Glitter: A Short & Shiny Play For Two That Is Mostly True.

posted in: Art, Day In The Life 0
Glitter. Photo: Wikipedia
Glitter. Photo: Wikipedia

GLITTER: A SHORT & SHINY PLAY FOR TWO THAT IS MOSTLY TRUE.
by Mary Fons (c) 2016

MARY 1 and MARY 2 are drinking coffees at a cafe. MARY 2 pulls her phone out of her purse and a burst of extremely shiny glitter poofs out from her bag. 

MARY 1: What is that.

MARY 2: What.

MARY 1: That glitter.

MARY 2:  Oh, yeah. That’s this glitter.

MARY 1: Why is it coming out of your purse?

MARY 2: I was making valentines and my friend asked me if I wanted to take home the glitter we didn’t use.

MARY 1: And you said yes?

MARY 2: (Guiltily.) Yes.

MARY 1: Why?

MARY 2: It was pretty.

MARY 1: That’s where it starts. One moment you’re a grown woman making homemade valentines with craft paints, and the next thing you know you’ve got glitter stuck to the bottom of your foot, glitter dangerously close to your eye, glitter in your cell phone. Glitter is not your friend. I don’t care how sparkly it may be. Bits of glitter? Every tiny piece? Each tiny piece of glitter is a spore on the wind, attaching itself to anything it can in order to extend its lifespan. Never say yes to extra glitter. Never say yes to glitter at all!

MARY 2: It’s really wonderful glitter, though. Did you see how fine it is?

(She shows MARY 1. They touch the counter and then look closely at their fingertips, admiring the glitter.)

MARY 1: Woah. It’s like shimmering baby powder. It’s like…sparkly silt.

MARY 2: This kind is called “glitter dust.” It’s finer than the regular kind.

MARY 1: Why does it make me feel so good? Am I wishing for a simpler time? Am I so easily distracted? As a female who loves shiny pink glitter, am I reinforcing negative gender stereotypes? Is it weird that I love how glitter comes in a test tube-like container? What is that about?

MARY 2: That’s just glitter, man. That’s glitter.

MARY 1: No! Resist. (She steps back from the table.) Get it away from me. Glitter is worse than Christmas tree pine needles. Such things are vacuum resistant, carpet sweeper resistant. It’s already everywhere!

(As MARY 1 says this, a person carrying a large, open canister full of honey passes by and MARY 1’s wild hand movements cause her to whap the person, who promptly spills all the honey over MARY 1.)

MARY 2: (After awhile.) It’s really pretty, caught there in the honey. It’s like in Jurassic Par

MARY 1: Please get me a damp towel.

MARY 2: I’ll be right back.

THE END.

 

Heaviest Research Project Ever: The AIDS Quilt

posted in: Art, Quilting, Washington 1
Rally flyer for AIDS activists in California, c. 1985. Image: Wikipedia
Rally flyer for AIDS activists in California, c. 1989. Image: Wikipedia

It’s surprising how infrequently the AIDS Memorial Quilt comes up among quilters. That’s not an admonishment, it’s just my experience. I realized recently the only time I talk about the AIDS Memorial Quilt is when a person outside the quilt world (someone on an airplane, maybe) says something like, “You make quilts? That’s cool. Hey, what about that AIDS quilt? What happened with that? Are people still doing it?” For a long time, I’ve cocked my head and gone, “Yeah, the AIDS Quilt. I need to check up on that, actually.”

No kidding, Ms. Ima Quilter.

The NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt (usually referred to as “The AIDS Quilt”) was launched by The NAMES Project in 1987. If you follow the timeline of the Great American Quilt Revival, the AIDS Quilt was a significant moment in the third phase of it. Quilts were back in the cultural landscape and the quilt industry was booming.

And people were dying of HIV/AIDS. Dying within months of a diagnosis. Dying without any medical care to speak of. Many were dying alone, rejected by society — even by their own families. Entire communities, friend groups, clubs, were wiped out by a disease that no one understood or could control. Look:

1981 –> 159 deaths
1982 –> 618 deaths
1983 –> 2,118 deaths
1984 –> 5,596 deaths
1985 –> 12,529 deaths

The first time President Reagan said the word “AIDS” in public was 1986. Friends, lovers, partners, teachers, doctors, neighbors, artists, businesspeople, servicemen and servicewomen — these were the people dying every day, but nothing but silence came from people in power. This was “the gay cancer.” The sorrow, silence, rage, fear, and helplessness, this drove those whose lives had been touched by the ghostly hand of AIDS to take action. Money was raised, initiatives were launched to increase awareness about the disease and promote safer sex; there were marches in the streets, pleas in Washington from parents who were burying their children.

What else? What else can ever be done to make sense of senseless horror? What would you do if six of your closest friends died in a single month? If you got diagnosed today with a fast-moving disease with a 100% mortality rate? What would you do to show people in charge that you and your people are literally dying for help?

The AIDS Quilt, a handmade tribute to those who had so far died of HIV/AIDS, was unveiled on the National Mall in Washington DC in 1987. On that day, there were thousands of panels in the quilt, which was as large as two city blocks. More than 2,000 names were written, painted, stitched, pressed, glued, poured into the fabric. Many names on the quilt were only first names, as the shame of being gay was too much for the families who still needed to memorialize their beloved son* with a panel in the softest biggest memorial in American history.

It’s hard to research this. It’s more than that: it’s devastating. The pictures from the hospitals. The testimonials. The statistics. I’m lucky, though: I’m not researching the AIDS epidemic, I’m researching the AIDS Quilt. The quilt is doing for me what it was created to do: it takes sadness and reshapes it into hope in the human race in the fight against pestilence and suffering. Over 48,000 panels have been made today; pieces of the largest quilt in the world travel around the globe to raise awareness that HIV/AIDS has no cure and help people understand how not to get the disease. The quilt continues to grow, even as HIV/AIDS treatments are light years ahead of where they were when the first panels were made.

The lecture will be finished this summer. I hope the sorrow that led to the AIDS Quilt doesn’t keep people from to requesting it. The AIDS Quilt is not a gravestone; it’s a celebration of life.

*AIDS did not claim — and does not claim, present tense — only homosexual male lives. Children, as well as women both gay and straight were/are casualties, too. The majority of the victims at the time of the first unfurling of the quilt, however, were gay men.

 

 

The Animal Prince.

posted in: Art, Paean, Uncategorized 0
Ticket to Prince's first concert. Image: Wikipedia, via Minnesota Historical Society.
Ticket to Prince’s first concert. Image: Wikipedia, via Minnesota Historical Society.

I’m sitting here at the hospital getting another iron infusion and trying not to kink the line while I type. The girls tried several times to get the IV in and that always makes me upset because I’ve been a human pincushion many times in my life. One night in this very hospital a couple floors up, nurses tried on and off for six hours to get an IV into me; they even tried my legs and ankles. The search was fruitless and the doctor eventually ordered a PICC line. (I’ll let you look that up.)

I hadn’t cried about Prince’s death till they stuck me the third time. I’ve been dazed about it since Claus called over to my desk this morning, “Mary? Prince has died.” This time, his German accent didn’t make anything better. My brow has been furrowed all day, but I hadn’t actually cried till about 30 minutes ago. The man had at least twenty more years of music-making ahead of him. This shouldn’t have happened.

When grieving, it’s good to be with folks; in this regard, I am grateful for my appointment. As I walked up to the reception desk, the lady was talking to a woman in the waiting area.

“Honey, I can’t believe it. I just can’t.” She shook her head then looked up at me. “What’s your name, sweetie?”

“Mary Fons. I’m not a candlelight vigil sort of person, but right now, I swear…” The receptionist gave me my number and said she felt exactly the same way. The conversation already in progress picked up again, now with me in it. Though its circumstances are by definition lousy, grief-induced familiarity amongst strangers is a beautiful thing.

The woman waiting with her mother (asleep) turned to me and said, “I’m as sad about this as I was about Michael.”

“Me, too,” I said. “Was it really a flu?”

“Oh,” the woman said and put up her hand like, ‘wait till you hear this.’ She said, “You gotta ask her about that,” and nodded to the receptionist.

I went back over to the desk and asked Rhonda what she had heard. She told me Prince was a Scientologist and that he was HIV positive. Scientologists, she said, don’t believe in medicine. She heard me he stopped taking his medication because the church told him not to.

My brain broke. My heart further broke. I covered my mouth with my hand and then almost bit through it. If this was true, if a “religious” organization told a sick man not to take his medicine, there’s a guru in Hollywood tonight who will breathe his last charlatan breath. (To be nice, when I take my hands off his neck, I’ll tell the rest of the group I’m sure he’ll be back soon.) The good news is that I don’t think I have to fly to L.A. tonight; there’s basically nothing online about Prince being connected to the Church of Scientology and certainly no information about them being blamed for his death. You know those people believe there are aliens living inside of us, right? (I’ll let you look it up.)

I remember seeing video of Prince playing an outdoor concert; maybe Wembley Stadium, sometime in the 1990s. He was playing “Purple Rain” and I realized I was watching a person do precisely what he was supposed to be doing with his life. It’s rare to see someone fulfilling their purpose so exactly, so absolutely dead-on their destiny, I felt like I was watching a wild animal. He was so natural there with his guitar, in the breeze, alone under lights, I recalled a fox in a wood or a mountain lion on a rock. He was that free, that easy, if you will. I’ve thought of it many times since then as I’ve thought about my own purpose, and what my own natural habitat is on Earth.

Prince, you were great. Thanks for the hologram on Diamonds & Pearls and all those notes.

 

Thank You, Gabriel Dawe.

posted in: Art, D.C. 0
Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe at the Renwick Gallery, DC. Photo: Marianne Fons
Plexus A1 by Gabriel Dawe at the Renwick Gallery, DC. Photo: Marianne Fons

My mom and Mark were in D.C. and got to go to the recently reopened Renwick Gallery. The Renwick is part of the Smithsonian galaxy of museums and it was closed the whole time I was in DC. Also closed the whole time I was in D.C.: the frozen yogurt place across from the zoo!

The above sculpture is made from thread. That’s right. All that color is cotton thread strung and twisted with laser precision from the floor to the ceiling in a room in Washington, D.C. The rainbow is there right now, even as I lay back in my bed in a small town in Iowa with a little bit of a headache that I hope isn’t a sign of something worse. Being an adult means continually thinking, consciously or subconsciously, of worst-case scenarios.

It’s dark in the Renwick right now; the museum has been closed for hours. Maybe there’s some light coming through the windows; headlights and streetlights are probably giving light off. In a city, it never gets completely dark. The office buildings above the gallery surely have a few people still in them, working and eating Thai takeout and turning lights on. And that means that some of the threads that make up Plexus A1 are illuminated, however dimly, in that room, right now.

When Mom was telling me about the D.C. trip, my chest felt tight.

How strange: I lived there. I know where the Renwick is. I want to see the thread. If I could get a flight, I could be there by 2am. I know what train stop to take from the airport. I know how the streets work. I could casually ask my mom before I snuck out what floor the thread sculpture was on and when I got to the gallery, I could climb up and peer into the windows. I’d see what I could see of the rainbow in the dark.

After a long time — I’d be there a long time — I’d climb down and there would be only one thing to do. I’d have to get back to the airport. Because I don’t have a home there, even though I’m pretty sure I used to.

 

 

Dance Is Forever.

posted in: Art, Family 0
Mary Fons and Rebecca Fons, circa I'm not sure. A long time ago. Photo: Photographer at Debbie's Dance Studio.
Mary Fons and Rebecca Fons, circa I’m not sure. A long time ago. Photo courtesy Rebecca Fons.

You have questions. I have answers.

Q: Is that you?
A: Yes, it’s me. In the orange. And that’s my younger sister, Rebecca, in the bee outfit.

Q: Wow. When was that taken?
A: A long time ago.

Q: I meant, like, how old are you guys there?
A: I don’t know. I think that was fifth grade for me, second for Rebecca. I don’t know. The neon orange is burning holes in my retinas and also in my memory. And I can never tell how old kids are, even when the kids are me and my sister, looking directly at me through time and space.

Q: What was this for?
A: It’s a family portrait.

Q: That’s really intense, Mary.
A: I was joking! It’s a picture for a dance recital! Look, hurry up; I have to keep this post short because yesterday’s was extra long.

Q: Is the point of those tights to make you look tan?
A: I… I don’t know.

Q: Your sister is crazy adorable. Is the front of her outfit… Is it plastic?
A: I don’t know, probably.

Q: Did you guys save the costumes and the headbands and stuff and wear them after the recital?
A: For literally years.

Q: Did you like dance class?
A: I never understood that dance did not necessarily involve toe shoes. That’s what I was in it for from the start. I was continually disappointed when they were not distributed. I quit after a while because there kept not being toe shoes. No one ever really explained that you have to work up to that.

Q: Was it an artistic choice, do you think, on the part of the photographer, to cut off the wicker hole on the right side?
A: Let’s all believe it was.

File Under: Home, Boards, Museums

posted in: Art 2
Me and Shizuko-san at the museum. Photo: A Nice Lady
Me and Shizuko-san at the museum. Photo: A Nice Lady

I arrived in Iowa yesterday. My episodes of the TV show start taping on the 13th, but I’ve come early and am going to stay a day or so after we’re done. This is so I can watch spring come to small town Iowa and so Mom and I can sew. We work together in various quilt capacities, true, but we rarely have time to simply sew together. So we’ll do that when she gets back from a trip to DC.

Today, though, I am not in Winterset. I came to Lincoln, Nebraska so that I could attend the opening reception for a jaw-dropping exhibit at the International Quilt Study Center & Museum. The exhibit, Blue Echoes, features the work of Japanese studio quilter Shizuko Kuroha. I drove three hours to the museum, then I went around the world. 

Around Christmastime, I was invited to join the board of the Study Center. I fell off my chair. Then I said yes. Then I told my loved ones. Then I wanted to shout it from the rafters but never did, because that’s not behavior becoming a board member of anything except The National Board of United Rafter Shouters.

There’s more to come about the Study Center and what it’s like to be on the board of something. I’ve never done it before. But the people I met tonight, the canapes I consumed, the ideas I had, the quilts I saw, the hands I shook, this all bodes well. While I was washing my hands in the ladies’ room, I thought of other boards it would be fun to serve on:

The Board of the Beard Association
The Board of Boar’s Head Meats Corporation
…and how much fun would it be to be the chairman of the board of the International Chair Board.

 

Meditations On Theater or: Macbeth With Coconuts

posted in: Art 0
Tough crowd. "Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre," print from the Alexander II Coronation Book of 1856. Image: Wikipedia
Performance in the Bolshoi Theatre,” print from the Alexander II Coronation Book of 1856. Image: Wikipedia.

I wrote recently in my column about public speaking and how I’m used to it. In the middle of writing that piece, I got sidetracked for hours by two eternal questions. Well, they’re eternal to me; I’m not sure the rest of the world is bothering with them, but maybe the world should. And if the world meditates on my questions and comes up with something, I would appreciate if the world provided those answers. I have other questions, too, but the world can start here:

1. If a performer presents to an audience, this is making theater. If the performer presents to no one, is theater still made?

2. Does my identity as a performer run so deep that if I were shipwrecked on an island, would I write and perform plays for the squirrels?

My answer to the first question remains, after many years: “I don’t know; go ask Peter Brook.” The answer to the second question is “Yes.”

Were I shipwrecked on a remote desert island, I would without question look for a way to build a little stage in the shade. I would memorize my lines — lines I couldn’t even write down because there is no paper on remote desert islands from what I understand — and I would rehearse hours each day. I would gather split coconuts, which could be used for costume purposes. Were I to choose to produce a puppet show, these coconuts could make excellent boats. I could perhaps train a squirrel to come in on cue for a little comic relief during one of my real downers. “Just eat a nut or something!” I’d yell, and he would never, ever, ever do it. Which would be funny.

Yes, the love for getting up and being on the performance side of that ancient line in the sand runs deep. I wouldn’t change it if I could.

I don’t actively make theater these days. I miss the Neo-Futurists all the time. And how about that: the first sentence of this paragraph has led to a third question: If a person who makes theater isn’t presently making theater, is she still a maker of theater?

Discuss.

 

The City Travels of PB & J.

posted in: Art 0
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich in subway. Photo: Me
Peanut butter and jelly sandwich in subway. Photo: Me

This photo was taken last night around 9:30pm at the Harrison red line el stop. It could be the best picture I’ve ever taken. As I’ve said, city living is the only kind of living for me, not the least because of things like this. A peanut butter and jelly sandwich on the recycle bin, just hanging out, is a welcome, funny surprise.

I meant to post this last night on my Instagram feed. If you like this picture, you may like the other pictures I share on that site. I have abandoned Twitter entirely, but Instagram continues to work for me and I enjoy it very much.

 

 

Make It Work, Designer.

Dress forms in spaaaaaace... Image: Wikipedia
Dress forms in spaaaaaace… Image: Wikipedia

I have entered into a relationship with a seamstress.

Right now, even as I write, Barb The Good could be in her workshop pinning pattern pieces and slicing through my fabric with heavy steel shears. I see scraps and paper and bits of feather and fur all over her floor. I see a bird in an ornate birdcage for some reason.

Barb and I met in Washington state about a month ago and got to talking. She makes clothes, I design fabric. One of the patterns in the McCall’s-produced Mary Fons pattern line of garments and bags* is a dress that I am ashamed to say I do not yet possess and Barb said she’d make it for me.

NOTE: Don’t take me not having my own dress yet as a vote of no confidence in the pattern, which I assure you is fabulous.  The task just kept getting pushed down for reasons that are dull and involve words like “email” and “invoicing” and “figuring out AirBNB.” 

I’ve always wanted to have a seamstress of my very own. I want a Bentley, too, but I want a personal seamstress more. Do you realize a person can just go to a place that sells patterns and buy a Vogue pattern for a few bucks and go home and make a dress that was in Vogue? Not all designers sell their designs to pattern companies (Calvin Klein, yes, Alexander McQueen, no) but I’ve seen many Vogue patterns and many of them are great, especially if you pull from the 1980s and early 1990s patterns because everything is cool when it happened thirty years ago, including Hammer pants. I’m 100% serious as long as you don’t go completely insane with the fabric choice.

It’s funny to think about having a “serious relationship” with a seamstress, but maybe it’s not so far from the truth. When a person measures your body cross, back, front, around, etc., you skip some of the early chit-chat needed to get a relationship going. I mean, Barb has my wrist circumference: we can move onto talking about sibling rivalries immediately. She’s got my bust size — my actual bust size — so it’s like, tell me about your worst breakup ever, Barb. We’re close, is what I’m saying.

Barb has the fabric, she has the pattern, she has the measurements. I guess I’ll have my dress within a few weeks and yes, Barb’s done work for people who could not be in the same room with her for fittings. I’ve seen her portfolio and I feel good about this.

When I realized that the second half of the word “seamstress” is “stress,” I told Barb there was no stress allowed in this project. She promised she wouldn’t stress out and I promise to post a picture when I get my dress and am sure I have the proper shoes to go with it. Tim Gunn, who I met a couple years ago, would be proud.

*Available at your LQS and online retailers like Missouri Star Quilt Co. 

Creation: It’s the Strangest Thing

posted in: Art, Day In The Life, Word Nerd 0
Spiderweb in scrappy browns and reds. Photo: Me
Spiderweb in scrappy browns and a consistent red, currently on my design wall. Photo: Me

It’s the strangest thing.

I teach patchwork techniques. I speak about quilts to audiences large and small. I write about quilts at least twice a month in my column; I even wrote a whole book about quilts and edited a magazine about them for several years. And then, at the end of the day, when I drop my suitcase or I turn in this or that, record for the podcast, or take care of this or that piece of quilt-related business, I want to sew. How can it be?

It must be the power of making. Creation can never be boring and is rarely something to which a person has to drag themselves. The temptation of adventure through creativity is hard to resist. That pile of fabric scraps, that template, that cutting mat. What will come from it? What colors will come together? What shapes?

It’s the same with writing for me. Playing with words came before playing with fabric in my life; before I was absorbed into the world of quilts I couldn’t stay away from the word thing and I still can’t. The only reason I miss days posting on PaperGirl is because the night comes and I am too tired (or am otherwise engaged) and I can’t plunk myself down and get it done. I don’t like those days.

There was a poster at the Atlanta show that asked, “What will you create today?” It feels a little poster-ish to repeat here, so I’ll rephrase the question:

What act of making is irresistible today? And what are you going to do about it?

 

Hero: Diana Vreeland

posted in: Art 0
A picture of Diana Vreeland in my "Why Don't You?" book. Photo and fingers: Me
A picture of Diana Vreeland in my “Why Don’t You?” book. Photo and fingers: Me

One of my heroes is Diana Vreeland who is counted among the most influential magazine editors of all time. Diana edited the most important fashion magazines in the world: Harper’s Bazaar from 1936-1962, Vogue from 1963-1971. She was fabulous the entire time, and there are many witnesses.

I love the way this woman spoke, walked, behaved. Throughout her time at Harper’s, Vreeland wrote and ran a list called “Why Don’t You?” in every issue. The “Why Don’t You?” list was full of ideas that Vreeland had about how you should approach your closet, your dresser, your very attitude toward life, vis a vis fashion and home decor. The “Why Don’t You” ideas are frequently absurd and it’s kind of hard to tell if Diana was putting these suggestions out in an ironic way or if she was entirely serious about every last one. (See: ermine bathrobe.)

Tonight, a few of my favorite “Why Don’t You” ideas, taken from a short biography called Diana Vreeland: Bazaar Years, by John Esten. I take this book down when I need some air.

Why Don’t You…

turn your old ermine coat into a bathrobe?

wear loose velvet gloves in wonderful colors — the right hand in violet velvet, the left in burgundy? These gloves at the theatre emerging from a beautiful fur cape would be very effective.

waft a big bouquet about like a fairy wand?

wear fruit hats? (currants? cherries?)

use Battersea enamel saltcellers as ashtrays?

have boxes copied after Russian Easter eggs in dull enamel and jewels to keep on your afterdinner coffee tray for saccharine for all those who do not take sugar?

use a gigantic shell instead of a bucket to ice your champagne?

*Readers of Quilty magazine may recognize that I put a “Why Don’t You” list in early issues of the magazine.

 

A Writing Prompt for Both of Us.

posted in: Art, Tips, Word Nerd 0
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia
Mary Pickford, 1918. Photo: Wikipedia

I’ve been asked, “How do you come up with something to write every day?”

There are two parts to the answer. The first is that I want to be a decent writer and the only way to get decent at something is to practice. It’s true for a violinist. It’s true for a bridge player. I’ll never be a great writer, and I know that. Earnest Hemingway was a great writer. Virginia Woolf was a great writer. Both of those writers committed suicide, though, so maybe I don’t want to be a great writer.

“Now, now, Mary. Plenty of great writers did not commit suicide.” I’ll say yes, that’s true, and why are you speaking to me like a governess? The point is that even though I’ll never be great, I can be better than I was last year, hopefully. That’s the goal.

The second part of the answer is that I’m a naturally observant person and things that I see frequently make me intensely sad, excited, or confused. Frequently I see comedy, or at least what I perceive as comedic. I find those things worth examining more closely, even if they are otherwise insignificant things and they usually are. Writing stuff down is my preferred method of more closely examining things. I’m a terrible oil painter.

I suppose there’s a third reason: I like writing PaperGirl so much that if I miss a day, I’m grumpy. There was a spell this past holiday season when I was really lax and it was uncomfortable, like having a poke-y tag on my shirt. So sometimes I just plain make myself write about something because I don’t sleep as well if I don’t.

This morning was strange. I drew a blank. My aborted or curtailed travel plans were off the table. I didn’t want to write about my body. I couldn’t think of something funny that happened to me. I did see a shooting star the other night but I didn’t feel like being woo-woo. So I did something I’ve never done, which was to google, “non-fiction writing prompts.” It turned out to be a very good idea, because none of the prompts inspired me, but the act of looking up writing prompts was a writing prompt in itself. It also prompted me to create my own prompts. You have my permission to use them.

What is your personal credo?
Closely examine your feelings on olive loaf.
What stops you in your tracks?
How do you feel about adults who take tango lessons? Explain.
What the heck is wrong with you and what are you going to do about it?

 

 

“You Can’t Have Both.”

posted in: Art, Chicago, Day In The Life, Story 1
It was kinda like this place. Image: Wikipedia
It was kinda like this place. Image: Wikipedia

When I was new in Chicago — this is fifteen years ago, now — a friend of mine helped me get a job as a hostess at a downtown restaurant. The restaurant was a citywide chain so popular, Saturday night at the host stand felt straight-up dangerous. Elbows were thrown. Twenty-dollar bills were passed to the maitre-d’ for special treatment (woe betide the tipper if the guy from out of town waiting three hours already spied the exchange.) Wine was sloshed. It was loud. And it was an hour commute on the train from my tiny apartment in the middle of nowhere.

I had learned to eat well in college. I worked as a waitress at a cafe there in Iowa City and got my culinary education — and dating the head chef for most of that time meant I got, you know, tutoring help and stuff. By the time I got to Chicago, I actually knew a little about wine. I could make a pan sauce all by myself. This small-town girl not only knew what sweetbreads were, she would order them if she found them on a menu. Aside from the occupational hazards, being a hostess just felt wrong. I was in a restaurant but not doing what I could do. I knew a restaurant job was what I would have for awhile, but the role and the restaurant had to change.

There was an ad in the Chicago Reader for a waiter at a two-star (Michelin stars, that is) restaurant on Taylor Street. Let’s call it The Fancy Napkin. This place was gorgeous: an upscale French bistro owned by a Moroccan man who looked like a swarthy James Bond. The cafe sat sixty, tops, outfitted in impeccable white linen; the waiters wore impeccable white bistro aprons. Each wine glass was spotless and the lights from the chandeliers glinted off them all. Steaming bowls of boulliabaisse. Crusty baguettes. And if you wanted to spend north of a grand on a bottle of wine, the restaurant would be happy to help you do that.

I applied. There were no female waiters, just three dudes, one of whom had been there over ten years. I had to take a wine test. I had to answer serious menu questions. I forget what the owner asked me, but it would’ve been things like, “What is canard? What is mille-feuille? Pair wine with the caviar plate for me.” I got an hour with the menu and then had a quiz. I did very well on everything and the owner offered me the job. But I had a problem.

The theater company I was a part of was producing our first show. I had a small part in the second act. There was zero money. And I had rehearsals at night. As a hostess at the chain restaurant, I could be in the play: I’d just work the lunch shifts. But not at The Fancy Napkin — there was only dinner six nights a week. I told James Bond I would be thrilled to take the job and then gently broached the little matter of needing Wednesdays and Thursdays off for awhile, then swapping those out for the Friday and Saturday nights I’d need for the play. But not for long! Just four weeks or so? Sir?

This did not go well. After expressing his extreme displeasure over taking so much time to vet me, he told me something I will never forget: “Marie, you can be a poor artist. Or you can make a lot of money at this restaurant. But you can’t do both. Decide now. Do you want to be poor and in a little play? Or do you want to live?” I was speechless. I needed money. But the play. Theater was the reason I came to Chicago. But money. But art. But rent. But love. Oh, no, no, no. I was twenty-two years old.

So you know what I did? I took a walk around the block. Someone had told me once that if you have to make a big decision, take a walk around the block and say to yourself firmly, “By the time I get back to where I started, I will have my decision.” It works. You speed up the decision-making process. You get closer to the end of your loop and you’re still in a quandary and then bam! The solution presents itself. The whole way around the block, walking slowly, I didn’t know what to do. But when I got to the door, I did.

I quit the job.

 

 

Here You Go, Internet: Speaking On Luke’s Art

posted in: Art 0

https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=47&v=5EnjMourqp8

On Saturday at QuiltCon in L.A., I gave my favorite lecture on The Great American Quilt Revival. I rehearsed the talk twice that morning though I’ve given the lecture many times; I’m a Girl Scout at heart and try to always be prepared. Usually, mostly, I am.

At rehearsal, there on my bed, wrapped in my robe, wet hair, stopwatch running on my phone, I realized I was finished with the talk with ten minutes to spare, which surprised me; I usually take about an hour with that one. Maybe I was excited and clipping along faster than usual, I don’t know. But there I was with the luxury of extra time. I thought to myself. I chewed my lip. I looked in the mirror. And I decided to use that leftover time to make a statement. As I say in the clip above, everything I think I know is up for revision, except in a case where someone I care about is getting beat up. Then I do know something, which is that I want to help. The road to hell, yeah, but there are times being neutral is as unhelpful as feeding flames.

Most of the kerfuffle about my friend has taken place online, which is not surprising and also disastrous, because no one is accountable. Not being accountable for character assassination seems wrong, but there’s a lot on the Internet that’s wrong (e.g., 9/11 conspiracy theories, etc.)

I’ve been guilty of online snark, but I can say with sincerity I’m cured of it. Last summer, I said something unkind about someone on this blog. It got back to her and it was awful. That day, I knew that can never be something I do. This little impromptu, impassioned speech is indeed an argument and shows ire toward those I disagree with on the issue at hand. The difference is that instead of writing a blog post or responding to comments online, I took a place onstage. You can see my face. There is no avatar. I’m not hiding behind a computer. I’m speaking to you, and you, and you, ready to take it on the nose.

You can disagree with me — I hope some do, for the sake of moving forward with an important conversation — but it seems that to be taken seriously, you must be informed and be willing to identify yourself as a whole person. Otherwise, your content is as good as my backhanded comment this summer, which is to say that it is no good at all.

I’d like to introduce you to my nose. Enjoy.

*Thank you to Jennifer Moore for taping.

 

 

Treasure Island!

posted in: Art, Day In The Life, Tips 0
Relevant cake pops. Photo: Wikipedia
Relevant cake pops. Photo: Wikipedia

I was up in the laundry room this evening and the joint was really hopping. I was continuing my pre-wash odyssey (I’m close) while a couple other people were laundering regular things, like underpants. After a bit, it was down to me and a pretty lady named Catherine who appeared to be in her early fifties or so. We got to chatting about what we do for a living.

Catherine has worked for many years in the children’s department of a bookstore, which means she is my new favorite person. Learning of Catherine’s job, memories of my favorite childhood books came flooding back: The Pokey Little Puppy. The Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day. Anything/everything Pooh. Anything/everything Shel Silverstein. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Phantom Tollbooth. The Secret Garden. Anne of Green Gables. It felt so good to think of those books.

And then Catherine said something that instantly changed my entire winter.

“You know what I’ve been doing recently?” she said, soft-spoken and sweet like she needs to be to fit my children’s-bookstore-lady archetype. “I’ve been listening to audio recordings of children’s classics. It’s really wonderful. Treasure Island. Black Beauty. Little Women.” She smiled at me. “I’d recommend that to anyone, especially you, if you like to listen to books while you make your quilts.”

It would’ve been rude for me to run out of the laundry room at that moment so that I could get back into my living room and load up Treasure Island, Black Beauty, Hatchet, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and other A-listers in the genre. So I didn’t do that. But they’re all cued up — and while I folded three batches of fabric, I began with Treasure Island, which I have never read. I couldn’t wait.

Guess how good Treasure Island is? It was hard to break away to sit down with my computer, to be honest. Catherine and I didn’t exchange info, so unless I see her again she won’t know how much I appreciated our conversation. Maybe I’ll just go into the laundry room around this time next week and just bellow, “Yo-ho-ho and a bottle of rum” until she comes and I can tell her she is very inspiring when she washes socks.

Ode For the Ocean: My Shedd Aquarium Adventure

posted in: Art, Chicago, Day In The Life, Poetry 0
Residents of the deep ocean. Photo: Wikipedia
Residents of the deep ocean. Photo: Wikipedia

There were fish, sharks, fish, strange plants, and 1.5 millions of gallons of water at the aquarium. In response to the Shedd, I’d like to post a poem I worked out this summer. It’s longer than most of my poems, but I hope you will read through it today and when someone asks you, “Did you read any poetry this week?” You can say, “Yes, I did.”


 

Ode for the Ocean

by Mary Fons
© 2015

I’ve never thought it beautiful.

I much prefer a mountain range, which
                         strikes me as more traversable;
The ocean just strikes you with waves.

The “treasures of the sea,” to me,
Are going silver
             (such foolish gold)
Not proof of some grand, courageous adventure,
Just wet and old.

We are to find an endless blue
              (or anything endless) a reflecting pool?
This is madness
           and all madness should frighten you.

For lurking under sunset fire, just beyond the lovers’ sighs
Are beasts with coal black eyes
                          blind with only one own-only mind:
                                                                                                        survive

And longer than you, laughs the whale;
Killer, indeed, and with a tail to crush you,
As you clap and wave and save your photo.

All combers,
Mind the suck down —
                                    that human-sized sucking sound;
So much chum and lunchmeat now,
First for the mighty maw that spied you
                           (what’s red and white and red rolled over?)
Blood becomes you
               ‘till you’re dispersed in that vast, mast-hungry pool
                                                                   adrift on the waves that lulled you
Back when Cabo was not the site of your grisly end;
The fishes catch the tissue last
                                          and any flecks of left eye that’s left —
Are you finally out of the office

Further below, in depths we cannot fathom deep —
                           translucents sleep
Why they wake at all
A question we ne’er allow to ask;
Preferring such questions as:
                         “Shall we take the pink umbrella, dear?”
                         “Is Carol bringing Jake?”

The sea does not care
The sea does not love Carol

But for heaven’s sake!” the swimmers scream,
“Death’s not all the ocean! Think of schools and dolphin,
Think of shells and oyster feasts!”

Please

A grinning manatee emerging from misty black is a heart attack —
You’d mess your pants and your electric fan;

And if walls of undulating weeds or tangerine clowns are cool to you
Fix them in your mind for
                         five minutes down the line these lives, too, are over;

Such is the lifespan of sea color
And what a drag!

The cleverest trick the ocean ever played
Was convincing us of her placidity

There’s chaos in the drink —
A jungle reversed,

                           inverted earth
Primeval monster bedlam,
Time and zero memory locked in loggerheaded war;
What in heaven’s name 
                           are you out there for

 

The sea does not love you

The sea married herself a long, long time ago
                           and she’s kept a tight ship ever since

See how she takes out the garbage

See how she freezes her food
See how she sweeps the floor

See how she claps herself on the back,
                                        see how she races herself at the shore, one more touch,
                                        one more touch, one more touch, one more

She doesn’t love you
She doesn’t even warn you

You: land creature
Get out

 

 

The Art of The Monkey.

posted in: Art 0
Pretty film stars of the black and white era love this stuff.
Pretty film stars of the black and white era love this stuff.

Clearly, I have recently learned how to make art with Pendennis’s head.

Sincerely,
Mary

Announcing Small Wonders Fabric Line from Mary Fons + Springs Creative

posted in: Art, Small Wonders, Work 6
My excitement is the opposite of small!
My excitement is the opposite of small!

For years, I have had a dream for fabric.

I love small-scale prints. Large-scale prints — the splashy pink flowers, the blooming leaves, the giant birds, the wide damasks — are often very beautiful. But when you cut them up into small pieces for patchwork, they can cause trouble. If you take a 2 1/2” square from a print that has a 5” repeat (an awning stripe, say, or a big-boned paisley) the integrity of the print is gone-zo. You get bits of red, other squares are all-white, some have a leaf on them, some do not, etc. You get the picture.

But the small-scale. The darling teensy-weenies. The tossed daisies. Wee doggies. Ditzy prints, shirtings, the perfect polka-dot. These are the fabrics that make my quilts sing, the prints I buy obscene quantities of at fabric stores because frankly, they ain’t so easy to find. Until now, of course.

I’ll tell you more about the process later so this doesn’t get too long. I’ve been working with Springs Creative, a dreamy company in South Carolina, for a couple years on this. That story is one you’ll sink your teeth into. For now, I’d like to share a few of the prints. I could only scan a few of them before leaving for the airport an hour ago.

“Small Wonders” is the umbrella under which many lines will come. The first line is “World Piece.” I designed and curated groups of small-scale prints for the following countries: the Netherlands, South America, France, India, China, and the USA, of course. There’s also a line of 108” backings; if you’re a quilter, that may have made you squeak just now.

The PaperGirl Pledge says that I only ever include one picture per entry. Rules are made to be broken in extreme situations. Today is an extreme situation. And the next few days will be Small Wonders Central on the ol’ PG. If you’re not a quilter, I guarantee you will not be bored. The fabric is only one part of the Small Wonders empire! So much more to tell. Until then, enjoy the fruits of many peoples’ loving labor.

Bunnies. Seriously. A 108'' backing print.
Bunnies. Seriously. A 108” backing print.
The Peruvian horses. Llamas? Who cares! From the South America group.
The Peruvian horses. Llamas? Who cares! From the South America group.
Majong tiles. Wanna play? From the China group.
Majong tiles. Wanna play? From the China group.
I knew you wanted more China right away. Little Rickshaw Dude is here to help.
I knew you wanted more China right away. Little Rickshaw Dude is here to help!
They're in love! In love with their love! From the Netherlands group.
They’re in love! In love with their love! From the Netherlands group.
Ever been to India? Me, neither, but now we can put it in our quilt. From the India line.
Ever been to India? Me, neither, but now we can put it in our quilt. From the India line.
Doesn't this just make you think of a pretty blouse hanging on a line in Provence? From the France group.
Doesn’t this just make you think of a pretty blouse hanging on a line in Provence? From the France group.
The stripe in the USA group. There are stars, too.
The stripe in the USA group. There are stars, too.

That’s it for now, my little sewing mice. Stay tuned and start calling your quilt shops now and say, “Have you ordered in the Mary Fons Small Wonders fabric line? WELL, GET ON IT, MISSY! I got quilts, small projects, garments, and Other Fabric Items to make!”

Quilt Market Countdown: 4 Days

posted in: Art, Quilting, Work 0
This had to go through the censors. They're very strict!
This had to go through the censors. They’re very strict!

What could it mean? You’ll see very soon. I leave for Quilt Market Thursday. The sneak peek “Schoolhouse” sessions and the insane “Sample Spree” both happen Friday. The big, multi-pronged, gorgeous Thing will be revealed Saturday, bright and early, when the Market opens.

It’s getting more and more uncomfortable having to keep the secret now that the launch is so close…. Okay. Forget this. I have to tell. Damn the consequences. Ready?

For the past four years, I’ve been training mice to sew. No, no, that’s not the surprise. Everyone knows I’ve been training mice to sew. The real surprise is that I’ve developed a sewing machine that runs on olive oil. No, that can’t be it: corn oil make a superior fuel. Fine! Enough pulling your leg: I bought Quilt Market. I own it. The whole show. I just woke up one day and was like, “I want to buy a trade convention worth a bazillion dollars after I eat a bit of yogurt.”

Just kidding. We’ll both have to wait just a little longer for the truth.

My Mom Bought a Movie Theater, Part I.

posted in: Art, Family 8
The IOWA Theater in Winterset, IA.
The Iowa Theater, 1951.

My mom bought a movie theater.

She didn’t (weirdly) buy some Cinemark movie theater: she bought the movie theater, the movie theater up on the Winterset town square, the shuttered, empty and badly-in-need-of-repair Iowa Theater. Everyone I grew up with saw movies there (e.g., Little Mermaid, Titanic.) Our parents saw movies and newsreels there (e.g., Klute, How To Live Through The A-Bomb.) Their grandparents went there to see movies (e.g., Steamboat Willie) and to show off their funny hats. The Iowa Theater was built in the 1920s and has been the site of tens of thousands of movie showings, thousands of live performances (back when the stage was in use), and countless adolescent gropings in the balcony. Who knows? The Iowa Theater may be responsible for the existence of a number of human beings. It’s definitely responsible for some cavities: just think of the Mike & Ike’s.

Here’s the scoop.

Earlier this year, the theater closed and went up for sale for the same reasons anything closes and goes up for sale: life changed, people moved, interest waned, money did things, etc. When my mother learned that the theater was looking for a new owner, she inquired. My mother is a mover, shaker, connector, entrepreneur, and a do-er; she is also creative, possesses a designer’s eye, she greatly values education and the arts, and she believes strongly in mixing Junior Mints into your buttered popcorn during the previews so they get nice and melty by the time the feature starts. Mom is only semi-retired and she is heavily involved in Quilts of Valor, the creation of an Iowa Quilt Museum, and she’s working on a novel. But the movie theater inquiries began to turn into real questions and the real questions turned into offers and offers into contracts and before long, Marianne had a new project and my family got 10,000 times cooler than we ever were when my sisters and I lived there. If any of us ever move back to raise a family in Winterset, our kids might actually be popular. Not that we have baggage about any of that.

The plan is to restore the Iowa. It will be beautiful — but it’s going to take awhile. The property is a wreck; the amount of work is overwhelming. Basically none of the equipment is worth a penny. There’s mold on the floor. We’ve only found one dead mouse, so that’s great. There are rooms upon rooms in the building; no one who ever saw a movie at the Iowa could ever guess what’s in there. There’s a third balcony and dressing rooms in the back; there’s a full pulley system for the stage curtain, sockets for footlights, old film canister storage cabinets — the wonders go on and on.

PaperGirl will be following this story as it unfolds. My rules state that I will only ever include one picture per post, but all the pictures I take of the Iowa Theater restoration process will be posted on my Instagram page; many are posted already and this is the page for that. The theater will show movies, it will be a place for cultural events — plans for the space will follow in another post and those plans will make you clap your hands in delight.

One day you get up and you have the same thing for lunch. One day you get up and your mom tells you your family now owns a 100-year-old movie theater. So get up!

Not Enough Pictures In the Day.

posted in: Art, Day In The Life 0
Lady in White, 2015. Navy Yard Plaza, Washington, DC. Photo: Me
Lady in White, 2015. Navy Yard Plaza, Washington, DC. Photo: Me

My friend takes a lot of pictures. No, like, really a lot.

He’s a tourist, so that explains some of it. But he’s also a foreign tourist, which means there are even more photos taken every time we walk out the door. I know from personal experience that when in a foreign country, the number of pictures taken grows exponentially. “Hey, look at that bird on the piazza!” Click. “Hey, look at that other bird on the piazza!” Click. “Is that a cool pizza in the window of that bakery or what!” Click.

As a result of being around all this photography, I’m taking more pictures than I usually do. I have a beautiful Leica camera that I’ve taken with me on some of the day trips, but most of the time I just use my phone’s camera like everyone else. I’m reminded how enjoyable it is to take pictures. It’s like a treasure hunt. I love to find alternative perspectives and unexpected frames. I like seeing things that we might miss and giving them the spotlight. The photo above is from a series (fancy!) that I took while sitting on the low perimeter of the big fountain in the Navy Yard Plaza the other day. I have two dozen pictures like this, all of different people who passed smack in the middle of my view. No heads, just bodies. It’s incredible, the diversity I captured. East Indian, black, white, short, large, two people holding hands, a child, a shopping bag, a disabled person, etc. It was so fun, so interesting to me.

But I can’t take up photography in any serious way. Not now. I’ve got room for one go-to for life interp and it’s writing. I can’t process anything without writing it down and though it’s just chicken scratches that result in me being only dimly aware of what I experience, I can’t leave it for pictures. A picture tells a thousand words so I’d save time, but I like a thousand words. I like two thousand words twice as much.

It must be really fun to be subsidized by a rich uncle (he could be dead or alive, doesn’t matter.) You could interpret life all day long in using any number of mediums: you could look at pictures and write words and compose music all examining what life means while you take a bath in gold coins.

Summer Challenge: Watch Citizen Kane

posted in: Art, Story 0
Little known fact: Orson Welles came thisclose to calling it "Citizen Kale." Last minute change.
Little known fact: Orson Welles came thisclose to calling it “Citizen Kale.” Last minute change.

On my honor, I woke myself up the other morning saying, “dogwood.”

I’m not kidding. It’s super weird. I woke up as I said, “dogwood” — and I was whispering it.  I guess I was dreaming about a flowering dogwood tree and needed to tell someone? There are worse things to say out loud in one’s sleep. And dreaming about a dogwood tree is sorta sweet, I guess. I take a medication that from time to time gives me horrific, paralyzing nightmares (panic, gas chambers, blood, fury, etc., etc.) so even though I spooked myself, conditions were fair.

Whispering a two-syllable word that makes zero sense reminded me of Citizen Kane, of course, with the whole “Rosebud” thing. Citizen Kane is the movie that is perfect because it is on every Major List of Important Films as being always, always No. 1. Which makes it all the harder to say what I’m about to say:

I’ve never seen Citizen Kane.

It’s horrible. It’s so horrible I’d like to change the subject but it’s too late. There’s no excuse for this non-seeing of Citizen Kane. The “Rosebud” thing is all I know about Citizen Kane. The world’s most perfect film and I reduce it to a word and a reference so embedded in culture it’s not even a spoiler alert to tell you it’s the name of the guy’s sled! Right? Am I right? Rosebud? The sled? All right, I guess I know two things about Citizen Kane. If you didn’t know Rosebud was the name of his sled, I have zero remorse about spoiling that for you. You haven’t seen it either! What’s wrong with you?

My summer challenge, therefore, is to watch Citizen Kane. That’s it. That’s the whole challenge. Before the summer is out. My D.C. friends — I’m looking at you, modern quilt guild — there may be a Citizen Kane viewing party in my apartment. If I can get dogwood flowers, they will be in a vase on the table.

I’ll find out what cocktail was most popular in 1941 and make those for us, as well.

I Painted Stripes!

I painted them!
I painted them!

Just look at ’em! Look at those beauties! See ’em? Those straight, tall, proud, baby blue stripes? I painted ’em! That’s right, me! (MARY stabs thumb into chest, flashes huge smile, begins to eat popsicle.)

For weeks now, I’ve been staring at one of the walls in my living room-dining room-great hall and seeing pale blue awning stripes. Just the one. An “accent” wall, I think is what they call it. I just knew pale blue awning stripes would look awesome, but I’d have to hire a painter and I don’t like hiring painters. But I couldn’t possibly paint the stripes myself. They’d have to be perfectly, perfectly straight and not blubby around the edges, especially if they only kinda worked in the room. The only thing worse than being a total decorating misfire would be a decorating misfire executed badly. I don’t have a great track record with wall-painting as evidenced by every single baseboard in every single apartment I have ever, ever had. For this stripe job, a professional painter would have to be called.

But then my Viking ancestors grabbed my shoulders with their ghostly, Norwegian hands and shook me. “Are you crazy?! Hiring a painter for two-hundred bucks an hour — plus supplies and parking — to paint a single wall in your apartment?! Shame! Fa raeva til jernvarehandel!* You’ll never be a Norse god at this rate.” And they kicked me out the door. The nerve!

You know what I learned today? I learned how to use a level. I learned how to tape up a wall properly  when you want to paint it. (Hint: take your time, don’t rush; it’s like three-quarters of the entire job.) I took great care to actually put down a drop cloth that actually covered everything that could possibly get paint on it. In short, I did the job right. It would be impossible for me to love my stripes more. They’re on the Proudest Accomplishment List right now. I’m now eyeing every wall in my home, daring it to tell me it also wants to be an accent wall of some kind.

I’d love to put up the process photos, but The PaperGirl Pledge means I only put one photo per post. So go to my Facebook page for more pictures. It was really fun and I did it in like four hours!

*Google translate it. Norwegian to English. 

The Wabash Lights Want to Come to Chicago!!!

posted in: Art, Chicago, Family 1
The Wabash Lights, imagined.
The Wabash Lights, imagined.

My brand new brother-in-law is making something wonderful.

Jack Newell (that’s the brother-in-law) and his partner in this project, designer Seth Unger have been working for four years on a public art project. They are very close to making this big, big, BIG idea happen and I’m shaking my head in wonder. Jack is cooler than Paul Newman speaking French while riding a motorcycle up to a valet guy at the backdoor entrance to a Rolling Stone (circa 1972) concert. Something like that. I recently spoke to Jack about The Wabash Lights.

Let’s talk about Wabash Avenue. What’s it like?

It embodies Chicago. It’s gritty, hardworking, overlooked, sometimes avoided, but crucial. It’s not touristy Michigan Ave or State St. It’s a place in a very segregated city where you find people from all over converging. Students from one of the seven colleges that touch Wabash, restaurants, bars, hot dog stands, jewelers, hotels and residences. If you were to walk down Wabash, you would find it dark, dreary and loud. We want to make it less dark.

I love Wabash Avenue because the el tracks run over the top. You get to walk around underneath — but I love the idea of transforming it. So give it to me: what’s The Wabash Lights?

The Wabash Lights is an interactive light installation on the underside of the elevated train tracks on Wabash Avenue in the heart of Chicago’s Loop. Designed by the public, this first of its kind piece of public art will give visitors to The Wabash Lights’ website and future app the ability to log in and design the lights, making it entirely interactive.

That is so great. It’ll be great for the street, obviously, but also civic pride and local business. And tourism! This wouldn’t be that far from The Bean. Wow. You’ve traveled all over the world with my sister Rebecca. Thanks for keeping her safe, by the way. You’ve seen a lot of public art in all these places. Talk to me about public art for a second.

There’s two types of public art, broadly speaking; temporary and permanent. Each of these can evoke a different experience. Sometimes the beauty of a piece of public art is the ephemeral nature of it.* The permanent pieces of public art need to do something different — they never change, but you do. Each time you interact with them your experience might be different. It can be an interesting experience in reflection.

Jack, I’m sorry. I have to ask. You say in the video that you’ve been getting permits and city clearance for four years. Did you have to engage the mob to get this kind of thing done in Chicago?

Funny question and we get questions in this vein quite a bit. We’ve found city government and the agencies we’ve been working with to be full of passionate, hard working people who have very difficult jobs. These organizations are most of the time underfunded and overworked. People usually only know of the CTA or CDOT when there’s something broken; they’re perceived one way, but our experience has been the opposite. They get what we’re trying to do and have been incredibly supportive and honest throughout the whole process. 

Do you ever wake up in the morning and go, “When did I become an adult who does huge, ambitious, city-changing projects?”

You either do stuff or you don’t. You are defined by the stuff you do and by the stuff you don’t do. I want to be defined by having done this.

You’re so close to funding the huge, ginormous first step for the Lights. The videos about it are amazing. There are four days left in the Kickstarter campaign. What’s the website?

The main website is right here; the Kickstarter campaign is here.

Will you engrave my name on one of the lights? Don’t tell me you can’t do it just because the thing is made of thin glass with gas inside it! If you can dream it, you can do it, right, Jack? 

No! 

The point of this, and one of the reasons we wanted to get the public on board before corporations (and in our corporate partners we will be looking for folks who agree with this) is that we want to maintain the artistic integrity of The Wabash Lights. The Wabash Lights is an art installation. It’s not a way finding installation or a commercial digital billboard. It’s a piece of art that is created by the public. 

Fine. Thanks, Jack. I’m so glad you’re my brother-in-law.

*Google “Pink Balls in Montreal” or anything by Christo.
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