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June 2000

We hope to see you at our next celebration

Sunday June 4
4-9 PM
Bruce Taylor’s remodeled condo

Art Sharing: Sunday May 7, 2000

Roberta Gregory played two of her new Bitchy Bitch cartoon videotapes, which air on the Odyssey cable channel. She also read the script of a biographic drawn-art book she is preparing on Dr. Mary Walker - the controversial 19th Century doctor and feminist who was awarded the Medal of Honor. Mike Monroe read a short chapter from his book Hexodus. Ben Miller brought us up to date on Pantarbe.com, which will now include Fokus Newsletter web pages. (Get http:\\www.pantarbe.com on the internet, click on Our Domain, then click on FOKUS.) Larry Lewis shared a minicomic called “Differences” which talks about the kinds of irrational stereotyping people engage in. He also introduced “Big Dreams”; a new series of minicomics designed to introduce urban planning and architectural ideas. The first one is called “A Bridge, Indeed” and is a treatise on the possibility of infilling and enclosing the structure of the Aurora Bridge to create artists’ working and living studio space. Bruce Taylor read his short story “You Know Who I Am From the Story I Sing” from his novel Humphrey Bogart Blues. Steven Cox read his short horror story “Fishing”. Carl and Lida Sloan shared their Mayan photo tour. Bob Olson read two “letters to the editor” he is mailing to Psychology Today and Smithsonian magazines, as well as the short editorial in this newsletter. Seiko Olson and Penny Smith enjoyed the company and sharing from the rest of us.

Other Stuff:

Bruce Taylor submitted his novel, Edward Dancing on the Edge or Infinity to Harper Collins publishers and his other book, Mountains of the Night went to the Barbara Savage Award memorial contest, sponsored by the Mountaineers.

Weekend of May 27th -- 28th! Bring your tent, your gorp, your bug juice and join me (Bruce) on my 53rd birthday camp out at Monte Cristo. On the 28th, for those of you who would rather get together for a picnic, meet me at 11 a.m. at the Big Four day use area on the Mountain Loop Highway. This is an easy drive on a paved road forty miles east of Everett, going through the town of Granite Falls, past the Verlot Ranger Station, the little town of Silverton and thence to Big Four Mountain and beyond - - Monte Cristo. Call me for details and if you want to join me. The picnic area below the 5,000 foot-high cliff face of Big Four Mountain is truly spectacular. Picnic shelter, decent restrooms, short easy hikes, lots of parking, picnic tables, bar-b-que grills. Some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world is right here. In case of bad weather, we will celebrate at the June 4 FOKUS meeting.

Remember June 9 when Todd Christoffel and his music group “Don’t Ask” will be performing at Victor’s coffee house in Redmond. Further engagements will be int eh next newsletter. Call Todd at 425-391-9554 for further information.

Bruce Taylor’s Editorial: On Balance

It wasn’t all that long ago, 1988 or thereabouts, that I was keeping 40 stories at a time out in the mail and writing 40 stories a month. I had a three bedroom apartment with a great view of the Cascades, rent that was beginning to creep up and a roommate with an anger problem who sneaked around in order to avoid me. He finally stiffed me for $1000 in rent when he moved out one weekend while I was backpacking. I wasn’t dating anyone, but it sure was great to be a WRITER-- five stories a day, but, as you can guess, aside from my job, that was my life. As such, it was seriously out of balance -- big time. My only real social contacts were through my job and an older woman friend, Marie Edwards, who kept in touch with me while I was busy living in my head. I was out of touch with a lot of other people, long time friends included.

You can only live in your head so long before things “out there in the real world” make themselves known. What if the rent goes through the roof, (which it did -- from $570 a month in September, 1989 to $1200 today.) What about that sneaky roommate? How much more? How did I end up with that kind of person? Boy, was I out of balance. Thank God for a smart part of me that took over for the sake of my survival, which I listened to. And, as tough as it was, the writing had to take a back seat because my rent might go up to where I couldn’t afford it. So, I got a condo -- which has to be one of the smartest things I’ve ever done -- wish I could have done it much earlier. Thirty years of “rent control”, and I have to admit, although remodeling it was a lot of work, (but in the end, great fun), it was also a smart move because it gave me an extra room to rent out - - more income.

That area of my life was getting into balance: the financial aspect. Not having a nasty roommate and just not having roommates for a while, because I could afford the place for myself, was another smart “rebalancing” thing I did. Who was I when I wasn’t a writer? Lots of 12-step work, counseling and The Artist’s Way helped with that, and that’s what it took. The payoff has been having excellent roommates, present one included, who have brought out the best in me, not the worst, and who are a joy to have around.

No, I am not writing 40 stories a month. But I do have 600+ stories, that will keep me busy for the rest of my life, plus three short novels, plus two long ones, plus ideas for more. So the writing is fine after all.

Romance? This is still a rocky road for me because of my own dysfunctional background, which I really didn’t have the time to deal with while I was living in my head. I know that for me, part of balancing is to heal this area too. I’ve heard just too many horror tales about artists (Gustave Flaubert, for example, author of Madame Bovary) realizing too late that while their art was their life, in the end it cost them the absence of loving relationships. To die without really knowing what it is to love and be loved? No amount of art can heal that pain: in the words of Victor Hugo, “Lack of sex is an inconvenience, lack of love is a tragedy.”

So, no, I’m not writing 40 stories a month right now, and I’m not living just inside my head. My life feels different. Certainly it’s a lot more balanced, and frankly, it feels really quite nice.

Editorial by Bob Olson

Seiko and I had a rainbow experience in 1970. We relived those glorious moments on Sunday, April 16, 2000 while our companion was honored on TV in an “all star tribute” to her artistry.

That summer, nearly thirty years ago, we backpacked up the trail from the White River Campground on Mount Rainier -- our destination the lush meadow in Glacier Basin. By late afternoon we pitched our small tent in the center of this green sanctuary. We sat on our rolled-up sleeping bags and watched the playful antics of hairy marmots performing on an emerald stage. We walked barefoot to a shallow pond and played our fingers and toes through schools of tiny fish and tadpoles. Then, we filled our canteens with fresh clear water from a small stream trickling off the glacial ice. The majestic snow-white backdrop of Rainier reached into a light blue sky graced by cumulus clouds marking Heaven. Seiko and I were alone in Paradise.

Before long other campers entered our realm. A young couple pitched their tent near ours and the four of us sat on our bedding as we enjoyed the glory of our domain. Because of our altitude and a fire hazard we had no campfire and lit no campstove. They shared their trailmix of nuts and dried fruit with us. We talked into the evening about our love of nature and creative endeavors. This young woman liked to draw, write and compose music. Evening developed and long shadows fell over us as the sun hid behind the mountain. They were climbing the mountain the next morning and, for the first time, I noticed a number of other campers who had pitched tents on the periphery of our meadow - - their climbing party. This couple invited us to join their climb, but it was beyond our abilities and interests. The next morning I awoke to her singing. What a remarkable voice. What an unusual melody. I could picture this longhaired blond girl dancing to the music she created. I was captivated. I told Seiko, “That young lady could be a professional singer.”

A few days after we drove home from our camping experience on the mountain, I took my fourteen-year old daughter shopping at the Jay Jacobs clothing store in Southcenter. Posted on the wall at the back of the store was a “bigger than life” portrait of the young lady with whom we had shared our rainbow experience. She was a current pop singer.

On April 16 Seiko and I watched the All-Star Tribute to Joni Mitchell on TV. Joni Mitchell was our companion at the foot of Mount Rainier on that mid-summer evening in 1970. What an artist she has become. Our First Lady Hillary Clinton related her own romantic experience years ago when she and Bill were young and in England. One beautiful day they listened to Joni’s song Chelsea Morning and were so moved they later named their daughter Chelsea after the song title. Elton John said he performed Joni’s music for Queen Elizabeth. Laurence Fishburn praised Joni for “never compromising her talent to commercial pressures”. While she may be noted as a great jazz musician, her music cannot really be categorized. Tony Bennett showed slides of her paintings and described Joni as a multi-talented artist - - music merely being the talent for which she is best known. That night, as Seiko and I listened to K.D. Lange on TV paying tribute to Joni and singing the familiar melody that woke us at dawn on Mount Rainier all those years ago, we counted all our blessings these past thirty years.

From the Lock-up:

(A feature of selected writing from convicts at Monroe Penitentiary who know Bob Olson and have asked to share in our FOKUS newsletter)

Behind the Walls

A man is there behind the walls.
Is he kind and gentle?
Or is he mean and dangerous?
As an outsider you wouldn’t know
until you step behind the walls.

As you look at the man
you see in his eyes
they tell a lot about him.
He is gentle, kind and loving
He is scared of not being able to step
out from behind the walls.

He is not mean or dangerous
yet he’s like a child
scared and timid about what’s on our
side of the walls.

He hasn’t smelled the salty air of the ocean
or felt the breeze in the air on a ship at sea.
He hasn’t had a chance to see the sun
go down and the moon come up,
to see the beautiful rays of light it brings,
to feel the real chill at night.
He doesn’t know what its like to walk out
the front door with no particular place
to go, but just to feel the earth beneath him.
The things we take for granted he doesn’t see
behind the walls.

Is he there because we don’t know him?
Is he there because we are scared of him?
Another question is why? Why is he there
behind the walls.

I know that man behind the walls,
he is there for me no matter the reason
he listens when I need to talk,
he gives me advice when I need it.
And so one day I will be there beside him,
when he gets the chance to pass over to
our side of the wall,
when he gets the chance to live the life he
has dreamed of so often.
When he can leave the past behind him
and move forward to the future.
I will be there and be proud to say
that man that was behind the walls
is my dad.

Josie Moore - 04/04/2000
(a poem written to her father, Paul Moore, who is “behind the walls”)

Last updated:  May 28, 2000