Spring 2005


I am going to be living in Boston for June and July to do an Art residency a the Berwick Institute where I am colaborating on a project called the "Busycle", which is a bus that is powered by bicycle riders. It will have a route in Boston after it is built this June. It is in its begining stages and I am starting to get community involvement going. If you would like to help in any way, go to the busycle site.


As of late, I finished the cover Art for Rock n Roll Sherpa's new album "You don't say" and I just returned home from a pretty Epic road trip. I drove my van pack full of all kinds of Art projects, power tools, guitar, clothes, books, and a toothbrush, on my way down to Houston Texas to set up an installation at the Orange Show. I was able to plan this trip so I stayed with friends in Philly, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, and then Houston. This trip really got me out of my shell here in Vermont. I saw the beautiful and different ways my friends live. In Philly I stayed with my friends who I met when they were on tour in a band called Robbers know the Secret Knock. I always told them I would make it to Philly, and finally I did. I have a nice history with these guys, we met on the fly at a show in Plattsburgh NY. They wanted to play Burlington VT and I told them that there was a chance I could get them a show at an Art Gallery. Well everything fell through and they stayed at my place that next night where we made a huge meal and some drinks and then we all went into the band room and rocked for hours, one of those perfect nights. The next day, I showed them a double waterfall and bonded our friendships forever. Later, when they would go on another tour, we got all five of us in one canoe and a kayak and went for a leisurely ride down the river. We saw a beaver.

Here are a couple of photos of Jeff and Chris at Chris's apartment. Philly has all this really impressive architecture, really plush, but then it all became abandoned and people just live anyway they can in these huge rooms. The picture of the dome is one of the rooms in Chris's place. Once it must have been so luxurious, but now it is just the place where Dave, Robin, Chris, Jeff, and Matthew watch a movie.

I drove to Atlanta, after Philly, and met up with a bunch of good friends I had down there when I use to live there. I hadn't been back since I left six years ago, so it was really nice to catch up with everyone and to see how the place has changed. I wanted to stay longer, but I had to make it to Houston for the show, so I took off after a nice breakfast with a new friend named Heather, who was the roommate of my friend Joe I was staying with.

On my way to Houston, I needed some gas and pulled off to get some. Up north, the gas station is right at the turn off, but in Louisiana, you have to drive a bit. Well I ended up going over this huge bridge in the dark and then on the other side I ran out of gas. I was under this huge bridge with absolutely no one around.   Off in the distance I cold see a trailer. I yelled out to this guy standing in the doorway and he actually went and got gas for me. The whole thing looked like a movie, even down to the gold teeth this guy had as he smiled at me. That little incident just reinforces my beliefs in the goodness of mankind.

The whole ordeal threw my driving off though, and I knew I wouldn't make it to Houston by night, so I looked up my friend Clark in Baton Rouge and crashed at his place. I could do no wrong on this trip, feeling good. The next morning a bunch of us went out to breakfast, and then I was off again.

I was finally getting closer to my destination in Houston, TX. So far it had been some long and tedious hauls, beautifully interrupted by deep connections with long lost friends and adventure. As I closed in on my destination, I called my friends Curtis and Danny. The energy was high and I had the directions to their place, things we looking good.

I found the place down a small side street next to a river and pulled in. Surrounded by a chain-link fence, a crooked roofline, doors that didn't close, a carpet of old beer cans, broken down vehicles in the yard, piles of junk and overflowing garbage cans... I knew right then... I was home at last.

This picture is the warehouse where they live, called the Bill Hicks Resurrection Laboratory (the Bill Hicks). That is my van in the bottom left hand corner of the photo.

The city of Houston surprised me quite a bit. It was just after the election and I was feeling miserable about our cool rebellious country turning into a bully of the world, and I thought that I would see a bunch of Bush lovers, especially in his fake home state of Texas. The truth is, and this could just be the type of life I have, I only met one bush supporter that I had a conversation with. Beyond politics, Houston, I thought was going to be a lot about beef, which it could have been, but I encountered so many vegetarian and vegan restaurants it was nuts. I ate a different one each day for two weeks.

My first night at the Bill Hick's I end up meeting everyone that lives there and Curtis and I, who haven't seen each other in a while, start having some good talks over some 40's we bought for a buck fifty up the road.   Well, as usual, I overdid it and on this particular November night at eight o'clock at night, I find myself in the dark bent over in the driveway, one hand on a garbage can, rain soaking my back, loosing my dinner, and all this within hours of my arrival.  

I'd figured I had enough fun for one day so Curtis offers me his bed and he takes off for the city.   I hang up my soaking shirt and go to bed completely whipped.   Around 2:30 in the morning I am awoken to two girls busting open the door and jumping on top of me.   Curtis flips on the light and the girls explain that they just sold these two Metallica tickets and bought a whole bunch of wine and wanted to know if I wanted any.   Things got hairy after that.   I remember playing guitar to someone else's drumming, and then singing to someone else's xylophone playing, then I did a stand up comedy act, that turned into a beatnik poetry show, all while drinking these little bottles of wine.   I ended up drawing pictures all over Curtis's bedroom walls, as he played guitar and told a story.   This was my rights of passage into the Bill Hick's.   It had set the tone for what the next two weeks were going to be like.  

I was able to get my Sculpture built and transported to the Orange Show, which turned out to be a really cool night, where about 15 of us all went back to the Bill Hick's and dragged the keg with us, then about ten of that crew went out for Mexican about 1:30 in the morning.   The people of Houston treated me so good. Many nights of driving around in my van, packed full of crazy people dancing and jumping on my guitar, all to the music of Daniel Johnston keeping our hearts open.   Meeting good people on the road is such a refreshing aspect of life.  

Danny and I painted the Bill Hick's one day and left to get some drinks with a friend Jon, an artist I was in the show with. We slept at Jon's house that night and it rained so hard that out the window you could see the raindrops going sideways. The next day we went back home and pulled into the driveway to find the rain took the paint off and made a super mess. Danny does not look too happy that his house looks the way it did. During my whole two-week stay at the Bill Hicks we were constantly painting the place. When I left I installed these two trees made of plywood, and it didn't look too bad.

I ended up extending my stay in Houston because I thought the timing was just perfect in everything that was happening.   My mind had been blown, and I was seeing the raw side of life again.   About the 6 th day there, I actually crashed.   I just had one of those loop-de lou days where I went down.   Luckily I had my van, so I just went downtown and slept in the back in the parking lot of the art museum.   After I woke, I drove over to the Rothko Museum, which is really a unique place in the world.   The building itself is 8 sides, and all cement.   A few days before someone in Baton Rouge randomly told me that the phenomenon of people crying when they see a piece of art that moves them, is of the highest percentage in the Rothko museum.   So here I am now pulling on the big steal doors, having no idea what is inside.   First there is a woman at a desk, then you turn the corner into this huge room, that is so quiet, and on each of the eight walls is nothing but huge black paintings.   There were four benches and a couple of meditation pillows, and a woman just staring intensely at one wall.   I went behind her and found my own little bench.   At first I couldn't get into the scene, probably because I had been going nuts and being loud for a week straight.   As I relaxed and started looking at the paintings, it became perfect.   I felt darkened by all the weight of the paintings, then calmed, then all the little nuances of how the paint was applied, start to make your eyes curious.   I remember being in there for an hour or so, and it really did the trick, I was anchored again.   I told Curtis, and he said that when he first moved to Houston he that place was his sanctuary.  

While in Texas I spent a great deal of time with Danny who was the one that asked me to be in the Art show.   We had long talks about life to the point where we were just jamming on everything that was surrounding us.   These long deep ventures into the reality of reality were often disrupted by loading as many people as possible into the van and driving to a restaurant.   Van rides were always a blast.  

At the Bill Hick's most of the time I was there the floor was flooded, so I would take a shower and have to put all my clothes and shoes on towel rack and get dressed in the tub and then hop across a big puddle and back into the world.   One day after a shower I went to go get my shirt that had gotten soaked from the first night I arrived.   I knocked on Curtis's door and he was in there listen to tunes and sitting in front of his sewing machine making all these crazy clothes for a fashion show he was going to have at a bar.   As we were talking, I noticed that my shirt was on the same table as his sewing machine, and that he was sewing something that was pretty close to the same color.   I thought to myself, he better not have cut up my shirt and I grabbed it and was totally relieved.    I started joyfully explaining that this was one of my favorite shirts and Curtis just looked up at me and smiled and fed off my happiness.   We talked for a second longer and then he put his head down again to keep working on what he was making.   I turned to leave and began to put on my shirt when I realized he had turned it into a skirt.   I just yelled and he looked up puzzled, looked at the shirt in amazement and almost fell off his chair laughing, trying to apologize.   One thing I realized as I was at the Bill Hick's, anything that I owned could be broken or ruined through any number of ways, at any time, and that was just one of the tradeoffs for being there.   It was kind of nice to just let material things go and have no worry or connection to what happens to them.  

Another little aspect that was nice in contrast to living in a metal warehouse with flooded concrete floors and rotting vegetables from Fvacar's on-going plan to feed homeless people, was that I met the professional Art duo "The Art Guys", Jack and Mike.   Jack picked me up in his Mercedes with his wife Sky and their little guy, and then took me out to dinner.   The next day I was able to visit their studio and we had lunch, then they signed some "Art Guys" books and gave them to me.   They were really nice to me and helped me feel out the life of an Artist a bit more.  

I had made many new friends in Houston, and thoroughly enjoyed my visit.   I actually had a hard time leaving because everyone kept making the offer to stay more and more inviting.   One night after a colossal meal, and my promise that I would stay one more night, which would have been four days more than I had intended to stay, a little window opened up at 7:30 that night.   I wasn't sure about starting so late at night, but I was beginning to understand I had to make a break for it; there was no easy or tidy way out.   So I just grabbed what I could, took some photos and gave some hugs.   Houston was a total surprise.   Now with my van packed, the garden of my mind properly tilted and ready for new seeds, my eyes staring at the little bubble of light that my headlights make on the highway, and my foot on the pedal, I was off.

On my way back to Atlanta I was taking it easy.   I knew the stars were aligned in some strange and beautiful way just for me on this trip.   I took in my surroundings like a movie, looking at things pass me by.   I felt grounded to the spirit of adventure that makes the everyday aspects of life seem like an incredibly intelligent and curiously composed painting.   I started thinking about all the things I use to do in Atlanta when I lived there, and when I arrived I did the exact opposite and went to the Zoo.  

People that I knew when I lived there started coming out of the woodwork with smiles and hugs.   It was nice to catch up with people that played such a role in my life. One of the highlights was going to see my friend Alex play drums with a guitar player, and a guy that played a sampler at a local bar. After the show we went to get some drinks and ended up driving to a house party.   The second I watched my foot land on the living room, girls started putting foam on us.   It was some ones birthday and they had a hot tub full of foam.   We drank and we talked and then a bunch of us finally found our way to the bedroom where the hot tub was and someone closed the door and yelled "VIP PARTY" as a Madonna record went on.   Dancing everywhere until I looked over and I saw that someone was putting foam on my friend Alex's head so big that it must have been five wide and then all the way up to the ceiling.   I could barely hold it together.   I started laughing so hard I got weak.   Then I ended up in the hot tub with all my clothes on dancing to 80's rock with a wild girl.

Right before we left, I convinced the birthday girl and her friends that it was my friend Tim's birthday.   They wouldn't let him leave until he very reluctantly took a shot of some hard drink and gave him his proper paddlings.   Here we are, watching Tim bent over in the middle of the kitchen floor with people gathered all around, as the very inebriated birthday girl starts really lacing into him with a homemade paddle.   The first swing gets him on his hip and he yells out, and the crowd yells back "One". The next him nails him good, and the crowd yells out "two", and with that I see his face change from wincing pain to a look of crazed focus.   I was watching this young thirty-something's outlook on life change completely.   And with smack "three", he yells out with the same dedication to the moment Rocky had fighting the Russian... "I'm Sixty Five Years old".  

Finally the night ended as I take off my wet clothes and hop into my sleeping bag.   I wake with a huge smile when I hear Tim and his girlfriend stirring in the other room and start thinking about the night before.   We talk about plans for the future and then I get back in the Van once again, a bit tired, and start for Philly.  

From Atlanta to Philly is my longest haul.   I am getting closer to home, and starting to feel like I had my "Mind" packed in a bunch of different suitcases for a long trip, and the airplane representative just told me we landed, but they lost my entire luggage.   Air is now blowing though one ear and going out the other, as little bugs and bits of dirt pass through my head and fishbowl eyes.  

I make it to Philly.   Philly is something else.   It looks like a war was fought there.   All these big beautifully adorned building just abandoned, boarded up, falling down.   You can stand on some streets in Philly and everything has cracks in it.   The street you are standing on, has a million cracks and patches, that go up to the sidewalk that is spotted with black circles of old bubble gum, up to the buildings that look to have topographical maps of strange countries no one has ever been to all over them.  

One morning I woke up and my friend Jeff and I wanted to go get breakfast, so we hopped on some bikes and headed through the city.   I look at Jeff just ahead of me, dressed in 1970's type clothing from a thrift store, and then at this really old ten speed I'm riding, that is stuck in one gear, and just praying we were going to make it this world.   Then I look at this city that looks like it died, and then up to dark clouds in the sky and feel the misty rain coming down, and I think to myself, I feel like I could have had a mustache, bellbottoms, and the weight of the world on my shoulders from a city that just wouldn't let up... I could have been Archie Bunker's son from the 70's TV Show All in the Family getting a loaf of bread to make mayonnaise sandwiches for the football game that is coming on in an hour.   Philly can do that to you.   You think you know who you are, then you turn one corner onto a side street and you feel like your squeezing your draft card so hard it might ignite, as every plane that passes reminds you could be in Viet Nam any second, and the quarter in your pocket starts screaming obscenities and business scams as each footstep you take becomes a death march on your way to the supermarket.

It may seem that Philly rubbed me the wrong way, but the truth is, I always like going there, and I have had nice times there, and it is really one of the places I think I would want to move to in the near future.   I like the fact it has so much Character.  

Back on the road one more time and I finally I roll into Vermont, but instead of going right home, the first thing I do is go to a friends house, open up my sleeping bag, lay the foundation of a couple of stories, and pass out.

                                                                  Contact: matthew@brightenthedull.com
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