Everything is still biased against the lone artist.

I didn’t say it. Someone who shall remain nameless said that to me, and it started me thinking about The Lone Artist.

I’ve been to New Orleans, Paris, Venice Beach, New York, London, Amsterdam, and other places where The Lone Artist sets about attempting to earn a living or at least approbation from a crowd of strangers walking by.

Paris, France --- A Street artist draws the face of the Mona Lisa on a sidewalk in front of the Louvre to try to earn money. --- Image by © Owen Franken/CORBIS
In Paris, it was the Ecole des Beaux-Arts students drawing Mona Lisa in pastels on the sidewalk, their hats out for coins.


new orleans
In New Orleans, it was a pair of pre-teen boys tap dancing on a street corner, under the watchful eye of their mother, a trumpet player on a corner down the street, and an artist setting up shop in the middle of the St. Louis Cathedral courtyard, right under Jackson’s shadow.


In Amsterdam, it was the scantily-clad prostitutes in the plate-glass windows along the canal. (Okay, as “artist” and “lone,” that one’s questionable, but it’s vivid, ain’t it?)


In London, it was the—what is this guy? Is this classified as pantomime? Definitely performance art. (Shut up. I like mimes.)


In New York, it was the oddball music played by street musicians.


In Venice Beach, it was a dude who charged $5 to create origami magic with one strand from one palm frond. I knew it was a living sculpture that would die in an hour, but I bought it anyway because it was so different and . . . unexpected. I admired that he could do it in seconds right in front of my eyes, I admired the work itself, and I kept it for the hour it lasted, then threw it away. That $5 was very well spent.

In a lot of ways, I like being a lone artist. When I go to authors’ websites and read about the difficulties they have working with a publisher, I’m glad. When I go to readers’ websites and read about how sad they are when a favorite author gets cut off mid-series, I’m glad. When I sit down to write and realize that I can do anything I want without having to account to a sales staff, I’m glad. When I know that the readership I’m gathering one by one, to whom I am ever so grateful, now has enough faith in me to go where I take them, I’m glad.

There is one respect I really don’t like it. I don’t like the near absence of distribution. But . . . that’s about the only way I can think of that I don’t like it.  After all, a street performer can only play to the audience that walks by.

It’s not easy. Some days it’s damned depressing. I count on the readers to talk to me and remind me that there is something of worth in what I do, and believe me, I remember it. I count up those emails and screen shots and snippets of conversation here and there, and I keep them, put them in my hard drive bank like coins in my hat.

So when bedtime comes (if it comes) and I fall in bed exhausted from everything I have to do to be a lone artist, it’s the good kind of exhaustion.

Howard Roark laughed.

The internet before Al Gore

Yeah, the joke’s tired. Sue me.

Anyway, 3-almost-4-year-old XY Tax Deduction and I went to Hy-Vee for lunch to kill some time. I love Hy-Vee’s salad bar (best grilled chicken EVER!) and XY TD loves their pizza. And canteloupe. On the same plate.

It has been my observation that on weekday mornings at Hy-Vee, there is a large number of post-retirement gentlemen sitting around, eating their farmer’s breakfasts and gossiping shooting the breeze, cussing and discussing. They seem to be mostly together, but because of tables and space, they self-select their table companions.

It has been my observation that on weekends when we go see my in-laws in southern Missouri, and we go to the local cafe for breakfast, there is a gathering of four to 10 post-retirement gentlemen sitting around, eating their farmer’s breakfasts and gossiping shooting the breeze, cussing and discussing.

It has been my observation in re-reading the Little House books for the purpose of writing Stay, Pa Ingalls, in the winter, would head out of the house and across the street to the grocery where he would watch off-season farmers play checkers and, I assume, gossip shoot the breeze, cuss and discuss.

Women have these little conclaves, too, but other than in a church-and-crafts context, I can’t think of anything comparable to men-and-their-morning-cafe-routine.

Every time I witness this, I think, “This is the internet before there was the internet.” And it still seems to be going strong. I love it. I think it’s profound in a lot of different ways, most of which I can’t articulate.

Too bad you have to be retired (or in the off season) to have it and enjoy it.

I need to get out more

Today, February 7, at 4:25 CST in Kansas City, it is 70 degrees outside. I got a sick kid (have had for about 3 days now). I got a list of things to do a gazillion miles long. Since it is my mission in life to give birth to a new race (Glow in the Dark) and the sun cackles wickedly every time I go outside in anticipation of what evil it can wreak upon my skin, I don’t go out unless I have to. I’m a hermit, I tell you, and I like it that way.

But you know what?

I’m missing something, I think. I had a visitor yesterday, like, came to the door and rang the doorbell adult human type of visitor. The real deal. To visit. With me.

I’ve forgotten how to converse with people. My face feels all out of whack. My voice doesn’t seem to work very well. I’ve begun to stutter. I space out faster. I don’t smile much. My small talk is microscopic. Once I actually manage to pry my mouth open, I talk in longer monologues than I used to. I mean, I’ve always felt more comfortable with the written word than the spoken—but lately I’ve just gotten downright terrible.

It’s been my goal in life to become that old woman on the block, you know, the one with the muumuu and the orthopedic shoes and the orthopedic stockings rolled down to her ankles and the funky straw hat, the one all the neighborhood kids whisper about (“I heard she’s a witch”). Mmmm, I dunno.

Mebbe not.

Pardon me, dearie, while I go stir my cauldron.