Almost two decades ago, I finally made up my mind to take the plunge and do what I had always wanted to do, which was, START OIL PAINTING. I had always been an artist; a ceramicist; a carver of wood; an installer of installations. But in the back of my mind, I thought that “real” art was oil painting. Of course I realize that this was never true. There are many varied forms of art making that are as old as humanity. But oil painting and the smell of turpentine are what said “art” to me, so I committed $100 and signed up for a painting class I Barre, VT.
During the week preceding that class, I went to visit my son, Abe, and his girl friend (now wife of 13 years) in Brooklyn. We had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect. We saw all of the museums, picnicked in the part, and rode bicycles to Coney Island, where I ate the first and last corn dog of my life.
On the last day of my visit, I left Brooklyn in the morning to be in time to attend the painting class that evening. Abe advised me to leave the city, not by the Tri-Borough Bridge as was my plan, but to go over the Brooklyn Bridge and up the FDR, because he thought it would be quicker and easier. But as I pulled out of President Street at 8:45, I decided to not cross the Brooklyn Bridge and stick to my familiar route.
Then I saw a fire truck, and another fire truck, and a police car. Then I saw more fire trucks and an ambulance. Another fire truck, another ambulance.
Suddenly, the streets were full of emergency vehicles of every description. Every fire truck in the city must have been out. I kept driving, so by this time I had to turn on the radio again. I was just getting on to the Tappan Zee Bridge when I heard what had happened. I looked down the Hudson river and saw the smoke from the twin towers. I wanted to go back and see that Abe and Jolie were ok. But I also heard that the bridges were about to be closed and mine might be one of the last cars out of the city. I had no cell phone then. As I made my way north, I stopped at every opportunity to try to call Abe. But every phone had a line of fifty people in front of it. One of the stops was at a rest area that had a TV. There, I saw the towers fall. Finally, about half way to Vermont, I got to a phone. I called Abe, but got no answer. I called Abe’s father and learned that Abe and Jolie had somehow gotten out to New Jersey, which was a good thing, because the smoke was going right through their neighborhood.
I felt then, that there was nothing for me to do but proceed on to the painting class. I got there. Everyone was sort of numb and in shock. I was able to call Abe in NJ and be assured that they were all ok. The painting students and the teacher stood around for a while and decided that there was nothing to do but start painting. So we did. I painted a crumby little still life with green peppers and a flower pot.
So, that is my 9-11 story and the story of my first day of putting paint on canvas.
And, oh yeah, I am glad that I did not cross the Brooklyn Bridge.
Art goes on, in spite of it all.