I’ve worked from home for the past few years. My daily commute takes 15 steps, or about 30 feet. That’s one-way. My last post was about my evening after a two-hour trip. This one is about what I saw on the way there. I’m no closer today to solving the mystery than I was when I first saw it that Friday afternoon.
Approximately one bazillion traffic lights exist between where I live and Washington DC. Once I made the two-hour drive as a commute of sorts, although not a daily one – only a few days per week. At about the half-bazillionth light, I noticed a black convertible in the lane next to me. The driver appeared to be middle-aged male and moderately overweight.
The seat restraints cut into his body, but he showed no signs of discomfort. In fact, he was enjoying the early Summer afternoon. Being trapped in the midst of soul-killing noise and exhaust fumes had no adverse effect on the man’s spirit. The top was down, and as Alane, my wife, would say, he was having a moment.
His speakers blasted 50′s tunes. The light changed, and he began to dance – or at least as much dancing as his seat belt restraints allowed. His body bobbed and his round head moved from side to side. Like a clown in a toy car, the tiny convertible responded to the large driver’s movements, and became his dancing partner. Both the man and his car were happy.
That’s when I noticed a large red and white cooler in the passenger seat, and secured in place by the shoulder restraint and lap belt. There was little room for the cooler to shift, yet the driver had taken the time to protect the cooler and its contents.
Neon green and orange stickers were on the lid of the cooler. On each sticker was a biohazard symbol with the words, “Live Organ” printed below the symbol. Not even in the movies had I seen live organs transported by a happy dancing man in a dancing convertible.
Was the dancing man celebrating because he just helped save someone’s life? If so, why buckle up an empty cooler? And if organs were still to be delivered, why drive so casually and carefree? How about a greater urgency, and a little less dancing with a live organ on ice strapped in the passenger seat!
My made-up answers ranged from comical to horrific to other-worldly. The man and his organ could have been a character in a story of any genre. In fact, I feel like I’ve read about him in a horror story already.
Were the organs in the cooler tainted instead of fresh? Maybe he and I were going to the same show, it was his organ transplant that kept a blues legend living on this side of happiness. Can a blues legend really afford to become happy anyway? If you don’t understand the reference, see my last post, “What I Learned from the Tired Old Man“.
And if he’s paid in happiness instead of cash, no wonder the large man in the small car was dancing! This man was the modern medical equivalent of making a deal with the devil. No more standing at the crossroads, waiting on the devil, like the Robert Johnson legends states.
Lately I’ve had a recurring dream where I clutch a stained pillow and constantly scrub to remove the stain. The stain spreads. I wake up exhausted. And yes the dream-stain looks like blood. Does the dancing man hold the answer in the cooler next to him? In my next dream, do I remove the pillow to see what’s missing or replaced or added?
I’m not the best idea man in the world, but these are just a few from the top of my head. There are a thousand more ideas better than these that could come stem from this single experience.
“Were do you get your ideas?”
Almost every artist with any level of success hears that question. The answer is always something like, ideas are everywhere, there are more ideas than there is time, etc. I agree. Overall, the idea may be the easiest part of making the art. Even when the ideas seem hard to come by, it is the easiest part of the creative process to fix. You start working.
Maybe a better question is, “Where do we find the wisdom to discern good ideas from bad?”
I’m afraid that answer is also one we don’t want to hear. Pick what seems to be a good idea. Roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty wrestling with it. Then with stubborn determination, follow, coax, beg, drag or beat the idea until it becomes a finished piece of art. Then decide if the idea was good or not. If it was, do it all over again. If it wasn’t, do it all over again.
I’m tempted to say that if I had that two-hour commute again, I’d be full of ideas. But I know I’d just complain about the lack of time to pursue them. There is no lack of ideas for making art, even in my 15-step commute. One way.