Our Communities Need Better Boats & Cute Rabbits— Fourth Quarter Begins pg 284
Colorful companion to my memoir The Incompetent Psychic
Another luxury once the estate was settled and my credit debt erased was an ability to say yes when asked to help with more elaborate worthy causes. I was invited along with 23 other artists to decorate/paint large fiberglass jackrabbits to benefit the Vacaville Art Museum. They supplied each artist with a rabbit and $200 for supplies.
At the artist’s kick-off party I got a lucky draw out of the top hat. Vacaville Performing Arts Theater became my sponsor, and inspiration to do my ‘We Know Jack’ rabbit as a Shakespearian actor. I glued on appliqués of recently inherited ribbon, crocheted fabrics, lace, buttons, mom’s junk jewelry and granny’s stained doilies for cuffs, then primed the whole thing and gave it multiple glaze coats using the cheesecloth technique I’d perfected on thousands of frames.
Will Rabbit turned out pretty adorable in pink and red. I won the thousand dollar People’s Choice award, and he got bid to over $6500 for the museum when the hammer came down. My rabbit became part of the city’s permanent art collection, and lives in the theater lobby. That I had the time to do it was another gift from parents who were frugal and planned carefully. — From Chapter 15
Luxury is the ability to say yes without stress. Zig zagging along the poverty line of basic survival while working more than full time is a month-to-month fest of stress. I chose to live this way for 35 years as a freelance artist and designer. My other option was a full time job with unfair wages. Many more people chose this option, believing there is stability in a regular paycheck. Barbara Ehrenreich’s masterful observation of this phenomenon is described with frightening clarity in Nickel and Dimed: On not getting by in America. Chronic stress of not quite getting by is the destructive result of executive greed. Refusing to pay a living wage and thwarting efforts of government to remedy the situation harms individuals, families and communities. This exploitation has shrunk the middle class dramatically and is turning the US into a shithole nation. I was out on the ocean in my previous blog, so its use as metaphor will slosh over to today.
The draconian minimum wage laws have forced more and more Americans into small, leaky boats. Far too many have drowned and more will sink. Recent efforts by responsible House and Senate members for a $15 minimum wage have again been thwarted, and won’t become federal law until 2025.
I got freaking lucky with just enough inheritance to afford a somewhat better boat, and have earned a reputation for delivering decent work that allows me to keep it seaworthy. I’m also lucky to have lived through the decades when staying afloat in a crappy boat was much easier for the working class (and artists) than it is today. Just to say… battleships of the uber rich have huge holds full of spare life-savers they could toss to drowning millions without reducing the size of their garish yachts by a single foot. Think of the surface of the ocean as the poverty line. High interest debt, low pay and rising costs are leaks. When all your spare time is spend bailing, there is not much energy left for helping out in the wider community, and a vibrant community is both a safe harbor and a happy place to live and thrive.
An inheritance gave me the luxury of more time… time without the stress of scrambling for the next month’s nut. I could embark on new creative ventures and flights of philanthropy. Painting this silly rabbit was my first big Thank You to the Universe for the gift of new sails, and the freedom to hoist them. Even being stuck in the doldrums of a pandemic isn’t that bad. I have a watertight vessel, a companionable chihuahua and high-tech semaphore flags for messages.
I’m wishing leak-repair kits, fair winds and gentle lessons for everyone who has been struggling in a storm that has been blowing too hard long enough.
A signed copy of Mernie’s memoir is available at www.etsy.com/listing/839838936
Unsigned copies can be ordered wherever books are sold.