Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Off to Rockport

Now I had a plan, going to Rockport, and a little money with which to do it. The Pinto wagon was in the vacant lot next door with an empty gas tank. I scrounged around my friends apartment and found a red can marked gasoline. I went down to the Pinto opened the tank and poured in the gas. When I started her up, she would run, but not get enough compression to move. My friend, whose can it was, showed up at about this time and explained to me that it wasn't gas in the can, but kerosene for a space heater he had once owned. I sat in that Pinto smaoking unfiltered cigarettes and muttering, while I gunned the engine until it burned all the kerosene. Then I walked up to the gas station and got the can filled with gasoline. I put that in the Pinto, then drove back to the gas station and filled the tank.

I thanked my musician friend for allowing me to stay in his apartment and I split the lottery winnings with him, so he could pay his rent.Then I jumped in the Pinto wagon and drove the 40 miles north to Rockport, which I had never seen before. It was late fall now and the tourist season was over, as I drove down into the little town of Rockport there was an inn with a sign out that said winter rentals. I went into this inn, the Lantana house, and the inn keeper who had just purchased it was willing to rent me a room by the week. I remember her asking a fee that was equal to all that I had. I told her I would give her ten dollars less, that I needed the rest for food. There was a convenience store across the street and I bought a can of ravioli, a loaf of bread and a pack of Pall Mall straights, but no lottery ticket. I didn't want to push my luck on that one.

My new landlord mentioned in passing that the Rockport Art Association, around the corner, was looking for a part time janitor. The next morning I went there, and up the almost 200 year old steps to the directors office. The week before, the new president John Manship, son of the renowned sculptor Paul Manship had fired the entire staff.

The director was just moving into her new office. I asked for the job, but I must have looked pretty rough, I had been on the road for a month and only had the clothes on my back. She said something like, we will call you if..... I went back downstairs and there was Reynolds Beale, the grandson of the American impressionist Reynolds Beale, and he was working there already. I noticed that there was something on the front walk flagstones. I think it must have been snow, but it might have been dry leaves, its been a long time. Ren Beale handed me a broom with a conspiratorial grin and I went to work, unhired. About an hour later the new director realized that I was working there, and that she might as well add me to the payroll.

The little money I had was spent and the food I had bought at the convenience store was gone. For the rest of that week I had nothing to eat. I think I went about five days without food. I knew no one there to ask for help and besides it was actually pretty easy, after a day or two the hunger went away.I was afraid I would hurt myself, but I think we are made to be able to take a lot of abuse, our hunter gatherer ancestors must have done this routinely. At the end of that week I approached the director and asked if she would advance me the money I had earned for the first weeks work, and I went to the grocery store.

That week I had a chance meeting with a fellow who, strangely, had also just arrived in town from Minnesota. Her had an old girlfriend who had a tiny shop in town selling little animals and trinkets that they made out of glass, over a welders torch. They called it lampworking, but most people thought of them as glass blowers. He saw my painting, I had only one with me at that point, although I did have my paint box, an aluminum stan-rite easel and a few colors, and he invited me to join the business, He said I could pay my share of the rent when summer came and we started to make some money. I now had a part time job and a share in a little shop in Rockport. It was along hard winter,but I was starting to get somewhere now. This was the late fall of 1983, I was to have along history with Rockport that began then.


Gregory Becker said...

One thing I respect in this world are people who make a decision. That was a decisive move.
Cheers to you. said...

Do you think it was easier then to re-invent your life then without having to be saddled with a cell phone, a car and a computer? Can anyone imagine trying to get work, now, without electronics? Great old human to human, stranger to stranger kindness wins the day.

I don't want to sing Kum-ba-ya but Stapleton's experiences recall a more human and humble time. (Two days after the Blizzard of "78, my friend and I walked from Revere along the coast to Maddy's in Marblehead, (near Stape's ole Rockport territory). We were welcomed, sheltered and fed by strangers for three days in exchange for our tales and sparkling conversations.)

Do a kindness today. I think I'll buy some lottery tickets and hand them to the homeless guys I say hi to on my way to the studio.

Jan Blencowe said...

Sheesh! My life has been exterememly boring compared to this!

Philip Koch said...

I'm developing a serious Stapleton Kearns habit- went on an overnight trip to see museums and get away from it all. But I did have to check into this blog from the road. Maybe there's professional help available for this dependency.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Decision making is easy, good decision making is hard. I have made some real dumb moves and mistakes have been made.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hadn't thought much about that. Is it so different from 1983? Perhaps. I don't really live in the usual world anyway. I don't have a television and I paint my pictures and do this blog, but I don't have a job, so I am kind of out of the loop.
I think that people are kinder now than then, I am not sure why, but Im think maybe the current financial crises as made us all a little more humble. It has made me think twice when I feel too proud.

Stapleton Kearns said...

The there are good stories yet to come, and my life changes radically after this, and for the better!The beatings lessen and a few wins happen in the next chapters.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I need a trip to the Met! It would be nice to see some real good art. I want to stand in front of Rosa Bonheurs Horse fair or that Messionier of Napoleon reviewing his troops. I need to see a good Diaz and maybe a couple of attic vases.
...................Stape said...

Hi Stapleton,
I don't have a television, haven't since 1987. My ex got the TV set and I got a life. I think you may see a kinder gentler way of life in NH. I still don't have a TV and I don't have a cell phone. From what I have caught on TV there it's a mean, snarky and awful level of discourse in the TV world that trickles into real life. People's pain as entertainment (Reality TV?). I was shocked.

Here in Boston (I paint full time too) people are very remote and can't engaged in a real conversation without texting, answering or checking their cell phone. People think you are mad if you reach out to help a stranger. Yes, it is worse out there. You are in a better place in your life now. And so am I, but I feel like it's fragile and could change on a dime.I wouldn't want to be dependent on the kindness of strangers in 2009.