Archive for January, 2015

Jan. 15th, 2015

Pictures and Process of a completed work

I don’t have much to say today except that I have completed this piece and wanted to share the work in process to completion.


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Jan 13th, 2015

My heart is full and so is my belly…

Like many people who live the expat life we made the nomadic journey home for the holidays. We were welcomed back into the bosom of family and friends with open arms, much wine, favorite foods, and banter.

The faces, voices, smells, and hugs all bring you full circle and help you to reconnect and attack your senses.

When you come from the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country there are a few essentials you have to eat to keep your PA membership card.

  1. Breakfast at a local Diner being one of the most important. It’s a place where people come to see and be seen by others while feasting on the essential bacon, eggs, home fries, and for the real “men” in the group – Scrapple. If you don’t know what it is, you don’t want to. By the way, Christy eats the scrapple in our house.
  1. Hot dogs at the William Penn. It is an old fourth generation dinner/bar where my grandfather took me after guitar lessons. It is a place that serves up Coney Island style hot dogs complete with onions, mustard, and a mystery beef sauce.   While being prepared the waiter/owner/barman lines the empty buns up his arm to the count of 8 up to the bicep. Then he places the dogs, onions, mustard, meat sauce, and walks them to the customer with plates in his other hand. Puts the plates down in-front of the eater at the ready then place the dogs on the plate and says… There ya are!    After you are finished with your second order of dogs, you walk across the street to Wert’z Candies for a small bag of Caramel corn to help wash down the meat sauce. This also honors the old PA Dutch tradition of sweet and salty. Some traditions are not to be messed with.  These are the simple gifts I am passing onto my son…
  1. Gathering with Friends. We host a night at our old favorite place the Hide-a-way in Mt. Gretna. This usually includes me getting some alone time with Max and Mari Rose. Max was my elementary and high school music teacher. He is a creative genius who uses his powers for good and not evil. Mari Rose keeps him straight and out of jail. He is now a drinking buddy and collaborator in life and lies. The Hide-a-way night has become a favorite part of our holiday travels home. It is sort of like speed dating people you have known for years but don’t get to see enough of. Rob is the bar tender and he keeps our drinks full. It is our version of “Cheers.” We see faces that were previously neighbors, parents of students, teachers, professors, classmates, bosses and new friends in a night of laughs, smiles, hugs, and wing-dings smothered in snake sauce.
  1. A&M Subs. Baked on their own large Italian sub roll that looks like a skinny loaf of bread, is just one of my absolute favorites. Over the years a few other sub shops have moved in and they use much fancier meats, and have different names for their subs. But honestly nothing fills my mind and soul on the hoagie front like an A&M Super Italian, with oil, mayo, hold the onions. Hmmmmmmmm…
  1. Yuengling Lager Light from the can. Why from the Can? I don’t know. I drank a lot of different beers while home and when I am there I still like to go to the old standard. Yuengling is the oldest brewery in the United States. Maybe it’s just that it helps me feel connected, but that’s a good enough reason for me.
  1. Wine and Dining with Grandpa and Nana. We don’t leave the Schwalm house without drinking excellent wine and eating far too much, including Prime Rib on Christmas day.   There are a few little things that have turned into tradition. The simple things that you don’t expect but hope for. Here are a few of my favorites. At some point Grandpa will give me just the right amount of grief, it is boarder line abusive, but often some of the most wrong and funny shit only a loved one could say to another human being and get away with. This year the banter included a list of things that Bat Man would Never say…   In true form,  Jaz will takeover Nana’s nest. The nest is where Nana snuggles into the couch to watch TV, have coffee, Martini’s, wine, and use her Ipad to Fact check the stupid things we say to each other during family discussions.   We are almost always proven wrong and sometimes things get spilled. Christy and Grandpa will get out the guitars and other instruments and share their two beautiful and unique voices in only the way two voices can blend if you are related.   Christy and Nana agree that it is wine/Martini time and the merriment begins.
  1. Time with the Airy Hill School of Artists. Some have come and gone and some are painting the sky,  but we still try to get together at least to tell lies about our processes and successes and share a few drinks. There are few things in this world that make me as happy as listening to Dan and Clint play original music together. This group started before I had a son. It is a group of people who have taken him in as their own. It is a group of people who sometimes make you worry about what they might tell your son, but he loves them nonetheless. They put the fun in dysfunctional and make it work as only a group of artists can.
  1. Grandma and Papa’s house is a playground.  There is a pool table, bar, pin ball machine, big screen televisions, treadmill trains, and video games.  Grandma isn’t your typical grandma.  To say she stays busy is an understatement.  She and Jaz exercise together. Eventually Jaz and Grandma stow away in the basement to play video games. This isn’t your typical session where a grandmother would take it easy on her grand baby. This is open war and may the best man win. Christy will often jump in, but not for long.   It is also where Christy got her “I beat you” victory dance lessons. Papa and I often hold up at the bar with drinks, snacks, as we watch this special unique “bond” unfold.   Oh how I enjoy listening to Papa complain about having the family there. It is like the old man in the corner of a bar who says cranky stuff to no one in particular but secretly loves having everyone around.  We talk and laugh and update our devices until Grandma declares, “It’s five o’clock somewhere”!!!!!
  1. Aunt Brenda’s Sugar Cookies and Christmas extravaganza.   Every so often my family will gather as we did when all the cousins were little. If I am lucky it will happen when we are home for Christmas.  I love my Uncle Brenda and Aunt Floyd. That is not a typo, it is something I called them for years and has just recently come back to bite me in the ass. More on that later.   Brenda holds the secret that only a few possess. No matter what she makes it is comfort food that tastes like nothing  short of heaven. I once asked her to share these top secret cookie recipes with my wife. Truth be told Christy and I are still certain she didn’t actually give us the real recipes. This year my son realized the true genius of her cookies and did all he could to smuggle them out in his belly. I saw my siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles, made jokes at others expense,  and ate well. It was a very short evening, but sometimes I just need a few minutes to see my siblings and breath the same air.   Once this is over I know they are OK.
  1. New years with Clint and Heather. Heather and Christy  hit the dance floor like two dancing queens with moves that have been honed over the years through many bottles of wine and musical styling’s. It is a true pleasure to watch as those two smile and laugh and dance their way into the New Year. Clint and I do what we have been doing for years. We sit and have drinks and argue about something until we realize that we were both arguing the same point of the same topic and were both right!!!!!
  1. This year we got to spend a few days with Christy’s sister and family. This involves a drive to Maryland, lost of take out food, lots of laughter, energy, ear plugs, drinks, and cards, (my brother in-law may be the only person on earth who is worse then me at cards) They also have three of the most beautiful little kids ever made. I tell them they make beautiful babies. It’s the truth. The eldest is sweet, sensitive, and precocious in the most lovable way. The middle is all boy and an open mirror to his mother. Then there is the new one. She can sit on a floor and slowly levitate her way from one place in the room to another without anyone seeing her move. All of course with a smile on her face.  A special thanks to Sammy for helping me learn to do drawlering. Drawlering, for those of you who don’t know is a way of combining coloring and drawing into coloring books. He also called us Aunt Cory and Uncle Christy… Karma baby Karma.

My heart is full, my belly is full, and my batteries are recharged. Sometimes life as an artist is not about being an artist at all.     It is about reconnecting with who, what, and where you came from.