are you lonesome tonight?

Remember that old Elvis song?

It could always touch a chord, and the plaintive melody was memorable. It sort of summed up a time in the early 1960s, when that was question enough. And Elvis was ready to come sit on the porch and just hold your hand. Maybe put an arm around your shoulder, to make you feel like you had a friend.

Back in the simpler Sixties, the word “friend” was someone you actually knew. You had met that person, in person. Not a picture online.

A lot of people got lonely during 2020. Most of us older people had already found ways of being alone, at various times over the decades, and with varying degrees of success. The ability to “be alone” is actually an indicator of maturity itself, so you expect older people to have that one down. Even chatting with “friends” on the internet, brings some level of social interaction, if you need that. And “facetime” and Duo allowed us to “visit” with our grandchildren in far off places.

But apparently not everyone, even “mature” people, knew how to spend time being alone, so 2020 was the year to learn to pick up a good book, write a letter, or just sit and watch the birds. In other words, grow up, find that inner adult. Learn to meditate.

And yet, we found out recently that someone we thought we knew rather well had become involved in a scam, most likely out of “loneliness.” Even though this particular person was getting out and about and was constantly surrounded by family, she was still looking for love.

You notice I didn’t say she was a “victim of a scam.” Being a victim implies being hit from behind with a 2 x 4. This scam involved agreeing to let someone hit you in the face with a 2 x 4, over and over again.

Let me make this simpler for those in the back of the room: if a hurricane blows your house away, you LOST your HOME. If the bank took your house because you couldn’t pay the mortgage, you lost your home. If a tornado blew it down, you lost your home.

If you SOLD it legitimately, and took ALL the PROFIT and GAVE it to a TOTAL STRANGER, you didn’t LOSE your home. You GAVE IT AWAY.

You didn’t LOSE anything. You gave it away to someone you never met. Not a “friend,” like the girlfriend from high school going through a bad patch. A total and complete stranger who you have never met.

You know how those poor people in Nigeria were going to be able to inherit millions ONLY if they could use YOUR bank account?

That never sounded right to you, did it? So you never followed up on it. It was patently ridiculous. You got nothing out of it and it was too sketchy to be real.

Years and years ago, when I had a very public face in the art world, I remember getting one of the early art scams. Artists are supposedly always “starving” and rather desperate, so it probably seemed like a good group to approach, and honestly, a couple people I knew almost did it, for that reason. The operative word is almost.

Here’s how that one was presented. You got an email saying that the person had “seen your work online” and wanted to buy a piece for his wife for a surprise gift. There was never any mention of a particular piece, which is the first red flag. Then, there was a price range, usually starting in the middle of your own website price range and going to the top end. Again, no particular piece is referenced, just one of the big ones.

Then, they are “moving,” so you need to use “their” shipper, and because they are “moving” you also need to use “Western Union,” instead of the system you’ve trusted for years, like PayPal or Square, and UPS or FEDEX.

So, right then and there, you KNOW you are not dealing with ANYTHING LEGIT. Nothing about it is legit. The red flags are everywhere, and you delete and move on.

The first time this happened, my husband had some time on his hands, so he said, “let’s play ’em, and see how far they go.” We strung them along for awhile. It was interesting to see how far they would go, and we managed to give my bank a whole raft of credit card numbers that had been compromised but none of which had been reported as stolen or “hacked.”

I pretended to be “delighted to help” and the scammer gave us an address in Australia that was actually in a building that housed some legitimate retail, just none of the businesses “he” listed, but real enough to trust if you were a trusting person. Which, neither my husband nor I am.

Then, the shipping. It had to be with their company, and they owed them money, so they would send ME some money to add to what I was going to pay the shipping company and that way, I am “trusted” with the scammer’s money, so……

This is called “pigeon drops” we now know, and it is a common element of a lot of online scams, apparently.

Long story short, we never intended to send anyone anything and we didn’t. The scammers, on the other hand, kept trying to “buy” still-unnamed paintings, still just in a “price range” and kept giving me new and different credit card numbers to do it.

Just so you know, this never, ever happens in real life. If someone sees something on my website, even if it is a collector I have never met, they interact with me about a specific painting.

They like a piece and will call it by name and ask questions about its size, the colors, if it’s available as a print, etc. etc. Someone supposedly getting a “surprise gift for his wife” who has never chosen a specific piece is not real. Real people don’t do that. In fact, I’ve had real people tell me they aren’t even very fond of “Christmas in Charleston,” themselves, but their wife is in love with the color and they need the specific measurements because it needs to fit over the sideboard in the dining room….that kind of thing.

SO RED FLAGS EVERYWHERE.

After awhile, it wasn’t even fun for my bored husband, who had figured out that the IP address was “somewhere in Africa” and routed through NJ, (for someone who supposedly was in Australia); the bank thought we were rockstars for giving them all this info, and we had lost interest in trying to string this person along. We passed along the info to other artists, and, years later, had some good laughs when the Nigerian princes started showing up.

Since everyone now knows about the Nigerian soon-to-be-millionaires-who-need-to-share-it-to-get-it —– we were a little surprised this winter when someone we had thought of as being mostly sensible, asked my husband about a man she’d met online. The guy was supposedly military, supposedly a “flag grade officer,” and needed “help getting home from overseas.” Since my husband is former military, and she knew that, she asked what he thought of the legitimacy of the request.

He was polite, and asked a few questions, and then looked at her and said, “that person is lying.” He told her no American military officer would ever “need help getting home,” and that if he did, he was either disgraced, or using stolen valor altogether. Certainly no “flag grade officer” would be asking for help from strangers on fakebook. They had a fairly long talk about it. We both told her it was a scam and that she should “run away! run away!” like in Monte Python. She agreed. She said she’d, “thought so, but wanted to get another opinion.”

We didn’t think about it again.

Fast forward to this week, 6 months later — we learn that, not only did this person not follow that advice, but she doubled down. Not only did she not “run away, run away!” as everyone suggested she do –she actually lost everything she owned! She had come into some money in the interim, that was going to really aid in her retirement — and sent it to “the general.”

We also learned that what she got involved with is a scam called “catfishing,” and that Dr. Phil did a series of programs on it, back around the time we were rooting around the intricacies of the “art buy scam,” way back in 2012 or 13. The shocking thing –then and now — is how many women are reeled in by it — in the face of any common sense, even denying reality when it is presented to them. Like crack addicts and communists.

Catfishing cartoon by @nobleworks.com thank you for this great illustration!

One old gal on Dr. Phil was in love with a very nice looking man — for over 4 years and never met him, but sent him over $300K and 3 luxury cars. She, by that time, was indigent herself, and unable to pay her mortgage.

Dr. Phil tracked down the man in the picture, and he made a video for her. The man was exactly the one in the FB photo, and he told her he was very sorry she’d fallen in love with “him” but it wasn’t him. Just his picture. He also knew what it was like to suffer loss and be lonely — because his husband had recently died.

She nodded all the way through it. And when they all talked about it in the studio, the old gal was convinced — that Dr. Phil and her daughter were somehow wrong.

She was still in love with “Richard Randall.”

(Then they played her an audio of a similar Nigerian scam artist, using the same script — the same lines and sweet talk in the same accent as the guy she was talking with on the phone– and she said, “maybe that sounds like him” but she still believed her guy.) Another woman got involved with 4 of them, one after the other, and 2 of them told her the other one was a scammer, but she was still sure that the 4th guy was the real deal. You just shake your head at the stupidity of it. You do and I do, but these women can’t even see it.

That’s the catfishing scam. The guys on the phone are like psychics – they ask leading questions and develop profiles and work them. They reel in lonely older women who are just computer savvy enough to be interacting on “social media,” but not savvy enough to protect themselves, and too needy to see a scam.

Still, at some point…– at some point you screech to a halt a say, “I just sent money to a stranger, and he’s asking for more.”

Really only “charities” get to do that, and I don’t even trust many of them any more. Do you?

But these women — and they are mostly women — don’t ask those questions. And if they do….

…if they ask questions, the scammers have something called “pigeon drops” — where they send money TO the lonely women, to forward on to them, the scammers. Because for some reason some other person can’t send them money directly, so they need to trust you to help them in this way. Now the woman-being-scammed is the “trusted” go-between, so she “trusts” the scammer again, and the hemorrhaging continues.

You cannot make this stuff up…well, clearly you can….because the ladies on Dr. Phil and also the one we thought we’d “advised” — cannot see it. And continue.

A decade ago, when the script got the name “catfishing,” they estimated $82 million was lost. Remember, this is women sending money to men they have never met. Ever. And lots of it.

2020 was a banner year for this — a perfect year for someone who can never quite get around to coming to see you, or get back from their farm in Ghana, to wherever you are — but if you keep sending money he will continue to love you more than anyone else around you loves you. He loves you more than your own children love you. They are just trying to get your money. He love YOU, the real you……so just send another $30,000……

In 2020, lonely people in America contributed $302 MILLION to this scam alone. Talk about a transfer of wealth.

Today, apparently, they use Bitcoin. No disrespect to digital currency, but it is unregulated. Whether that is good or bad, it makes it a lot easier for scammers.

Our friend didn’t tell us any of this. Her family has uncovered it and is reeling at the the levels of it. None of us would have expected this. She’s always been a little man-crazy, but she’s in her 60s! And when everyone you talk to about this gives you the SAME ADVICE — don’t you at least consider that?

Nope. You decide they are all against you, and you continue to confide in your imaginary lover.

I have suggested early dementia, because before we realized how far down the dementia road my own mother was, she had “invested” in a four figure vacuum cleaner! But the guy had actually come to her house and conned her. He probably look like my dad or something. She had a perfectly good, pretty new vacuum cleaner, and my sister, being nearby, and on top of things, got it sorted out. But that isn’t always possible.

It seems, too, that early dementia is one of the side effects of our world after 18 months of being literally beside ourselves 24/7.

But still.

It’s a cautionary tale.

So, keep an ear to the ground with your Aunt Lillian, and if Nona suddenly has a boyfriend at 82, you probably want to meet him. If your older neighbor stops wearing all her jewelry, and you know her well enough, make sure she hasn’t cashed it in to feed into the bitcoin machine.

We live in a crazy, tilting world and no one’s life is what they expected, but it’s going to be difficult enough to be old and in the way, without throwing thousands at strangers, and hoping to get love in return.

If you’re lonely tonight read a book. The men are better in fiction than real life anyway. Just saying. And they never ask for money.

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pray today (and every day)….

…..for our country

There is a lot going on right now. Many people are fearful.

There is actually a lot to fear. But we are not going to talk about that here, because we may all be on different pages with what and how much we fear.

And if you have faith — there is NOTHING to fear! But, even some people of faith are fearful in this world tilting on its axis and appearing to be entirely in upheaval.

So, I am going to ask you to PRAY. Even if you usually don’t pray, and maybe don’t even believe in a god of any kind, large or small “G” — Take a moment TODAY and pray for the FUTURE of OUR COUNTRY.

It is the only country like it in the world, and if we lose it, we lose everything. There is NOWHERE ELSE to run to.

Thank you.

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once upon a time….

destination II (from the “daydreams and destinations” series, 2014-2017) (C) Carol Joy Shannon

in a beautiful world, far, far away….

….words like that could take us all out of our own little worlds and carry us off to imaginary ones. The magic of imagination plus the suggestions of mysterious stories illustrated with colorful, fanciful figures…

…and you were no longer a small, powerless child.

You were whatever you became in that fantasy. Or in the fantasies you dreamed up yourself because of that one.

My favorite mentor, C.S. Lewis, thought that fairy tales should continue in our adult lives. He said something along the lines that being an adult meant that he could enjoy fairy tales again. I guess when you are growing up and proving yourself, fairy tales are considered beneath you; they might make you look inconsequential. *

You don’t have to go only to the scifi fantasies, either, just because you’re an adult. Try reading an old pirate story you liked. Imagination is very important. Takes us out of too much “what if but allows our minds to wander into what “might be,” “what could happen.”

And, while some “what if that really did happens?” may seem somewhat fearful in our present tilted world, they can be useful places to go.

Adulting is a complex thing which, if handled well, yields many rewards — not the least of which is old age!

If you’re young, you may not think that “old age” is anything to even look forward to, much less plan for. We’re living in a scifi movie, after all. You won’t live that long.

That’s what I thought, too. In 1968, when I graduated from high school. The world was nuts. And none of us would live past 30. Not nearly as nuts, nor as small nor as volatile as it is now, but still pretty shaky.

And yet, here I am.

And now we all seem to be living in those books I read during the 1960s ….Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, and the philosophy guys, like Tolkien and CS and Huxley.

But we didn’t think we’d live to see even parts of them.

Which is why imagination and fantasy are good things. What if you do?!

You didn’t think you’d ever really have to deal with bigbrother and yet, “1984” and “Animal Farm” were on everyone’s mind last year. “Brave New World” is one that I read again this spring. It’s barely scifi at all any more. It’s chillingly prescient. And dark. Another discussion, another day.

I never stopped reading fairy tales. My son’s dad and I read The Chronicles of Narnia to each other in the days before recorded books. We were driving blue highways across America, in an old Dodge pickup with a camper on top, getting to know each other before we settled down and got married. It was the best thing we could have done. The discussions we got into about the nature of man, and God, because of that series of children’s books, kickstarted a grounded, solid partnership. We knew we could trust each other with our futures.

(We couldn’t trust the future, but that’s another story. And that wasn’t our choice or any failure on our parts to maintain that partnership. God’s always in charge.)

Last year, during the forced solitudes — I went to Venice every night, and solved mysteries with Commissario Guido Brunetti. I love Venice and always loved its atmosphere, so I went back and read most of those 28 books a second time, to visit with his wife Paola, in their kitchen, where they hashed things out cooking interesting food, drinking good wine (and get insights from their two teenagers. The wife and the daughter are uberliberal. The dad and son more pragmatic. The son, in fact, becomes more pragmatic after being a young idealist.) And enjoy some of the other characters, like Claudia Griffoni, and Elettra Zorzi. And of course, Lorenzo Vianello. Even though they are excellent police procedurals, the character of Venice itself offers up fog and mystery and almost an element of time travel.

This year, 2021, I have read The Chronicles of Narnia twice, but in a different way: each time I read a version of the seven books bound into one huge one, and organized in the sequence Lewis preferred them to be read — not the way the were released to the public starting in 1950. So, they start with The Magician’s Nephew, and then The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. It makes so much more sense (even though the publisher was probably correct to publish “Lion…” first, because it really is a magical little book all by itself.)

I wasn’t planning to read them twice. I read the print only one first. It was fatter but lighter and easier to read in bed. But when I finished, I wondered if reading the illustrated version would affect it, how I pictured it. It made for great dreams, just in the stories alone. Would those little pen and ink and watercolor fauns and badgers help me see other aspects, maybe?

Why not?

And they did.

I never had any real sense of a “map” of Narnia, for example. And the big illustrated book had one right on the cover. I looked at it many times. It made more sense of several of the stories to be able to consult it. And, The Horse and His Boy had never really grabbed me, until I saw it in the light of the middle eastern illustrations (which so alarm the pc crowd.) I’m not sure I really appreciated Reepicheep, my sister’s favorite, until I saw the brave little mouse illustrated, and in color.

I wouldn’t recommend either Narnia choice as better, unless you are a parent reading it to a younger child, like a five or six year old. Then I would recommend the illustrated version. Pauline Bayrnes did a very nice job, in spite of her lions, and though the characters always seem tiny, even in the big versions I got for our grandchildren, they have a nice way of conveying the scenes.

And maps.

What would Middle Earth have been for us without those charming pen and ink maps? Mordor smoking. Ents. I still look at them every time I read those books, and often during the read.

All of us are pushed into our imaginations by illustrations, whether we realize it or not. Even as an artist myself, I adore the illustrations of others. I still aspire to Howard Pyle’s pirates and Maxfield Parrish’s light and shadow.

It is why media is such a powerful tool.

Much of what visuals do for us is subliminal. Which means that all we need is the suggestion of something to get the thought.

So, those tiny illustrations in Narnia books. Or, the fleeting glimpses of things in ads. But let’s save subliminals for another, darker day.

Let’s stick with how even as an old, salty person, your life can be enriched with fantasy and escape. Ferris Bueller knew it. The uncles in “Second Hand Lions” knew it. Tolkein and Lewis knew it. Make a little daydreaming part of your day. Read something lighthearted and magic before you go to sleep.

Your soul will thank you.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

*Ole CS was always conscious of his standing among his peers, because I’m not sure he really thought they were his peers. He never got to be an actual Oxford “don,” but a Cambridge one, even though he taught at Oxford most of his adult life. On the plus side, he was widely known, more so than any of those he sought to equal academically. By the end of his life, he was a literary and philosophy superstar, if there was such a thing. Tolkien, one of his best friends, didn’t achieve immediate success with Lord of the Rings, and wasn’t a superstar until the late 60s. Lewis was more well known earlier on, for his radio talks during WWII, and “Screwtape,” which was serialized.

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other people’s art

I’m having an interesting exchange with someone this week about a painting in his collection that he thought might be mine. It was a good guess.

The signature is “Carol Joy” and the colors are colors I adore. It’s a really nice impressionist piece, and I would be proud to claim it! But it’s from 1974.

I wasn’t painting in 1974. I wasn’t even thinking of painting. I was living in Monte Carlo and singing songs in a private club on L’Avenue de Princesse Grace.

the “other” Carol Joy

I started painting 3 decades later, first as a form of therapy to stop going to Happy Hour, and then because people kept buying them, and it was exciting to create things that total strangers liked and hung in their homes. It still is!

It was exciting and humbling.

Because it’s so unexpected! I had a lot a success in my two decades of painting professionally. My work hung in the North Carolina Museum of Art. I had solo shows in dozens of venues, and was represented by a number of respected galleries in a half dozen states. I have paintings in the permanent public collections of cities, banks and corporations all over the country. In a few other countries, too. And in thousands of private homes. I even won awards.

You don’t really grasp the success of that as you’re painting and exhibiting full time. You’re too busy! There are people who certainly worked just as hard as I did, without that level of reward, and that is part of why it is humbling to be collected on that scale. I assure you, it didn’t feel like any kind of “scale” when I was just trying to buy groceries, either. But the little pieces that fix the van, along with the bigger ones that pay the dentist, all add up.

The amount of painting you can do 6 or 8 hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week is amazing! And that’s how I painted. But I was still shocked at how many paintings it added up to.

When I retired in 2019, I spent the following year (you know 2020 — the year we ALL organized our archives and painted the attic!!) putting together my portfolios, in the understanding that no one really cares about this stuff except me, and when I am gone, it’s only real value would be to my son and grandson, perhaps, and to authenticate my work, if that became something of interest to someone down the road.

Like this person who has a nice piece by a different “Carol Joy,” for example.

Which brings us back to the title of this musing. I have always collected other people’s art, long before I created my own. I usually bought inexpensive paper prints. But when I started painting myself, I started collecting small originals from artists I knew and enjoyed, or artists I crossed paths with at exhibitions and was just taken away by their work….

some of my little collections, the one with the crosses is in the kitchen and the stormy ones on the lower right are in the hall to the laundry; my pieces are mixed into a few of the groups – why not?!

I bought art for the same reason we all do — beautiful things I wanted to be able to continue to look at in my home. So, I have little clusters of little pieces, everywhere. They make me smile and continue to inspire me. (Because I do still “paint” — just not 6 hours a day, 6 days a week!)

Over the years, especially when I had a public studio and gallery of my own, people would come to me with other people’s art and ask if 1) I wanted to buy it [the usual question!], 2) if I knew anything about the artist, and of course 3) if it was “valuable.”

The answer to the last question, even if it is a Van Gogh, is “if it is valuable to YOU.” Do you like it? Because that’s the first best reason to acquire art. Because you absolutely love it and want to be able to look at it again and again. Investment art is more for the brag value and the hope your bet pays off.

There was a fourth question, only from other artists or their relatives — would we show it?

The answer to the fourth one was rarely, almost never, and especially unlikely on a cold call. That only happened once, that I was so taken with some work, and I was wrong — I was the only one who really liked it!

But, because of the frequency of the first three queries, I found some useful online links to give people, and because of the internet, researching other people’s art became easier, and certainly more fun. Every once in awhile, I’d take on a project for a relative, or an older friend who wasn’t internet savvy, and it often yielded fascinating stories. But equally often, older artists had little or no online presence at all.

The person who queried me about the lovely impressionist piece may have one of those artists who don’t show up in internet searches. We’ll see. The signature is a beautiful old-fashioned cursive, and there is both a prefix and a notation at the end, which I think denotes a professional title, or guild. Those things used to matter.

Professional societies of skilled craftspeople …. probably not very much any more. The particular skills of watercolorists are now a niche, for example. When I did juried festivals, they were recognized by jurists, but increasingly less so by the buying public. (But if anyone out there knows what N.R. stands for, please share, because I think that’s what it is, a professional status of some kind.)

Art today is created online!

It is instant and disposable.

You can invest digital currency in some unique forms of it, but NFTs (see link) are probably a ways away in real value. Digital artists use software and stock images and photos pulled from the headlines. The art that is trending among young collectors these days is like ad art from the 50s and 60s. I doubt there are “guilds” of digital artists, but “authenticating” contemporary digital art is going to be an interesting exercise down the road!

In the meantime, I’m going to go look up a lovely impressionist named “Carol Joy” who was painting in 1974…..

Thank you, Dustin!

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Dads…more than just our DNA

My sister and I were blessed with a great dad.

He didn’t teach us to hunt and fish — those are our husbands now.

He couldn’t strip an engine or build a boat — that was my son’s father.

But he always had an awesome vegetable garden and sang tenor in the church choir, and he taught us the values we needed in life, along with the great qualities that set a dad apart from simple fatherhood.

I can remember his disapproving look, but it was never a look that meant you were no longer part of the family. Nor was it a look that indicated you couldn’t change things. He and my mom let us know from the very beginning, that as long as they were alive, they would take care of us any way they could. It didn’t matter what we ever did, they would forgive us and love us.

They met at Bible camp, they went to church and they knew their obligation as parents. But they didn’t see it as an just an obligation, either. They really loved us unconditionally.

My dad showed me that you could be a bit of a dandy, (to use an old-fashioned word), you could love flowers and animals and take care of the elderly — and still be a man who was respected by all, including other men. My dad liked to dress in the latest style, and remembered his great aunt’s birthdays; for years he arranged all the altar flowers, and flowers for friends’ weddings. But the men at our church looked up to him. They might kid him about the flowers, but they knew he had other strengths. He led through the example of his life and his faith. (Like C.S. Lewis, my dad had to find his real faith as an adult, but once he got salvation, he was an inspiration to us all.)

When I was little we didn’t have much money. My dad worked two jobs, and maybe even three for awhile. One was a full-time job in a bank, and the other was a few nights a week and Saturdays in a men’s clothing store. But it made him more of a man to do that. Even as a little girl, when we drove in to Portland to pick him up, and drive him to Westbrook to work in Benoit’s — watching him eat the sandwich my mom brought, while she drove our one car to take him to his second job — the impression I had was of a man who took care of us. He never complained.

And it never occurred to any of us that that was anything but what a father would do.

He taught me that we were equal to anyone, and that we could likely do whatever we set our minds and energy towards. He was fascinated with successful people, important people, and celebrities. But he knew the difference. And they weren’t any greater than we were, just different. You treated everyone with respect, but you didn’t bow to anyone except God.

My dad had an easygoing manner that allowed him to talk with anyone, starting conversations with someone next to us at the Navy Pier while we all looked at a submarine we were in line to tour. Or finding out the man getting a sandwich at Amato’s knew his brother. He was genuinely interested and seemed to have a sense of who had the stories. He loved to read and he knew everyone had stories to tell.

It didn’t matter if you were a Stephen King with a first book and a shakey autograph, or the old woman who ran the library at his club. He instinctively knew which people to talk with, and then, really listened. I have the feeling that if he’d ever met the queen, they would have been scooching down petting corgis, and talking about rose varietals.

Everyone felt he was their friend. My dad was an office manager for an insurance company. He never ran for public office or saved anyone from a runaway train, but he worked in downtown Portland his whole life, and when he died, 400+ people came to his funeral. We were stunned. Total strangers told my mother what he meant to them.

He taught us to respect ourselves and others, the same. So, it never made a difference to me throughout my life if I was poor or had everything — I was still the same, no better or worse than anyone else. And life was the same, with money or without. We still had stories to share and love to give. It didn’t mean we didn’t always aspire to succeed, just not at the expense of values.

The summer my sister was born was particularly challenging. My parents were trying to get together a downpayment on their first house. Up to that point, we lived on the big sprawling second floor of my great Aunt Jenny’s house, next door to my grandparents, and just a few blocks from my two cousins. For a six year old, it had always been heaven. But, we needed more room. So we didn’t do anything “extra” that year. Which meant no circus.

Clyde Beatty/Cole Brothers circus came to Portland every summer, and in those days they traveled in a big caravan of trucks they offloaded from trains. So one evening after work, my dad suggested that he and I go in and watch them unload. He thought we might get a glimpse of some animals.

detail from “family as superheroes” (C) Carol Joy Shannon 2018

We weren’t alone. 65 years ago a lot of people still loved the circus, so a number of people came out to watch them set up the tents in the big field. As dusk settled in, we thought we could hear the lions, so we strolled around the outside of the fence until we found them — each in his or her own cage, all of the cages inside the big painted trucks.

The first truck we came to, the lions were just lying at opposite ends, looking over at each other, and sometimes out at us. It was magic. We weren’t more than ten feet away. It was a different time, obviously, and there was no expectation that anything would happen to the lions or the people looking at them, so their canvas sides were open to the end of day breezes.

As we stood there, hand in hand, and quietly watched those big, majestic cats, comparing them to our cats at home, we noticed a man walking towards us, between the fence and the trailer trucks. He didn’t pay any attention to us, but stopped at each truck and spoke to the lions. We couldn’t hear what he was saying, but it was clear they were good friends. We could hear the lions making easygoing lion sounds in response. At each truck, before he moved to the next, he lowered and fastened the canvas sides, and gave the corner of the truck a pat.

By the time he got to the last one, where we stood, we had recognized his trademark jodhpurs, and knew it was Clyde Beatty himself.

I don’t remember any of the conversation, but he and my dad talked about what a nice evening it was, and at some point he told us that, yes, he said goodnight to each of his lions, each night. It was important to him that they were safe and comfortable. (And probably that they liked him enough not to want to eat him the next day.)

Just a pleasant conversation about lions, with one of the world’s most famous trainers. We all said good night.

But my dad and I were both six-year-olds when we turned and walked away.

dad back left two brotherinlaws on back right. At the Big Apple Circus in Portland, Maine, probably 1986?

We always loved the circus. We didn’t see Clyde put his cats through their paces that year, but we did other years, and later my son’s uncle started one of the world’s best one-ring circuses, so we spent a lot of time in the sawdust, and in the backyard with the elephants and acrobats. My Dad was in heaven.

But that night at dusk, watching a man say goodnight to his lions, holding my dad’s hand, remains one of my most precious memories. The sense of wonder we shared. The sense of concern and love Clyde Beatty showed his lions, like a father, and the respect he showed both of us, just two strangers outside the fence — a lot of good life lessons there.

So, don’t think that because you can’t give your daughter a new car for her birthday, that you are not giving her gifts. She probably remembers when you scooped her out of the Christmas party before she got sick, and helped her clean her face and her dress when she did. Don’t worry that you couldn’t take your son on that hiking trip to Yosemite. He remembers when you stayed up all night, helping him build the project that came in just under the wire in science class. And how much better he felt when you put your arm around him after the bad time he had with his buddies.

As parents we worry that we haven’t given our children enough, or exactly the right stuff. But as children, we remember our parents for the feelings more than anything else. The sense of safety and love. The feeling it gave us to make our parents laugh, or make them proud.

If you have integrity and show your children unconditional love (not a lack of discipline, but the knowledge that even if they screw up, you love them still) — that’s what children need from you. They won’t remember all the nights they had ramen noodles for dinner, or the road trips you took because it was all you could afford.

They will remember what it felt like to curl up in your arms and feel better for it.

They will remember it even when they are 71 years old….trust me.

________________________________________________________________________

If you’ve never heard of Clyde Beatty you might enjoy this link

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the prickly ones are the most interesting

As a person who prays for more tolerance of stupidity, and more Christian forgiveness towards others and myself (we are often hardest on ourselves, you know) — it was interesting to recently read George Sayers’ biography of CS Lewis (“Jack,” the name he was known by) — and find out how prickly a person he could be.

This was the man who wrote “The Chronicles of Narnia,” a children’s favorite since 1950. He’s also the man who the BBC asked to give talks about faith during World War II, on the radio, and for which thousands of soldiers and bomb-weary civilians thanked them.

The old fashioned adage is “he didn’t suffer fools kindly.” Which is an obtuse way of saying he had no time for useless conversations, uninteresting people, etc. He liked vigorous discussion of almost anything and was a lifelong learner. And he apparently wore out a lot of colleagues because of that in the early days — but the ones who understood him, and the depth of his thinking, stayed to the end.

And once he found salvation, he worked on the bad habits. He was not as dismissive of people he disliked, and he found patience through children and animals — don’t we all! He took Christian charity very seriously, as well as promises, and as an older person he took care of others to the point of making himself ill. His very loyal friends were concerned for his welfare.

His wife, too, was someone who changed a lifetime of beliefs when she became a Christian. She had been an ardent communist, and was married to one as well. But she found faith through CS Lewis’ writing — as have millions — and put that aside, like a smoker throwing the pack out the window. (An aside here: in our time she would have been a stalker, sort of the Meghan Markle variety, she got to know people who knew people, to meet CS Lewis, even though she was married with two children…)

I’m not sure she was working on being a better person, like he was, because by most accounts, she was a very off-putting outspoken American, at least for British academics at the time, who were probably pretty stiff. But, she turned out to be an interesting enough woman to have engaged CS Lewis, one of the world’s most learned men, close friend of Tolkein (another Christian, by the way.) And by all accounts she was very important to his work while she lived.

To their credit, prickly, introverted, or set in their ways, these academics were interested in knowing about the spiritual plane, the one no one can really ever describe, but which both Tolkein and Lewis attempted with their fantastic stories. From their first meeting at Oxford, they read their stories to each other, and among a small group of other dons, on Mondays.

Neither Tolkein nor Lewis set out to tell Christian allegories. Lewis said he hoped Narnia simply opened people up to the possibilities, later in life, of something bigger than themselves. Certainly the Lord or the Rings is enjoyed as one of the greatest adventures ever written. But the lessons are no less important for that. The Ring is a powerful symbol.

And you don’t have to crawl through Mordor to learn life’s lessons. One of the things that levels the playing field for all judgmental snarkiness is time. If God doesn’t slap you down in your youth and show you “you ain’t all that,” you will surely learn it physically with age. None of us is impervious to the reminders when the systems start to fail. And that makes us cranky.

The NewWorld has an answer for that – but we’re not discussing transhumanism today, we’re talking about learning that our philosophical heroes didn’t always make easy company.

Which gives the rest of us prickly people hope. We may be among the interesting ones, after all.

CS Lewis knew that and thought that literature and learned writing should stand on its own, apart from the human being who created it. In that there is a lot to be said. You can be profoundly moved by a piece of writing, and not care for the person who wrote it; (a feat that is easier before you know anything about the author, of course.) We often don’t care for our heroes when we meet them. They disappoint us. Because they are just humans.

But Lewis addressed that, with God. As in, God disappointing us.

When his wife, died, he was disappointed in God. Some biographers have said he “lost his faith,” which his friend of 29 years, Sayer, says is not true. He says Lewis realized that he was disappointed because God was not responding to his wishes. Lewis didn’t marry until late in life and it wasn’t, initially, a romantic relationship. But when it became that, he realized a whole other level of love — again, don’t we all! So he must have thought he’d get to enjoy it for longer than 4 years. And he was very disappointed that his prayers didn’t bring that result.

The interface between want and receive, as relates to life in general and prayers in particular, is like a rather ironic ven diagram. Your wants and God’s best plan for you may not even touch in this one.

A version of the Lord’s Prayer reminded Lewis when you pray for “Thy will be done” you are praying for God’s will to be done –9 times out of 10 it isn’t what you had in mind.

But it is always the best thing for you.

We want.

God provides….rarely what we expect or think we want, but it is always what we really need.

And when you look back on it from the perspective of time, you can see how you might have missed it, too. That odd moment, the unexpected choice…..sometimes we do miss it, and those are the moments about which we have regrets.

You can follow the thread backwards and see what a different choice would have meant.

In those journeys you can sometimes see where God gave you little nudges that you may or may not have heeded. And you can see the path of your life because of them, taken or not.

The ones you didn’t choose are not all entirely bad, either. Even mistakes and poor choices aren’t the end of everything. Because God never lets go of us. We just let go of Him. Those angels have scooped you up and whooshed you out more times than you know – even if you don’t believe in angels.

Just ask Edmund in “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”….you can change, even if you make a mistake the first time. The key is to be listening for those nudges from God, to be open to the little whiffs of the supernatural that is still around us….

….Tolkien didn’t like that Lewis mixed classical motifs and popular icons, like fauns and Santa Claus, into his Narnia books. But kids don’t mind at all. There’s no conflict for them. Just fantasy.

And Lewis didn’t really care for the way Pauline Baynes drew lions…but children can picture Aslan all by themselves, and imagine burying their faces in his golden mane, like Lucy did, and feeling safe.

And if you can create a character like Aslan, who all of us wish for, you can be bossy about the tea….just saying…

Thanks for reading.

If you are interested in Narnia, or Lewis, I get all my printed matter from Thriftbooks.com who do not pay me to push them.

I buy nothing at all from Amazon, nor listen to Audible any more.

If you like to listen to books, you can purchase them individually on CHIRP app. Also, if you like to share books with others, within the 48 states “media mail” is VERY affordable. I recently mailed 16 lbs. of books for $14.

My local postal clerk recommends paperbackswap.com, where you only pay postage. (I have no idea how easy it is to find books there.)

KEEP READING PEEPS! It’s the best thing you ever do!

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Today is D-Day. There is never any “bank holiday” associated with it….but it’s an important day, nonetheless

Today is D-Day. It breaks my heart even now, to think of how brave those young men were for US and our freedom. Think of it. Wading into death for an ideal, values…risking your life to save people you’d never meet because it was the right thing to do.

There wasn’t even a whisper of today’s sophisticated warfare. It was bodies against bullets, numbers and tenacity against an entrenched enemy. But they believed in the importance of it.

Bless them all, every salty, cursing, hard-fighting, Bible-carrying, terrified, proud, solid, shaky, courageous man.

Those were real men. They were our fathers and grandfathers and they believed in GOD and COUNTRY and they were willing to give their lives for FAITH, FREEDOM and FAMILY.

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“…here we are now, entertain us…”

(c) Carol Joy Shannon 2021
illustration from “Charlie & Jack & the Army of Angels”

Big parts of the last 17 months, left us locked into our apartments, houses, neighborhoods, states. Whether we had to work at home, had kids, or were already fully acclimated to 24/7 togetherness like us retired people, there were still more hours to while away than we ever had before.

The so-called “corona” forced people to find creative ways to spend their time and we all did. People learned to bake who’d never dared, and found it therapeutic. The stores were short on flour for months.

Down here in the Lowcountry, everyone was fishing and cooking fish, so Old Bay Seasoning was in very short supply. I had to buy two tiny cans just to do a boil. Things like that.

The garden centers were, and are, busy. People are doing things to make their homes and yards more comfortable for long term daily use. Even people who have gone back to work months ago, are not doing a lot of the things all of us used to do for entertainment.

Our world has changed and so we all learned ways to use time creatively.

Still, at some point in the day, you flop on the couch and watch the weather, or what I like to call “something mindless.” We watch a lot of serious stuff, documentaries and history, plus real life treasure hunts, “Swamp People” and “Deadliest Catch.” But when the gator tags are finished, and crab season is over, old salts like us are still looking for the ocean and the swamp. We used to watch fishing shows on Sunday mornings. Don’t know what happened to those.

A couple months ago we were so disgusted with satelite TV we cancelled it and bought a couple ROKU devices. I subscribe to PHILO, which offers live streaming content that does not include ANY sports and very little news. Heaven actually. Of course there are any number of ROKU options for streaming ancient movies and even older TV shows. And that isn’t a bad thing.

After a few months grazing streaming internet TV, we’ve settled into some patterns.

We can still find the History Channel on PHILO, but there is also the American History Channel, more war film and real documentaries; fewer pawnstars and pickers. We’ve also discovered that those 30 year old shows on the free channels — are pretty good! My husband watched the entire original Miami Vice, from the 80s. It was interesting to watch the progression of stories, cars and boats, spot the difference in South Beach 40 years ago, identify the stars who did guest turns, figure out if Sonny or Ricardo was going to fall in love with a woman who got shot or otherwise destroyed. Michael Mann made Miami Vice, and for the first two seasons it shows.

Then, because MV was so dark at the end, we started watching Magnum PI. It’s lighthearted, reasonably entertaining, has a predictable formula but also some thought provoking scripts, and some related to Vietnam and Vietnam vets. Not many TV shows addressed that in the 80s. (I know, M.A.S.H. did, but they called it “Korea.”)

We still watch old sitcoms on TVLand and old westerns on INSPIRATION, but here’s what the hubs discovered this week: the Haulover Inlet live cams. Hours of fun.

That probably sounds like paint drying, but let me explain.

Haulover Inlet is one of only a few inlets between the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic Ocean between Coconut Grove and Port Everglades. It cuts through at the very top end of Miami Beach, under a fixed bridge which takes A-1-A further north to Dania. If you’re not going out Government Cut or Port Everglades, you’re going out Haulover.

Haulover is a busy inlet. There are probably hundreds of marinas on the bay side and several charter fleets right at Haulover. So, tons of boats.

And it’s tricky. It’s always been tricky.

It’s pretty shallow with a rock jetty on both sides and bridge bumpers further in, and the boat traffic creates a washing machine of wakes which you have to navigate to get to the “bar” at the end, where the waves are sometimes surf-able. (The actual surfing beach is above the north jetty.)

This outlet that is not for the faint of heart.

And yet idiots do it.

In lake boats.

In little whalers. With their kids in the front with no lifejackets. Sometimes it’s hard to watch.

But it’s addictive, if you like boating, of course.

It is also one of the most incredible boat parades every weekend than you could ever imagine. We are talking 40′ offshore racers that cost millions. The new style “party boats” that are sleek machines in monchrome black and flash. Fishing boats of every size and level.

And a lot of show-off boats.

Miami has always been a show-off kind of place. If you’ve got it flaunt it kind of place. And do they!

Because I assure you, everyone knows the camera is there. I’ve never seen so many million dollar boats with one guy and 6 or 8 babes in bikinis, or less. One boat we saw yesterday was huge, and there was a single older man, 8 beautiful women twerking at the camera and a captain in livery driving the boat. It’s another world.

It’s like looking in an open window. A window people know you’re looking in.

The thing with Haulover, and it has always been this way, even before the YouTube cameras and twerking — anyone can have a really bad time getting through it so there’s always a lot to watch. People come there to watch people fail. Not to sink or drown, just screw up. There are so many TowBoats USA and boatcops all around that rescues are as interesting as the screw ups.

There’s also the sound of the water – few of the filmmakers add commentary, although one guy always identifies the boats, and even has a special reel with just the boats, how much they cost and how much to charter….no stuffed bow pulpits or grandma overboard in that reel…just ginormous amounts of luxury.

Depending on the wind, you can often hear people talking as they go by. You can hear the girl screaming at her boyfriend to slow down, before they pound a 10 foot trough and she flies out. Many people (wisely in most cases) turn around. Many get out and come right back in. After awhile, you see a certain kind of boat, with too many people, and not going fast enough, and you start making mental wagers as to whether they’ll get out, if they should get out, too — because what will they do on the open water in a boat too small with too many people.

And in Haulover Inlet you don’t stop. It’s always been the rule there. You can see why on the rough water videos. On the mild-mannered days, newbies must wonder what all the fuss is about – but most of the time, it is challenging and the trick is speed. Honest.

So this is where the guys with the big drugrunneracersleds come to show off, too. The really hot thing is how many matching high-powered motors you can line up on the stern. The top number seems to be 6 but that can add up to insane horsepower – 6 Merc 400s is 2400 hp. Some of these speed demons have rows of seats with seatbelts along the stern. I can’t even imagine the Gs they pull.

So, here’s some diversion.

here’s a link to a rough day

here’s some little boats on a big day

and here’s a link to some of the big beauties I especially like this one, because it’s just big ole quiet luxury rolling along, like a movie, with the sound of the water and the birds, and not much else.

We used to follow F1 auto racing, and I lived in Monaco (centuries ago). The other morning we were zoning out over coffee, and one of these monsters rolled quietly past on the big screen TV. My husband said, “That one would not be the smallest yacht in Monte Carlo,” and he was right. (Check out the Vanquish 45 belowdecks – videos abound — for a streamline “picnic boat” for the 21st century. These, along with the Pardo and Van Dutch are the new “day boats” for the player with a million to sink in a fancy hole in the water.)

I lived in Miami off and on, a few years here, a couple more there, starting in 1970. I watched it go through a lot of crazy changes, and these days it must be one of the richest cities in America. Or, to be more precise, the northernmost city in South America! It is like nowhere else in the world right now, and that boat parade in front of Brickell at the end of the “big beauties” video says it all.

Remember “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”? This is the boat version. It’s harmless, entertaining, sometimes shocking or amusing, it’s nearly always sunny, and people are laughing and having fun. Some of them are even beautiful. Many of the boats are.

And it’s a LOT easier than hooking up the trailer on our own 23 footer. Much simpler than buying bait and ice and finding parking at the boat ramp. A lot more relaxing than hosing it down and cleaning fish at the end of the day, too. Not that we didn’t love to do that for a long time. Flying out to the Gulf Stream to hunt billfish in our own boat was always fantastic. I miss it. But I also don’t want to do exactly that any more. Maybe some flats fishing in the Keys.

Now , we’re like the old people on the porches of South Beach back in the 70s and 80s. Except, instead of watching the parade of dealers and hookers and pimps from our rocking chairs – we’re watching boats. From the comfort of the couch. Best boating in years.

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Memorial Day Weekend…more than just a bank holiday

More than just the official opening of summer…..

still standing (C) Carol Joy shannon 2019

It’s the day where we honor the men and women who have fought and died to keep our country FREE since it’s hard fought inception.

You may not like everything about the United States of America, and you may be concerned about its future, but there is no place like it in the world, and we can see that more clearly every day.

So celebrate the freedoms your ancestors and grandpops and others fought to keep. Yes, we ARE an exceptional country, and it isn’t wrong to say that, or to protect it from destruction.

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the way we see things, part deux

I lived in Raleigh, NC for 14 years.

Longer than any place except the place I grew up, Portland, Maine.

I watched as Raleigh went from being a backwater city trying to entice young artists from the northeast to come live there, to the place everyone wanted to live, in almost exactly that same period of time.

Raleigh planners knew that if you had an art district, in tandem with the existing symphony and already worldclass art museum –you’d draw a different set of investors, retirees, enterpreneurs. They already had a good airport, and RTP was just beginning to find its legs,

…and the art thing worked. They honestly did get a handful of artists from NYC to move south. The Christian Science Monitor came to our gallery to interview a couple renting one of our studios, who were 2 of the handful who stayed. That couple became part of the change on many levels. BigcityNYCthinkingintheSouth in the 90s.

The city became a mecca for young techies and the people around them. FirstFridays were cool, hipsterseverywhere. DTR Everything within walking, biking or richshawing. Then there was a free trolley. And after that there was the drunk trolley! ArtsplosureDesignBoxtheChromosones&firstartSparkWideOpenBluegrass

Raleigh survived the recession because it had technology. RTP was on the cutting edge of software, hardware, pharmacy, communications, interactive platforms — they paid good money and Raleigh filled up with young professionals, young professional families, foodiedestinations, groundbreakingmusicfestivals. It was cool to event in Raleigh.

I have no idea what it is like now, how the art community survived the plandemic or anything else. I sold my gallery location to a person who later sold it to a collective….who knows. But I am sure the NC Museum of Art is just as good as it always was and that Clyde Cooper’s BBQ is still the most authentic. Ashley Christiansen is likely still winning awards for chicken and honey and Holly Aiken is still making indestructable collectible bags at “stitch.” Greg Hatem has probably refurbished all of the remarkable buildings left, and there are probably two million or three million people now. (When I moved there, there were 400,00; when we came south there were 1.3 million. Just sayin.)

The place was the perfect illustration of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ and all those Forbes Best Business, Forbes Best for Young Investors, younameitbestplacefortechheads east of the Mississippi and it is Raleigh.

I painted it a lot. Raleighites love their city, as well they should.

This is my view (most often from a little bridge in Boylan Heights) over 14 years (plus a couple “redux”.)

There were actually probably 3 times this many Raleigh paintings. I painted Raleigh on raw oak, on a guitar for a music school fundraiser, on the wall of Brewmasters, on old tin, cooking utensils, aprons, hats. When people love their city, they love their city and Raleigh was like that.

Brewmasters was on the corner of Dawson and Martin. The original restaurant was called Joe’s (Mama’s) Eats. It was an institution, but was fading, and then folded. It reopened with several different manifestations. No one could quite get it to work. But “Brewmasters,” owners found all these huge panels in the boiler room, and when they turned them around, they realized they were pieces of a cut fiberboard 3D of the Raleigh skyline, framed on 2 x 4s, well done but all gray, as if they’d been spraypainted.

One of their managers had been walking back and forth in front of my gallery, talking on his phone, and seen me painting big cities in bright colors. He finally came in one morning and asked me if I would “look at these panels we have.”

They bought the paint, moved the panels back and forth, and fed me for a few months. It was fun, and just on the corner, so it was good advertising for me, too.

Years later a dear artist friend told me the restaurant was changing again, and the panels were up on Craig’s list. She thought I might like to salvage such a large piece of work and asked me what I thought they were worth…well today the 2 x 4’s would be priceless, but then… I don’t know…100 hamburgers? Keeps you humble.

Thanks for “watching,” as I’ve been sorting through the archives.

All of my work is available as fine art reproductions in the nearly infinite options technology now allows, so please don’t be shy about going to the platform links on my art page. Acquiring art today is easier than it’s ever been – no hushed galleries OR rambling festivals necessary.

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