The mural is black and the grid edges have been marked.. For the rest of this blog I thought I would take you through my week and arrival in Pennsylvania.
First, I am here! I’m tired, drained, cozy, and I’ve only painted on the mural for one full day. Ouch. Well, I started the week in Chapel Hill and a 15 hour bus ride to Oil City, PA. I can’t believe that was the same week that I’m sitting in right now. I kept a vigile for pan handlers and drunks at the bus stops but it was all really decent. There were some very respectable looking people and I had some conversations. I finally practiced speaking up – a rare thing. At every stop there were people that couldn’t be bothered waiting in line and just worked their way in. At the 2 am bus switch I was no longer feeling all passive and the guy beside me on the cell phone that had weedled his way in line behind me I confronted. He pointed to his bag behind me and asked what I was on or something funny. Poor guy, we worked it out, he was so sweet despite me accusing him. “That’s not me. I would never cut in line,” he assured me, “There’s no reason to, it’s still a bus you’re getting on.” HA! This was the same stop where I watched as a white guy in a blazing confederate flag, Virginia Beach Bike rally shirt chat up a heavy-set black lady. By the looks of their body language it looked like a successful mating call. By the time we had boarded our bus he had changed his shirt. I don’t get it.
My end of the line was an hour from Oil City in Meadville. I had fantasies of sweet honey beverages while I thought about my trip being almost over. We were still an hour drive from Oil City and there were a series of other errands to run, this area is on the outskirts of time. It’s like all the chain stores’ original stores are here. I had no idea how small signs and super stores originally were. Staples looked almost like a local hardware store. Whites had yellowed and dimmed, reds were sunbleached.
In Oil City the Mosaic Cafe was our first stop. The wall was so much more manageable looking in person. I was so excited to see that blank cinder brick, I gave it a good slap to feel what I’d be getting well acquainted with. I got a short walking tour, got my paint clothes at 30 cents a shirt, had Chinese, drank wine, and did everything before I even got to the house that I’d be sleeping in. I did not get to sleep at a resonable time.
The weather has been beautiful but it took a bit of coordinating before I was able to go and buy my paint supplies. The Lowe’s is an hour drive. I had based all my paint samples on Valspar brand and the local Home Depot doesn’t carry that brand. Oops. My mistake in thinking that Lowe’s would be conveniant. Still, it was a powerful moment to have my gallons of paints decided, the supply list written, and to see the numbers add up. Painting a mural is expensive! Still, this is good education for next time. I will have a better idea of costs for the next time.
Thursday was my big start day. I got up at 5:30, cooked myself some eggs, walked the half mile downhill and found the cafe with no backtracking before 6:30 and then commenced to making a dozen trips to get all the supplies collected and outside. It took forever. I kept forgetting dumb little things and I’d have to hunt them down. Then, I finally had my last stupid little things and as I stepped out the door for what I was certain had to be the last time it started to drizzle. The drizzle quickly turned to rain, the sort that has no intention of moving on. I brought everything back in and went to sleep. It rained all day, cleared up in the late afternoon and I was able to paint about 12 feet of wall before it started to rain again. In the meantime I got back into the hang of waitressing and met some of the locals. Mary has been showing everyone my painting that I mailed her. I’m a bit nervous about that. Sure, I can paint a 30 in. long painting but to translate that into a 60 foot mural? Am I raising expectations by having that picture?
Friday was the perfect day. The weather was great, I was able to finish the black background and I changed out of my black Hawaiian shirt. Mary had found me a straw hat, I dug out my ipod, and the first song that came on was Modest Mouse. It was so wonderful and so perfect. I was chillin’ with a roller, I had an extension handle so I didn’t need a ladder. I felt all English in my capris, hat and pastel plaid paint shire. The traffic was drowned out and I was in my own little world living my life as an artist. The excitement fizzled slightly when I brought out a lone piece of chalk to start enlarging my drawing onto this wall space. It didn’t seem very realistic. Where do I even start? The black wall looks like a chalk board and I quickly blazed out something motivational before fear could choke me out. “Every day is a good day” in 10 inch letters. I was happy to have a message, even my work in progress, at the basest of its beginnings can have a message. It worked to help me. As I drew and redrew and stared and lost my approach I could always glance over and see my phrase. A scrawny kid walking by even commented on it. I’m going to have to keep the motivations coming. Maybe those words will stay all weekend.
My favorite moment was being pulled out of my ipod world by an older lady talking to me when she didn’t realize I couldn’t hear her. She was so sweet and Grandmother-ly, asking the usual questions but she was so warm and open, we were almost sharing the shade of my straw hat when she pointed out the plastic part of the price tag on my paint shirt. I waved it off. What do I care about a plastic tie sticking out of my shoulder when I’m covered in paint and sweat? She didn’t really pay attention, her eyes were fixed with intent, “You don’t mind, do you?” She asked as she went for my shoulder with her teeth and bit off the little plastic T. She pulled out the tag, spat the end out on the sidewalk and parted with encourageing words. I don’t know but that act summed up Oil City for me. I was touched at her intimate help and yet puzzled by her offering it.
I wish the day had ended there but Friday was an Indie Fest with several live bands playing. Mosaic Cafe was part of it and they needed waitresses so I stopped painting early -as in, before it got dark, cleaned up and put on my waitressing stuff. I have my own little private basement hole to clean up in. It’s like something from movies, a room in the basement lit by a dangling bare bulb, a utility sink, and a mirror. Mary bought me some lava soap and a nail brush and I do my best to erase the fact that I’m inept at keeping paint off my hands, it’s like I just dip my hands right in the paint can. I went from a blank wall in a dirt parking lot to chaos. Bands were setting up and the place was filling. Mosaic has a back room for live music and food, a front cafe part and a long diner style bar, all with seat yourself. They serve food, specialty coffee drinks and smoothies. I think 5 or 6 various servers would have kept things running smoothly, we had 3. Everybody wanted everything. It took me a while to figure who had been helped and who was still waitng, it turned out pretty much everyone in the back room was waiting to be helped. At one point I brought drink orders out to 3 tables at once. I nearly wigged out when I flipped through pages and pages of checks that still needed to be tallied up and handed out and I knew that there were still more waiting for drinks and to put in their orders. It was just impossible to keep up and this went on for 3 hours. By the end I was listless and useless, it was midnight before I got home but I was still too wound up to sleep. Thank God it was Friday, seriously. Tonight is a Blues guy and as of this morning there hadn’t been a waitress lined up for tonight. All I can say is “not my problem” I am still in my pajamas, my head is still throbbing, and I’m thinking of having a bath in their clawfoot bathtub. This house is huge and beautiful, so old. Wood floors, 4 bedrooms on the second floor and the third floor used to be it’s own apartment. It’s all good. Wish me luck for the next week. Pray for a miracle. I would like to be painting by 6:00 every morning but that means getting up at 5:00, even though my alarm is set I’ve been half an hour late these last few days. Talk to you soon. Thanks for listnening.