Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Loomatics, Chapter 4, "Thwarting Traffic."

Floyd took out his phone to pull up the internet. I wondered if my GPS would help. About that moment, I realized I saw 'Free WiFi' posted on the door of McDonalds. I also recalled, that in a flash of brilliant foresight, that I had brought my laptop along with me.

"Hey, Mc D's has WiFi. I bet I could pull up the 'net on my laptop, we can get to Google Maps, and see if there's an alternate route. At the very least, we can see if we need an alternate route. Maybe if you get close enough to the building, I can get a signal." I said.

Floyd crept the van closer and closer to the building, but to no avail. "Looks like we'll have to go in," I said on a sigh. We found a table, pulled up the laptop, and after some fidgeting around with the computer, figured out how to log on. As usual, I was making it harder than necessary. I Googled Ohio Turnpike, discovered that they were still reporting a delay where we noticed the parking lot of cars. Floyd Google Mapped the location, and we noticed a road running parallel to the Turnpike.

"I think we can take this route, maybe put Tom Tom on just to be safe, and then by-pass this mess. They might be finished by then. I mean, the construction crew might be done by 3pm, I don't know..."

"Yeah," I said, "But they'd still have to pack up, and I bet there will still be backlash from the cars. I mean, it was backed up for miles," I said.

Having decided on a course of action, we piled back into the van, and headed back towards home. Success was ours that day, as we detoured ourselves through sleepy back Ohio roads, past farms and small towns, congratulating ourselves on our cleverness. We pulled back up onto the highway, and gradually made our way back to the border of Ohio and Pennsylvania. We passed a farm, and entertained ourselves with thoughts of sheep rustling, and how we'd explain to others why we had a couple of animals baaing and bleating strapped to our roof.

"They're uh, dogs. Big fluffy dogs. Big fluffy poodles. We trained them to make that noise. Much less annoying than barking," we said, imagining. Maybe it was the fatigue, but we thought ourselves comedians with this routine, and continued the dialogue as the gap between there and here closed in on itself.

Eventually, we stopped at our evening destination, a little hole in the wall motel where we planned to get a little rest before completing the trip back home. It lie just over the boundary that marks one state from the next. Its less than stellar accommodations were just another part of the adventure, I reminded myself, and the price is right. Bonus points for the lovely restaurant next door. Floyd and I both ordered the Friday night special, the "Black and Blue," a blackened spice rubbed filet with blue cheese crumble. Mmm.

We meandered back to our room, and settled in for the evening. I checked e-mail, read Facebook, surfed the 'net, and then settled in with my kindle book on my iPod before drifting off into dreamland. Like a projector abruptly unplugged, the lovely images floating through my mind were cut off by the loud noise of partiers reveling in their drunkenness.

"Hey! Hey Stan! DUDE! LOOK UP HERE!" I heard one person shout. The laughter and giggling, squealing and shrieking continued for about another hour or so. They just need to get a little more roasted and pass out, I thought to myself. When that happened, I knew I could slip back into blissful slumber. At least I hoped.

Next week. The Loomatics, Chapter 5. "Final Destination."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Loomatics, Chapter 3, "Two crazy people, Two looms, One mini-van"

We pulled into Bowling Green State University and followed the map to the Fine Arts Building. I took out my cell phone, called my contact person, who gave us further directions to the pick-up location. Two gentlemen wheeled out both looms on dollies, while Floyd and I took everything out of the van. Checking over the looms, I ensured everything was there, and in decent shape.

We began to disassemble the loose parts, and setting them aside. Floyd worked his packing magic, and managed to cram two looms, a bench, shuttles, cones of yarn, plus our box of food, our water, and our overnight back packs into my minivan.

I signed the paperwork to indicate I had, indeed, collected two weaving looms, waved good-bye to the fellows who helped load the van, climbed aboard, and we took off in search of a gas station and a bathroom. We noticed a McDonalds across the way, and decided it would be a good place to stop, especially since there happened to be a gas station right next to it. On our way back to the van, we begin discussing the completely stopped traffic on the Turnpike.

"I really don't want to sit in that," Floyd said.
"Me either. Maybe we can find another way around it," I suggested.

Coming up...The Loomatics, Chapter 4. "Thwarting traffic."

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Loomatics, Chapter 2. "On the Road again..."

Driving to distant locations has become a bit of a habit of mine. The first loom was rather local, Quakertown. The next time, Floyd, my sister, Sara, and I drove to New York for another loom. Now, we were making plans to drive to Ohio. Having measured my van, we decided we didn't need to borrow a trailer. I packed a box with snacks, grabbed a couple of water bottles, and two gallons of water. Floyd took the seats out of my van, hooked up a turtle to the roof, and we were ready to go.

Unfortunately, four in the morning comes way too early. Equally unfortunate, not a lot in my sleeping little town is open, including the convenience stores. Our adventure began with the hunt for a cup of coffee, decent or otherwise. It really didn't matter. We needed to power up with some caffeine before we embarked on our journey. Thankfully, the search wasn't too long. After trying two different gas stations, we hit paydirt with the third. Pandora loaded up on my phone and plugged into the system, coffee cups in the cup holders, we hit the road.

The trip was rather uneventful. We drove while the sun peaked over the horizon, watched as it rose to full height, while trees, and towns slid past from mile to mile. Stopping for bathroom breaks only, we consumed breakfast and lunch on the road, chatted about everything and nothing, and counted down the hours til our destination.We did make one important discovery, however. There is a sore lack of service plazas between the end of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and the start of the Ohio one. Our bladders near bursting, and the van beeping and begging for gas, the mile markers on the side of the road gained significance with each one we passed. While the lack of gas stations and bathrooms alarmed us, it wasn't enough of a deterrent from a photo opportunity.
Like pilgrims reaching their Mecca, we rejoiced when we pulled into the first Service station knowing the crisis was averted. It was with great relief we emptied our system of liquid buildup, and filled up on gas. Tanking ourselves with drinks and snacks, we pulled back out onto the highway, cruising to the sweet sounds of Motown floating through the van's stereo speakers. While driving the turnpike, we noticed the other side had been magically transformed from highway to parking lot.

"Oh boy," Floyd said. "We're going to have to see if we can find another route. I really don't want to be sitting in that when we head back."
"Yeah," I said in agreement.

Stay tuned for next week's installment: Loomatics, Chapter 3 "Two crazy people, Two Looms, One Mini-Van."

Monday, June 7, 2010

Diary of a reluctant art gallery owner, Chapter 3

Why reluctant?

Do you ever get hair-brained ideas? (What’s the origin of that idiom, 'hair-brained' anyway?) I get crazy notions all the time. If you love me, you smile indulgently and sing praises for my visionary mind and entrepreneurial spirit, perhaps while secretly thinking I'm nuts. Want to know the truth? I think those of us who are wired like that just don’t get scared as early as the rest of you. I’m like the kid who climbs the tree too high and then realizes, “Oh my, I could die if I fall down.” Too late now Sherlock, you’re 100 feet up and out on a branch that’s swinging. Now, looking down, the adrenaline starts pumping through the system so you can accomplish the unfathomable but completely necessary, things that you ordinarily would never dream you could do. The need to survive is a strong motivator, yes?

It sounds riskier than it is. Na├»ve? Oh, yes to some degrees. Guilty. However I would be untruthful if I said I didn’t carefully consider and calculate how to successfully climb that tree. It’s just that I sometimes find myself surprised and terrified by where my actions have placed me. Maybe a better way to view it is, I’m ok while I’m climbing, but every now and again I look down, see where I am, see the risk of falling and then I’m terrified.

So back to ‘reluctant’. Go back in time about five years or so. I saw this lovely little gallery in Philadelphia while visiting an exhibit in which Melanie was included. It was basically a little row sort of like some things looming (do you see where this is heading?) and on the ride home I said to the ever loving and indulgent spouse, “We could do that you know.” Maybe he’s indulgent or he's just as slightly mad as me, but he agreed we could and that’s as far as it goes.

Fast forward closer to the present when the spouse and I began cruising Reading on Sunday afternoons after church. First it was him trying to convince me to live downtown (which we now actually do) and then it was both of us remembering that remark five years earlier about the row in Philly and thinking, “If we could find just the right property near Goggleworks, we could rent to other artists and Melanie could move her equipment out of her home. It would be a good investment for us and for Reading."

As usual, one thing has led to another and to another. I never meant for the gallery to weigh so prominently in the picture. While I was an avid proponent of owning and renting some commercial space, I initially saw the wonderful community being integral with the vision, and the gallery holding moderate importance. I resisted references to us being a gallery for sometime but indeed we have become that and more. I never envisioned it becoming so central to who and what we are. However, I still prefer the term "community" better because that is what we are trying to build: a community for the artist, the hobbyist and the lovers of art. A community that provides a place where everyone gets to do what they love to do, to have their work appreciated and to make some income from its creation.

Reluctant? Not so much anymore…. But I’d be lying to say I’m not still looking down from that branch from time to time with my head spinning and my tummy rolling. It’s not good to look down. I’m going to try to keep looking up and out.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Loomatics, Chapter 1...

Some women hunt for the perfect outfit complete with matching shoes. They scour the sale fliers, the Sunday paper inserts, receive the promotional emails, use their department store credit cards to take off that additional ten percent, all in the name of a great bargain. Me? Forget the clothes, I'm always on the hunt for a loom at a good price. So much so, sometimes I forget to notice where exactly, the loom is located.

About a month ago eBay informed me that my favorite brand of loom was available for bidding. Often, I watch the bidding on the looms that go up for sale, but I rarely, if ever, bid on one. Most of my used looms have been found through other online means, much less stressful means. When I saw three of the same looms up for auction at the same time, however, I "kind-of" lost my mind. I bid on all three of them. Then I noticed their location: Bowling Green, Ohio. I Googled Bowling Green, Ohio and discovered it was eight hours from Reading.


I hope I win. I hope I lose one of them. What if I win all three? What if I only win one? I have to get at least two to make this worthwhile. I don't know if I can justify an eight-hour drive to Ohio for one loom. ACK! This internal dialogue continued for a full hour, as each auction was staggered by about fifteen minutes or so.

Winning on eBay is so bittersweet.

My first reaction is always "YES!" followed by a sick feeling in the stomach. Ugh. Pulse racing, I continued to watch the second and third auction, minutes ticking down, seconds, re-upping my highest amount. I had the fever, and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to stop myself. I decided my top bid amount, berated myself for not putting that in from the first, and kept watching. I lost the second loom. Flipping to the third auction, my adrenalin rush crashed, as I lost that auction as well, all within a couple of dollars too.

Great. Now I'm traveling to Ohio for one loom, I thought. Undaunted, I decided to contact the seller, Bowling Green State University, to see if they had other looms that would be coming up on eBay. The reply was positive, very positive. They were willing to sell me another, exact same loom, directly. Sadly, they were closing their Fiber Arts program down, and selling off all of the equipment. After weeks of back and forth emails, everything was set. I had my second loom. Now we just had to make the drive.

Read more next week... "On the road again...I can't wait to get on the road again..."