"There she stood in the doorway;
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself,
"This could be Heaven or this could be Hell"
Then she lit up a candle and she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor,
I thought I heard them say... "
Musical playlist for this piece: The Eagles, "Greatest Hits 1971-75", The Eagles, "Long Road out of Eden", The Eagles "Hotel California", Don Henley "Building the Perfect Beast" and of course, perfect for the story below, his masterpiece "End of the Innocence".
The Story of "Hotel California, and a girl".
Never underestimate the power of song. If you are old enough, you intimately know the immediate emotional and time transcending effect of a song. Most of us can pick at least one song that staples a moment in time to a particular moment in our lives. Maybe it is one's wedding day, a first date, the birth of a son or daughter or a traumatic ending of one's first true love. It has happened to us all. For many, music puts an eternal stamp on a moment.
As best I recall, it was the hottest day in the history of mankind. It was the summer of 1977 and I was 10 years old. My best friend lived across the street and it so happened that the prettiest girl in the whole world was his neighbor. As luck would have it, his sister was this lovely creature's best friend. But, as fate would have it, just like in the movies, this angel would not give me the time of the day. After all, I was just another boy who ran around the neighborhood doing impressive boy things like burning ants with a magnifying glass, jumping over the neighbor's garbage cans with my bike and making cool manly noises with a moist hand in my armpit. As it turned out, I had the same horrible disease that every young boy had when it came to being noticed by the prettiest girl in the neighborhood.
However, that day in the summer of 1977 was different, sort of.
It had to be the hottest day in history, it sure felt that way. It was too hot to do anything but sit in the shade. There was no air conditioning back then, only fans blowing air from room to room. And this particular day, it was even too hot to be inside. The only place that was comfortable that day was on my buddy's front porch. It was concrete and it was in the shade so it was the coolest place to park your ass. The four of us were sitting on the porch, my buddy, his sister and this lovely creature. It was too hot to talk, too hot to move. All we could muster was the rhythmic clicking of the backs of our heels against the concrete porch as we hung our legs off it, dangling above the parched garden below. The only good thing about this day was being 10 years old with nothing better to do than hang out with your best buddy while the sound of 70's rock and roll streamed through the open windows behind us.
Something happened that afternoon, that special something you cannot put a finger on. That something which left the day, the moment, perhaps even that entire summer of 77' burned into my existence. For some reason which I cannot recall, my buddy and his sister went into the house, perhaps for water, who knows. But I clearly remembered being alone on that porch with this lovely being, heels clicking away into the side of the porch. And then as if like magic this song began to play from the radio inside the house, wafting gently through the open windows over the drone of the fans.
"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a shimmering light
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night . . . "
There are those moments in one's life that one plays over and over again in the mind and memory, so many times that the story morphs into something different, something better. We have all done it. That story you have told over and over seems to get better and better each time you share it. Perhaps it is a desire to relive the emotion of the memory, so into the story we interject champagne instead of beer or The Bellagio Hotel instead of the Holiday Inn. We tell the same story over and over and with each embellishment and upgrade the story seems to hold its excitement and once again a morsel of the exciting memory of long ago is triggered. We are once again young, happy, in love, at peace. After a few decades they become those stories like those your grandfather used to tell about walking to school 5 miles in a blinding snowstorm, uphill both ways. The story and memory of that day in the summer of '77 may be the same for me. Whatever exactly happened that summer day, The Eagles song "Hotel California" and the attached memory will always remain a special part of me whether it has legs of truth or has merely morphed into that wonderful memory I can share here. For each of us there are whole summers of our lives that have been lost somewhere in the backs of our minds. It is part of growing older. I now know most of the fascinating myths and mysteries about the song Hotel California and I know every word. These things deepen the story and make me want to tell it again and again. But more importantly, I have a great memory about the summer of '77 because of that song, because of that girl, and because I was a smitten 10 year old boy in the summer of '77 on a hot summer day with nothing better to do. Even though no words were spoken during those 6 minutes and 33 seconds, they were the best 6:33 of the summer of '77 and they are the most clearly remembered. As for that memory, I am grateful. And as for the prettiest girl in the world who tolerated that 10 year old annoying sweaty silly boy, if even for one 6 minute song on that hot summer day, for her too I am grateful because a great memory and a great song have carried long into my life every once in awhile blessing me with 6 minutes of youth. That is one of the great gifts of music, it makes us young again.
There are these moments in one's life that are poignant and outlast all other memories. Quite often they are framed by a song framing a moment.
This painting is for every girl or guy who at 10 years old had a prince or princess living on the other side of the street. For me, this painting is for the girl that lived on my street, the most beautiful girl in the world on that hot August day in the summer of 77'. The girl who gave me that wonderful moment, story and memory for the rest of my life.
"Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the door
I had to find the passage back
To the place I was before
"Relax, " said the night man,
"We are programmed to receive.
You can check-out any time you like,
But you can never leave "
3/11/17 Something strange happened today. I suppose it is a comment on many things in our lives . . . . how can one look at something so many times and yet, in a moment of differing perspective, it can take on such a different light.
Very early today, I had been moving some paintings around looking for a fresh blank canvass behind some older pieces I had completed long ago. I moved this one to the side, came back into the room a hour later, and it was alive, changed. The early morning sun had done some kind of magical streaking across it. It stopped me in my tracks. For a moment, I was thoughtless. What had happened to my work ? It was somehow . . . better, alive. Then it came to me, oh the tricks of light and shadow.
I have learned on this journey into the pigments that light and shadow are just about everything, offering depth, life, meaning, and of course, a story.
Below is a photo of the piece. You can see what I saw, what magic light and shadows did to a finished piece, streaking across, changing it.
Perhaps I never feel like a piece is done for these kinds of reasons, and Gardner said it best, "A painting is never finished - it simply stops in interesting places."
* you can SINGLE click on any of the paintings to resize and Light Box them.