to happen.  I changed my display samples.  I saw that sensitive pencil drawings just weren’t going to make it.  I saw that what sold were things with ‘punch’.  So I upgraded to charcoal.  And line-shading was risky, as much as I loved it.  It was hard to do correctly.  Moreover, a public portrait artist has quite a bit of surface to cover in 20 minutes.  The bigger the better, for pricing.  And there is nothing like smudged charcoal to cover that ground.  So, much as I detested it, I began smudging my charcoal – then discovered that the smudge sticks of rolled paper work like fattened pencils.  Sometimes a compromise bends your way.  And I added a conte crayon line.  I worshipped the drawings of Michelangelo and Da Vinci, and conte seemed as close as I would get to pencil with a ‘punch’. 

Still, things moved slowly.  As I’ve aged I’ve realized that some people have charisma and attract a crowd.  Some don’t.  I’m in the latter group.  It was said of the famous modern mathematician (Godel) that he was “anti-charismatic”.  He once voiced the answer – in the midst of a mathematical society meeting – to a conundrum which had eluded mathematicians for 2,000 years.  He was ignored.  I’m not maintaining that my anti-charisma is on that level.  But I would say that when I speak, around two sentences in, people lose interest.  By three sentences I pretty much have to step around to block their exit.  

Anyway.  I notice that customers are attracted by other customers.  So I would always try to either be busy drawing from a photo, or, I would see a face I liked and cajole them into sitting for me.  Unfortunately, it seemed to be that rule that whoever had an interesting face, judged themselves to be ugly and a portrait was the last thing they wanted to sit for.  And those who judged themselves good-looking were almost invariably uninteresting – you could almost hear the pencil yawn and the eraser sigh. 

I thought that perhaps my prices were too high.  So, I had discount prizes.  I would draw a face, smudge it over  –  and then offer, at half-price!, a portrait to whoever could name the famous person that it was.  They usually won!  Hooray!  “You are very clever!”  (Have a seat!) 

(“No.  It’s not Mr. Ed.”)  

Then, considering some might have a limited budget, I tried selling  just ‘a nose’ for 75 cents, or an ear for 50.  I put them in the the cutest little frames, (I thought).

(To Be Continued… )

Editor’s Note:  This story should complete by Christmas Eve, Elves willing.

Drawing by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

December 5, 2010
Editor’s Note:  Our Artist Hero stuggles to pay the bills.

Room Entry

Latest Adventure

“I put an ad on Craigslist advertising my ‘near-room’ for rent. Near-room is called that, because it’s not a real room, but a section of my living room I separated by bookshelves and hung a curtain for the entrance. The bookshelves don’t go all the way to the ceiling, leaving about a foot. (Photo attached)
A guy from NY replied. He turned out to be a right hand to the producer of the Christmas Story that’s being put up at 5th Avenue Theater. (When they say ‘right hand’ I imagine it covers everything, I mean EVERYTHING one does with one’s hand, right?)
We talked on the phone, the NY producer sent me a good company check, right on.
Then the day comes of the tenant’s arrival.
W. doesn’t call me from the airport like we agreed and finally calls me from downtown, completely and utterly drunk. I had to repeat like ten times how to find 3rd Ave. from 3rd Avenue. Finally he did and got on the bus. A bus driver called me a bit later asking where the hell to dump that drunk. I figured I might as well walk over to the bus stop and meet him. He was standing there, swaying from side to side, calling me on the cell phone. I told him to turn around, which he finally did and announced right away, “I am real. And I love you. Where is the party?” I ended up taking him to this gangster rap club down the street – that’s all that was open in the CD after midnight. He proceeded to make friends with very shady black dudes, who kept hitting on him for drinks and trying to sell him drugs and women. They tried hitting on me, but I told them to buzz off. I was bored and worried. Finally I announced to W. that we are leaving. He stumbled out and followed me to the gas station where we bought more beer, cigarettes and wine.
W. appears to be very dedicated: he leaves here around 9am and doesn’t get back until like midnight. He talks of how much work it is to do inventory of merchandise and to enter the credit card slips. I can’t possibly believe that it could take 4 hours before each show, and with a staff member assigned to help him. Yet whenever I ask if there is any part-time temp work for me, he gives me this excuse that the 5th Ave Theater expects him to hire their people only.
They had a run-through and a dress rehearsal last week, I asked to be able to come to either, but he skirted the issue like a slimy eel, just out of the dead horse’s mouth. Obviously, if I were a hot 20-y.o. he’d have gotten me in no problem, but a frumpy overweight middle aged woman isn’t someone you want talking to you in public. Oh well, screw it, I probably wouldn’t like the show anyway – it’s just a copy of that old movie, which is rather pathetic, but then general public is pathetic…”  – Rita

Photo by Rita Andreeva

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

October 21, 2010
Editor’s Note:  Rita continues to vent.  I can’t stop it.

Geek Emerging

 “Looking for work I came across an ad for an IT commercial. The ad said: “5 good looking, height-weight proportionate people: 2 men and 3 women between 25 and 35 y.o. to sit in front of laptops and look intelligent. Pay $100/hr.” I am so sick of commercials making a ridiculous standardized fairy tale out life! So I sent them a reply:   “Just thought I’d point out that most IT professionals are not at all attractive or height-weight proportionate, and the age range is spread from 18 to about 60 pretty evenly, and out of 5 people only one would be a woman, it would never be 3 women 2 men ratio. Get five geeky fat slobs, feet clad in torn sneakers up on the tables, unwashed baggy jeans showing the butt cracks, throw pop cans around and empty Frito bags, pizza boxes, a week-old sandwich and leftover cake from a birthday party, get some flies buzzing around, a dog that keeps scratching and licking itself with relish, some heavy metal glaring in the background – now that would be a correct representation of IT professionals”         –  Rita

Photo (taken completely out of context) by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

September 2, 2010

Only by true humility you can reach the Cinderella upgrade.”

Rita Now Works for Rich People

“So, I am finally working on a real website for a real business. I can’t stop being amazed that only after a couple of quarters of Web Development at Seattle Central I got me a real live client! My classmates would probably strangle me based on a very primeval competition instinct. But then, they were always kidding me, calling me names, like,  “the over-achiever” and stuff. So I took 45 credits in two quarters, so I got all A’s, so? The point is?
Yeah, this new job is a lot of fun. I feel like I’m playing a part in a movie, with a genuine Mexican maid cleaning the house most of the day I was there today. I think I made friends with her, I said, “Como estas?” She said, “Bien.”
The design work is coming along great; I was able to type, listen, think, edit the website and upload the changes right on the spot, plus, at the beginning of the day my half of the desk was a complete mess, and, somehow, by the end of my shift, my half was empty, sparkling and gleaming with organization. I didn’t even notice how I must have very subconsciously moved things around in between so that it looked the way it did by the time I left. Can’t take credit for it; must have been an inborn female ability to multitask – my hands were moving on their own to bring order to the disorder.

I think my client was pleased. Maybe I have a talent, maybe I was just wasting my time with losers before, and my true destiny will be revealed by getting to know rich people?

Now, smart rich people are pretty cool and aren’t stuck up at all. Of course, I did have a bit of a hard time getting my calls returned and emails answered for the first couple of weeks, but, that’s understandable: smart rich people are very busy and are constantly bothered by poor people to give them work or buy something. They have to be on their guard. But once you’re in, when you have shown your indifference to monetary pursuits and your quick wit and education, they become very easy-going, even friendly, you might say, and appreciative, and offer to pay you for the work you’ve done so far, which offer, of course, you must brush off as not at all important, because, you see, I got burned on that in my previous job wanting a raise too upfront for good taste, so I got fired, so this time I’m all understanding, and I brush off the subject of money as a lady of good breeding should. Only by true humility you can reach the Cinderella upgrade. Your boss wants to pay you, you politely decline, for now, wave it off as a bother, that is beneath you and thee, because, surely, every intelligent human being on this planet knows that “money can’t buy happiness”, and I can spring on a very large bottle of Burgundy after the day is over for $10 at QFC without seriously impairing my wallet, but being plenty happy.”         –  Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson 

P. S.  “Ok, I’m not going to make fun of you. But here’s an actual email I got from my client:
“And by the way, make sure you count your time when you work on this.” And my actual response was, “Really? I thought that was just fun.”
People just don’t get it. They think being an artist/designer/filmmaker is pretty much like wearing Prada instead of a Walmart brand. An advice for a beginner: people think that you love what you do so much, that money grows on trees just for you. Do not disappoint them.”

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

August 17, 2010

Rita Finds Work!

Editor’s Note:  You can stop sending money$$$$.   Rita’s found work!

“I just got my first real job building a website for a real company! I am so excited, I got a 5 gal box of wine so I can just sit still in front of a computer. I’ll probably end up working until I pass out. No matter that it’s just a one-person business; it’s my first real life client! This is soooo cool! Lucky for me it is going to be one of those dream jobs: hardly any programming, mostly just artistic layout and logo and art design, and a little Flash animation. I feel pretty damn lucky! That’s with no experience, mind you! My classmates would be so jealous, they’d want to crucify me; I didn’t even have money to finish the program, had to temporarily drop out. Of course, I charge very little per hour, pure pittance, but I put in lots of hours. Hopefully my client will be happy and recommend me to someone. So far, I’ve been only working one day, but I absolutely love it – it truly is the funnest job ever! Finally I am doing a job that’s using my skills and not just standing at the counter as a lame and disgruntled customer service clerk! I’ll drink to that! Hell, all of you who are reading this – celebrate with me, get stinking drunk! This is The life!”

                                                                  – Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson

Work, work, work… with Rita Andreeva

August 12, 2010

Rita Ponders Her Next Career Move

“My latest job interview:

P’s phone number contained three sixes, not even counting the six in the 206 area code, and our meeting took place at El Diablo coffee shop. Do you think that could have been a bad omen?
The interview actually seemed to go very well, with P. saying “yes” not in so many words. He said he was going to email me some paperwork. I got no emails for about 3 days, and I pretty much gave up, but then I got an email from him, saying, “sorry, I was real busy, I’ll call you tomorrow.” He never did call. Then I emailed him, then he sent me an application and said please fill it out, sign it and get it back to me. I did. Then nothing again for two days, then an email: “I’ll call you at 10 tomorrow.” Tomorrow, at about 8pm I emailed him back: “Did you mean 10pm?” He did email me back, “Sorry I got real busy, I’ll get back to you.” Then next day not a word again.
Looks like, at best, I’m dealing with a guy who is incapable of saying “no” to anyone and would rather stall indefinitely. And at worst, he could be using the employment ruse to collect information on people to steal their identities.
If anyone has any suggestions as to what I should do, you’re welcome to offer them.”

                                                                                               – Rita

Photo by Carl Nelson


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