Posts Tagged ‘Son House’

Day Tripp in St. Louis

March 16, 2017

falstaff

A brilliant sun punctuated the 27-degree morning as my family piled into a passenger van and motored into south St. Louis.  The interior of the van was flooded with conversation punctuated by AM talk radio. Surrounded by my father, sister, brother and niece, I nestled into a “Day Tripp” dedicated to exploring St.Louis landmarks we always knew existed but never really “saw”. I also wanted to re-visit some areas where I lived but was too young to remember with full detail. The AM talk radio was eventually replaced with Son House as we entered the neighbohoods of south St. Louis, and the bottleneck blues served as a perfect soundtrack for what we viewed.

stl home

Watson Road @ Hampton Avenue

The first stop was the apartment building where I lived from the age of 16 months to three years.  The two windows at the top right were kitchen windows, and the two left were bedroom ones, where Mom and I would sit on the bed and look down across the street at school children changing buses.

stl home 2

Eventually, we moved downstairs to the back of the same building. The porch and driveway have since been removed.  I was nearly three by this time, and I remember looking down at my father pulling out of the driveway in his white-over-powder blue 1955 Pontiac 2-door hardtop.  To the right of this picture was a car dealership–Hale Motors. He sold Willy’s Jeeps. Behind the dealership was their body shop, and mechanics worked in the garage with the windows open during the summer.  I would walk down to the shop with a story book tucked uinder my arm, sit on top of a dirt pile where they could see me, and wait for them to come out to eat their lunches. They would then read my book to me. In those days, three-year-olds could wander around their yards and neighbors in the city without danger.

fitzs

University City, adjacent to Washington University, is one of my favorite places to haunt. Fitz Rootbeer was a St. Louis tradition when I grew up, and this sign continues to stir memories.

berry statueChuck Berry monument

Lunch today was at Blueberry Hill where Chuck Berry used to perform one Wednesday night a month until 2014. The place boasts the best burger in St. Louis, and we decided to enjoy lunch there and peruse all the memorabilia, including Chuck Berry’s Gibson hollow body guitar.

Iberry hands

Berry used to own and operate The Southern Air restaurant in Wentzville, Missouri.  Back in the 1980’s, I visited the establishment for lunch and saw him in the dining area, smoking a cigarette. I was taken at the sight of his magnificent hands, and am glad to see they’ve since been casted and installed at Blueberry Hill.

fenton home

Fenton, Missouri

Once we returned home, we found Mom feeling better (she didn’t feel healthy enough for the day-long excursion). As we talked of our past and its memories, she expressed a willingness to jump back into my vehicle with me and visit the places I lived from ages three to five. They moved to Fenton, Missouri, west of St. Louis (and only seven miles from where they live now) when I was three, and settled on this street. Their apartment has long since been razed and replaced by the Fieser Nursing Home on the right side of this street.  All the buildings across the street are the same as they were back then. On the nursing home site where our apartment stood was also the Fieser Funeral Home. They had a basement where they allowed Mom to hang laundry during the cold winter months. She was spooked by the old clothes of the deceased that hung all about the walls, and I was spooked by a large red furnace that made an incredibly loud noise when it kicked on. I thought it was something living that was going to eat me.

hr home

High Ridge

Mom and Dad now reside in High Ridge, in the home where I lived since it was brand new in 1961. But before we moved into that home, we would live in four other locations from my ages of three to six. This apartment was our home for a short time, and Mom’s only memory of me was my running all around the back yard pulling a red wagon with a toad loaded in it. Somehow I instinctively knew when the toad would leap out and I would immediately stop, retrieve it, and reload it to continue the fun ride. She also shared that when I got as far away from the apartment as possible I would stand with feet far apart, refusing to move until she would come all the way out there and carry me back to the house for a clean up.  It had something to do with #2.  It took me awhile to outgrow that. I’ll stop the story there.

hs home

We moved to another location in High Ridge shortly afterward. I have chosen not to visit or photograph it this time.  All I will say now is that a mentally deranged woman owned the property and our time there was not good.  My brother was born during our time there, and I was four years old.  We then moved four miles west along Highway 30 to House Springs. The house where we lived is no longer there.  Above, I photographed the rough terrain alongside Byrnes Mill Road where the house stood. I have dozens and dozens of stories to tell of my time there, because I was old enough to retain those memories and sensations. But that will have to come at another time. I feel I have rambled long enough on this one.

Thanks for reading. I’m still absorbing the memories of today’s visit, and more than two typed pages of material Mom and Dad shared with me as I questioned them this evening about those sketchy memories of my life between the time of 16 months and three years.

Close-up of the Saint Ignatius Academy Watercolor

April 22, 2012

Saint Ignatius Academy Fire Escape

Well.  It appears that it’s going to be another late night (my choice).  I took a cat nap around 5:00, and once I rose and stretched my limbs, I knew what I wanted to do–return to the garage studio (where I’ve already spent the day) and pick up the brush again.  This time I poured all my concentration into the fire escape, all the geometry, angles, irregularities of the rusticated exterior behind it, shadows–the works!  And I have loved every minute of it.

My companion this evening has been Son House.  I have his legendary 1941-1942 recordings in chronological sequence on vinyl.  Yesterday when my band played at J. Gilligan’s Pub, I found myself enjoying immensely a Keb’ Mo’ blues tune we hadn’t played in a couple of years–“Keep It Simple.”  I have gotten away from playing acoustic blues on my guitar, and it was so fun to come back to it.  So, Son House is flooding my soul this evening with good things as he hammers on his acoustic.

I still have some art history to finish up for tomorrow, but I’m quite sure that I’ll return to the watercolor (or else read a book!).  I don’t know why, but staring deeply into the facade of this bastion of Jesuit scholarship always makes me want to read theology!  My volumes have been neglected recently.  I have had an itch to re-study some of the theological trends that blistered between the World Wars (that’s where we are in A. P. art history right now).

I believe this will be my last post tonight, even if I do continue working on the watercolor.  The light in this garage has been fine for painting, but it’s giving me fits when I try to photograph this piece for blogging.

Oh well, it’s 10:00, so I’ll say Good Night to you, and thanks always for reading me.  Oooohhhh . . .  I put on Howlin’ Wolf’s London Sessions and he’s now singing “Sittin’ on Top of the World.”  That one always hurts.  Hopefully, I’ll write you tomorrow!

Exploring Edward Hopper with Victorian Architecture

March 15, 2011
 

Victorian cropped

Revisiting Edward Hopper and Victorian Architecture

Spring Break has afforded quality watercolor time, and it is only Tuesday evening.  Daylight Saving Time has given me more quality outdoor light in the afternoon/evening as well.  The garage studio environment has been sublime for painting, reading, journaling and blogging.  I moved my antiquated stereo into the garage and am now enjoying a turntable that I haven’t played in a couple of years. Currently, I’m enjoying a pirated double-LP recording of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Live at the Los Angeles Forum 6-26-1970.  Standing in waiting is a large stack of blues LPs–Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Lonnie Johnson, Brownie McGhee, B. B. King, Son House, John Lee Hooker and Robert Johnson.

The pictures posted above are my attempt to paint a Victorian mansion I have admired for years, situated high atop a hill in Weatherford, Texas, along Highway 180.  A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, I was en route to the Brazos River near Possum Kingdom to do some fly fishing for recently-stocked rainbow trout.  The sun was strong that morning, and as I drove past this mansion, I had to pull over, turn around, return, get out and shoot some photos of it.  Finally I’m getting around to attempting my first watercolor on full-size paper (about 30 x 22″) with nearly 2/3 of the composition being hillside.  I’m flying blind here–don’t have any idea what I’m going to do with all this grass!  However, the mansion is coming along satisfactorily, and if I decide the grass isn’t working out, I can always take this to the paper cutter!  That should relieve some of the pressure I feel.

T. S. Eliot has been my companion for the day.  I’ve been spending plenty of time in “The Waste Land,” and am now reading the Eliot chapter in Howard Gardner’s Creating Minds. I’m fascinated with this poet, and am pleased that I can learn from his creative endeavor, even if he struggled over language the way I do over drawing.  I just finished reading a letter he wrote to his brother, explaining that he chose to write fewer pieces, concentrating on perfection and making each completed piece an “event” rather than being merely “prolific” and publishing pieces everywhere.  My goal in 2010 was to be prolific, as I have averaged less than twenty watercolors per year.  I completed nearly one hundred in 2010.  This year however, with my first ever one-man-show scheduled for September, I am concentrating on fewer and larger compositions, attempting to make every complete painting worthy of framing.  I know that is plenty to expect, but nevertheless, I am trying for quality over productivity this year.

And I’m certainly pushing some boundaries.  One of Edward Hopper’s neighboring artists commented that Hopper planned out each of his oils completely before he even started the composition.  The neighbor thought that was “a terrible way to paint, because you aren’t discovering anything.”  The critic went on to express admiration for Hopper’s watercolors “because in them you seem him experimenting all the time.”  I’m trying to keep this thought before me, and push each new piece I begin in a direction not familiar to me.  I don’t want to settle into any kind of “hack work,” pushing out watercolors for the trade.  So .  . . with this Victorian set high atop a hill, I try to complete my first Victorian in entirety (all my previous works are only partial studies of Victorian buildings, never completed), and I also try to devote some attention to a large plot of cultivated property.  We’ll see how it goes . . .

Thanks for reading.