a brief history of
I am not, by training, a proper historian, but I will play the part in the following discourse. I suppose I have been well prepared for the role, yet, it's not easy to tell the truth about one's self or even one's spouse. It's not easy to know the truth. Some of what has been written or said about us is falsehood and some hyperbole and some is verifiable fact, and it can be difficult to distinguish among them. One's modern-age biography serves the same purpose to those who chronicle it as a mannequin does to a clothing designer; it provides a frame upon which the individual drapes both him or herself and the market place. The goal is not accuracy so much as an eye-catching appearance.
This is a tale that most popular historians would believe and one which academic historians will suspect, and the latter, claiming there is little evidence and some parts cannot be proved beyond doubt, are probably right. But I have decided to tell it anyhow, for two reasons. First, the characters, at least, are real. Secondly, there are fictions that make up for the inaccuracy of their details by the truth of their general impressions; they are like novels whose inventiveness renders an era as effectively, in its own way, as do the diaries and data and journals of the period.
As I have been given the task of writing down Miss Diana's and I's life history - with the orders not to go off on some writing rampage as I am known to do - I will do as I have always done with any chore set before me: I simply follow the admirable advice of the King of Hearts in Alice In Wonderland, "Begin at the beginning, and go on until you come to the end: then stop."
It was late in my parents' marital experiment, I was conceived. My progenitors, being in their late thirties by this time and childless - prior to the before mentioned conception, I really doubt if the thought of me ever entered their minds - I do not know, even to this day if either of them really wanted kids - that being said, I was born the following year.
My childhood was normal I suppose. My father was a designer, of the electrical sort. My mother was a lovely woman who loved desserts. The hour of the day did not matter, nor the day of the week, nor season of the year. Weather, alignment of the planets, larger issues in the world around her such as war and peace, poverty and plenty - my mother would see to it that my father and I had a good helping of sugar charged edibles at the end our evening meal. "To," as she would so aptly put it, "get the taste out of your mouth." By, "the taste," she meant the remaining bouquet of what may have been a select grain-fed Texas rib-eye, a veal piccata, a delicate spinach salad followed by a hearty burgundy, a light chablis or whatever our petite family had just ingested. The fluffy sugar concoctions my mother baked, fried, whipped or blended would relieve any harmful lingering savor we may have just endured. I loved my mother.
My first remembrance of my father's true self came in my fifteenth year. I was, at the time playing in a rock band and needed what I felt was some snappy garb to wear on stage. Watching TV and films early in my artistic pursuits, I quickly realized the need for such raiment - it wasn't that I wanted to be known as someone with a flawless fashion sense; I wanted to be known as a babe magnet. (I think it was Colonel Chriswell Langhorne who said, "Etiquette is for people who have no breeding; fashion is for those who have no taste.") Anyway, being without the financial means to purchase such penetrating items, I wandered into my father's study one evening hoping for monetary aid, making sure I held what I hoped would be perceived as a dispirited countenance. My father, being the kindhearted sort I came to know him as, asked, "What's troubling you son?" With an appropriate muffled voice I related my apparel situation; always managing to keep my face turned to the floor, my arms hanging limp at my side, speaking in a tone which he would hopefully regard as one which was trying its hardest to hold back a heavy-hearted tear. To which my father conveyed this story:
"I," he began, "was about your age when I remember feeling bad because I didn't have enough money to buy a pair of new shoes." At this point my father paused looking forewarn into the vast invisible universe which lay somewhere past the books in his study. Turning back to me, "Then," he continued, "I walked outside and met a man who had no style." That was my father in a nutshell. I so loved him.
My father died when I was a teenager. My mother just five years ago. Now, me being an only child, my family is Miss Diana.
Miss Diana and I met at a music store and married three weeks later. An image momentarily frozen in time pictures me beaming, a judge staring wide-eyed into space and Miss Diana looking at me with a little bit of concern. That was a few years ago (two spent in europe), roughly 300 original songs, at least 5000 club dates, in the region of 400 Pierian Springs artwork and somewhere around 3062 mornings of Miss Diana sitting across a breakfast table watching me eat corn flakes, smoke a hand-rolled cigarette and smile at her pretty face - there's usually a bead of milk dripping down my chin.
When we first met she said she thought, "Either he's in want of good sense or a genius." She is fond of quoting Syrus, Maxims when describing me, "Non pote non sapere qui se stultum intellgit" (A man must have some wit to know he is a fool). I do love her.
There was always, even in our beginning, something unexplained with Miss Diana and I. There was love. And that love is not, "Do you love me?" But rather "Do you see the same truth?" It is when two persons discover one another, when, whether with immense difficulties and semi-articulate fumbling or with what would seem to anyone amazing and elliptical speed, they share their vision - it is then that devotion is born. And instantly they stand together in an immense solitude.
God knows, not I, whether I had ever tasted love before I met Miss Diana. Perhaps I had only imagined the tasting. Those like myself whose imagination far exceeds their obedience are subject to a just penalty; we easily imagine conditions far higher than any we have really reached. If we describe what we have imagined we may make others, and make ourselves, believe that we have really experienced our musing. Before I met Miss Diana, I was much like a man who looked in a mirror and found no face there, or the man in a dream who stretches out his hand to visible objects and gets no sensation of touch. To know that one is dreaming is to be no longer perfectly asleep. Which is what I was before Miss Diana. But for the news of the fully waking world you must go to my betters.
Please forgive my ramblings. I have become much too serious. We must not partake of a feast solemnly. "God, who made good laughter" forbid. It is one of the difficult and delightful subtleties of life that we must deeply acknowledge certain things to be serious and yet retain the power and will to treat them often as lightly as a game. But there will be a time for saying more about this. For the moment I will quote Dunbar's beautifully balanced advice:
"Man, please thy Maker, and be merry,
and give not this world a cherry ."
Miss Diana was born on the periphery of Memphis, Tennessee. She likes to begin the tale of her origin with the phraseology, "I was born a poor black child in the Delta." This statement, although true, is more of a paradigm or archetype of the real; Miss Diana's maiden name was Black and her life did not have its genesis in the most moneyed parentage in the South. But, other than her forbearer's appellation she is and was as white as her hair has now become - thanks to L´ORÉL®.
Miss Diana's parents divorced in her early spring and as a result of their parting she entered what she refers to as her "parallel journey with Dante;" progressing from state to state, godparent to godparent, family friend to . . . etc. With all that Miss Diana has discovered the precise rules for being a welcomed houseguest. And she has made her bantam findings a subdivision of our own household's guide to living ever since.
The first rule, she maintains, is to make your guest feel comfortable. One is most comfortable in one's own room, which is back where one came from. If you cannot convince your guest to go back there, try to convince them to go to a hotel. There they'll be comfortable, not cramped, and with their own cable television preferences. They will also not feel guilty for intruding on your privacy. There's really no other rule. Just that one.
Miss Diana lived most of her young life invariably with her mother or family friends and saw her father only when the occasion presented itself. Her parents were very different individuals. Her mother was a proper woman who saw the need for the right dress for the right occasion. Her father saw the need to create a persona for every occupation. At our first meeting he told me to, "Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes."
Miss Diana's mother wanted her to have proprieties, etiquette. To know how to act. How to behave oneself. I, myself, still question her supposition because before any of us can know how to act or behave we first must know who we are. And very few people know who they are because most of us aren't anybody at all.
You, for instance, are probably no one in particular. I mean you've wasted your time - up to this point - reading this unessential tripe I've written hoping, I suppose, to find some gratifying tails to tell your sterile friends about two people who you perceive as having a life filled with voluminous obsessions and numerous accomplishments your life apparently does not. Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Miss Diana and I are just as pedestrian and earthbound in real life as you most likely are. This is because all of us are raised by dull families. Boring people with humdrum backgrounds who are bound to raise very ordinary kids. A compelling persona is inherited. Our behavior is determined by our ancestors.
That, I realize is a grim statement and, fortunately, a false one. In truth, it is no more necessary to go through life with the family you were born with than it is to wear diapers to your graduation ball. You can modify your family to suite your needs and alter all your relatives so that you inherited a fascinating personality from them. You can do this by the simple expedient of lying. I of course have not done this. But I'm different.
Anyway, Miss Diana's mother wanted her daughter to have a profession she could fall back on. I suggested "trapeze artistry" - given their family's habit of using a catcher's net. To which her mother smiled in my direction, avoiding eye contact. "No." She declared. "Getting a good job is what's important. And skills are an important factor in obtaining a good job. If you want a good job, get a good education." To which I hinted that maybe "good education" wasn't the best grammar. To which she indicated that maybe I should leave the room.
But I do agree with her about education. Education is "good." And the more prestigious the school you can attend to get your "good education", the better equipped you'll be at avoiding any useful skill. A paradox I realize, but all distinguished colleges are valuable only for the amount of spare time you'll have when you're not studying. In your spare time you'll met people who, later on in life will become senators, congressmen, big business tycoons and the like, who will be able to get you out of long jail terms from illicit stock trades and in turn, turn you on to under-the-table, big-money-making stock trades only someone who attended a prestigious school knows exists. And you really never have to study at a prestigious school, because it's so impressive to say, "I flunked out of Harvard." But if you say, "I got straight A's at Idaho State," who cares?
Miss Diana's father, a man of many professions, told her, "Skills aren't as important as a good strategy." Miss Diana relayed this next conversation she had with her father a few years before I met either her or her father: "Ronald Reagan," he told her, "for example, did not have any skills. He couldn't weld, lay brick, or take dictation. As a result he had to look for work someplace where skills were not important, and he became the president of the United States. So avoid learning skills and you'll have a chance to turn out like Ronald Reagan. But go to Dental School, and you'll have spit on your hands the rest of your life."
Miss Diana studied typing (as requested by her mother), and biology, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, music, literature and voice (as requested by herself). In the fullness of time, Miss Diana and her mother did come to a give-and-take kinda compromise - Miss Diana received her BS in psychology (no pun intended). Both of Miss Diana's parents are deceased. She's sorta like both of them. Pragmatic in a nonconformist hippy kinda way.
Miss Diana's singing career began as a child singing in Churches and Youth Groups. But I suppose her real music education originated somewhere around age four during extended visits at her grandparents. Miss Diana would sneak out of bed early in the morning, before her benevolent kindred awoke and watch Black Gospel Singers "Pour their hearts out to God," as she puts it, "through my grandparent's black and white Zenith." You can still hear the sway of that Black Gospel potency in Miss Diana's vocals. Her antithetical harmonic instructional torch was then passed into the hands of a very white choir director of a very large, very white Protestant Church. There Miss Diana was taught the august musings of choral, madrigal and symphony crooning. She sang side by side with many of her heros, who happened to be Metropolitan Opera singers, under the direction of master composers, such as James Ryder and great conductors alike. Rather than stopping here, all of this intense symphonic training spurred her on - adding yet another dimension to her passion. I'm told that she did have a stint as a Suzuki violinist around the age of six. But that lasted only three weeks because her mother convinced her that her asthmatic wheezing was hindering her playing - "Your wheezing," her mother told her, "is in Eb and as everyone knows Suzuki is played in Bb." The lessons ended with the sale of her violin.
Miss Diana supported herself through school singing folk and country like music (which she learned in the Arkansas Ozark mountains from authentic Arkansas Ozark folk and bluegrass players) then in bluesy jazz bands (the latter influenced first came as a benefit of having godparents who weren't afraid to lug under age girls into stinky night clubs to hear legions like Ma Rainey and Buddy Guy perform) - although unlike myself she remained free from Mad Dog 20/20.
My formal schooling consisted of: piano lessons beginning at age five, clarinet and wood winds at age eleven, grade school, high school (I graduated at age sixteen), Memphis College of Art, North Texas State, Southwestern & Dallas Seminaries, Oxford, UK. Realizing the process of testing out of classes early in my educational career, I did so at every available occasion. My school time was cut in half. Majors: printmaking, painting, music & theology; minor: ancient history, English literature. I've also had some private instructions from the painter Rosha and the photographer Ansel Adams. I attended Ansel's last class just before he died. I missed acing my College Entrance A.C.T. or S.A.T (I can't remember which one I actually took) by only a few points - as I remember fifteen hundred or so was the top score and I received fourteen eighty or so. Why were those few points forfeit? Because I stayed up the night before drinking wine and jamming with my buddies - in an enlightened teenage moment, with a guitar and a bottle of 20/20 in my guitar playing sidekick Mike Foster's basement, rock and roll and cherchez la femme took over my life. I haven't been the same since. Although I am free of Mad Dog now.
Miss Diana and I spend most of our free time reading. We're forced to occupy our time by this antiquated means simply because we do not own a television. We do have a Sony flat screen to watch films, but we do not watch television as such. I have learned much about life from reading and very little about anything from watching reruns of Friends or watching CNN. I have learned much about writing from writers. And a great writer, Shel Silverstein, was one of the first people who suggested that I write. He said, "You should write. You're too curious. If you want to be a writer, write." Simple. But sound advice. One of my many teachers told me to, "Read as much as you can. Because reading will make you a better writer." He also told me, "We read to know we're not alone." I like that statement. And I really can't disagree. But, I never really feel alone. Miss Diana and I are together almost twenty-four hours a day. Which we both like. I guess we're somewhat codependent. But in a good way.
Well, maybe I do feel somewhat alone during holidays. Especially Christmas. Christmas is the moment in time we punish ourselves for having spent eleven months claiming to be friends with a pack of useless and nasty people we hardly know. We're then forced to go out and buy each one of them an expensive gift. In return we'll receive a dozen bottles of strawberry flavored Wine Coolers and a pair of Louis Vitton earmuffs. But the worst part of Christmas is dinner with family. It's when we realize how truly mutated and crippled the gene stock is from which we sprang.
Miss Diana and I live some of our days in Nashville now, although we find it ineatable and the rest of our life is spent on the road or in our Refashioned Ice Creame Factory - about an hour and a half outside of Nashville. We write songs and perform them for a living . . . No we don't! We do it for ourselves! Neither of us really gives a hoot if anyone likes what we do as long as we're doing what we like.
Someday, after living to ripe old ages, Miss Diana and I plan to be buried together in an open field of flowers behind our Refashioned Industrial Unit. A ten foot square pink marble grave stone will read: "We're dead now. Everyone who really loved us, take off your pants" . We also plan to have our will spelled out by the card section at the annual Texas/Oklahoma football game:
Here's some (not all) of my miscellaneous employments. I've really never had a job. "Why?" You may be asking. Because I simply never wanted one. I love to work - if one considers what I do as work - but I never wanted a job. The work I've done up to this point in my life has been primarily executed on a per-job-hire-kind-of-a-thing and include print, video, recording and commercial writing plus advertising illustration and fine art projects. Miss Diana has worked with me on most of my projects so I consider her an equal participant. But she's done a lot of radio and TV commercials on her own - BackYard Burger, Cook and Love, La-Z-Boy, a bunch of southern Banks, etc.
My miscellaneous advertising agency work:
Olgvy & Mather, Tracy Locke, GSD&M, Walker & Associates, Sossaman Bateman Advertising, Harding Associates, etc.
My miscellaneous clients:
Texas Monthly, Hewlett-Packard Computers, Houston City, Healthcare International, Time Magazine, McDonald's, Tennessee and Alabama Tourism, Wal-Mart, La-Z-Boy, Baldwin Pianos, Island Records, CBS Records, Dell Computers, Houston Symphony, Austin Convention Center, Fall Creek Vineyards, Inter-Craft Frames, James Avery Jewelers, Kappa Shoes, Motorola Inc., Southwest Airlines, Texas Commerce Bank, Union Planters Bank, Baptist Hospitals, Methodist Hospitals, etc.
My miscellaneous art exhibitions:
Texas: Houston Museum of Fine Art, Dallas Museum of Fine Art, Carson's Art Gallery, Greenhill's Gallery, Reed Stemmel Gallery, Forth Worth Museum of Art, Tiburon Gallery. Tennessee: Memphis Collage of Art, Brooks Museum of Art, Art Village. Georgia: Myrad-Soho Gallery. Arizona: Tiburon Gallery. California: Laguna Gallery of Fine Art, House of Blues, Hollywood. NYC: McEnroe Gallery, Lewin Gallery, Myrad-Soho Gallery. UK: The Gallery of Soho. Scotland: Conservatory of Art, Crage Gallery. France: Bjorklund's, Champagne, Le Prince. Michigan: Studio 139. Universities: Johns Hopkins University, University of Texas Gallery, Middle Tennessee State University, Southern Methodist University, Memphis College of Art.
My miscellaneous artist in residence/instructor:
Southern Methodist University, University of Texas, Conservatory of art, Edinburgh Scotland, one month fill-in (master art program) @ Memphis College of Art, Greenhill's Middle and Upper school, Dallas.
My miscellaneous awards won:
National/Regional Addys, National Graphic Design, National Advertising Federation, National/Regional Television Addys, National Illustration, National Works on Paper.
I guess that's it - so far.