One woman, lots of paint and hundreds of tiles. If you're here because you found a painted tile, it's yours to keep.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Delia & Moth

Delia is a very odd girl.

She feels connected to the universe when she’s outdoors in the sunlight with the birds and butterflies and hummingbirds. But late at night when she can no longer see her winged friends and darkness settles in, her anxiety and insecurities arrive to haunt her. Each night, she hopes to dream of falling asleep in the sun, in a field filled with wildflowers and the winged creatures who thrive on them. “Where do the butterflies go at night?” she wonders as she closes her eyes.

But Delia’s a big girl, not so much in stature ... just fiercely independent. So come sundown, she assures herself that morning and all that accompanies it will return. In her barren room with the old wood floors, she sips merlot and in the light of a big fat patchouli candle, strums her guitar and makes up songs about things that make her smile, or things that make her sad. If she runs out of words, she goes to the general store and wanders around to find things she needs.

On one such Tuesday, as she returned home from shopping, she realized she was not alone. A winged creature of the night had accompanied her through the back door and into her tiny kitchen. It was one of those little moths that dance around her porch light on summer nights.

But inside her kitchen, the winged creature of the night seemed much larger, and she felt afraid. Logically, she knew she was far bigger than the moth, yet she had an illogical fear of him flying right into her head, and completely freaking her out.

Not wanting to kill him, at least not without considering the options, she stepped outside the kitchen and nervously observed for awhile, wondering what, if anything, to do. She realized eventually that the moth wasn’t as much of a threat as she initially thought. She was not his target. He had but one goal -- flying into the overhead lights, which were very, very hot … again and again and again. Each time he flew there, the heat of the light knocked him back to the counter, or the floor or into a pile of dishes in the drainer, only to emerge again and head straight back into the light that Delia realized might eventually scorch his tortured soul.

But there was nothing she could do to stop this cycle. She understood that cycle, and occasionally participated in similar cycles, but only in very measured ways that she knew would not destroy her. Delia had developed a healthy respect for light and particularly for fire, the most intense form of light. In other words, she knew how awesome it was, yet was keenly aware of its power to destroy her.

Her mother taught her this at a very young age, when Delia became fascinated with the glow of a backyard fire. Delia had never seen anything so beautiful. She wanted to be very close to it, to become one with it. But her very wise mother slapped her hand – probably the only time she had ever done so – and warned “No, no!” and something along the lines of “Hot!” and “Fire!” and “Danger!” Definitely danger. “You can watch it, and appreciate it from over here,” she explained to Delia, “but never, ever get too close to it, or you will get very, very hurt.”

Delia understood, but her attraction to the fire never diminished. As a teen, sitting in a lawn chair at some random KOA campground after most everyone had gone to sleep, Delia recalls listening to the crackle of a gorgeous, heartwarming fire on an otherwise silent night. Even from a distance, as it glowed and flickered and sent embers skyward, it somehow shed meaning on her life and made her feel connected to the universe in ways she didn’t typically feel connected to anything.

She still loves a good fire, as well as the sun, the glow of a living room lamp, the candles she burned through the night, lightning bugs, lava lamps, her year-round holiday tree with the blue fading lights, fireworks … but especially fire, the deepest and brightest of the lights … and the most dangerous. All the other things just represent fire, but what does the fire represent? It is beautiful, for sure, but it consumes and burns and leaves behind only ashes.

Delia gets that now. When she was younger and finally living on her own, she had danced too close to the fire on many occasions, convinced she could withstand the heat, that she was invincible. But she learned that her mom was right. We must retain a healthy respect for fire, keep a safe distance from it. That’s what Delia told herself now ... except on the rare occasions when she became disoriented and forgot about her resolve not to play with fire again. Oddly, it was during those times that she felt most alive. But that very feeling of being so alive reminded her that she now had something to lose, and this made her feel restless and conflicted. That’s when her clarity would return and her resolve to stay away from fire would grow stronger again

But while watching this impassioned moth flying around her little kitchen, so intensely focused on the light, a part of Delia felt jealous about the sheer excitement she knew he must be feeling as he circled in on a light so compelling to him, that in that moment he forgot all else and risked everything just to reach it … Delia admired his courage and devotion yet a part of her wished she could drag him away from the light, talk him down from the craziness that she worried would not end well. But she knew this was a personal journey, one he must take independently in order to gain his own healthy respect for light, and fire.

There was an art to keeping a safe distance from fires and Delia had nearly perfected it now. She still remembers that last cold winter night when she tried to get warm by the fire, but got too close and suffered burns. worse than her previous ones. Fires, on cold nights, always draw you closer. The trick is knowing how close is too close. Now before thinking about taking another step forward, Delia touches her scar and remembers all the reasons not to go there. Danger. She wondered how her moth friend would fare, how many scars or broken wings it might take him to learn life’s harder lessons.

Leaving him to it, she retreated to her front porch, sipped her wine, and strummed her guitar, making up songs about moths, flames, pointless games and wings burned, lessons learned, fear earned … things like that. Eventually, she retreated inside and returned to the kitchen to check on her winged friend. Finding him nowhere, she returned to her spot in the living room, beside her fat candle in a glass, and there he was, gently floating in a sea of hot wax. By the glow of the candle, Delia could see every inch of his wings in a way she could not before. He looked incredibly gorgeous, even prettier than a butterfly. And now he was one with the light he seems to have been struggling to find his entire life.

She quietly strummed for awhile, before leaning towards the candle and looking again at this amazingly perfect spotted creature: “You are so very brave ... much, much braver than most of us,” she whispered. “And I will forever admire you. But please, please, please,” she begged, “can you come back just once to reveal how it feels to completely abandon yourself to the flame?”

If you’ve arrived at the end of this story honestly, please know that no moths were injured in the course of researching this tale. However, there was a flying, intensely buzzing insect that flew repeatedly into the lights in my kitchen on a recent night, and in a moment of sheer panic, I killed him … with a magazine … shortly after he had fallen to the floor for about the fourth time. Despite that he would have killed himself eventually, I deeply regret the incident, and I made up this story later that evening.

Also, for the record, I don’t know how to play guitar, but if I did, I’d probably make up songs about courageous moths. While I have a few friends who are currently risking it all to pursue their various passions in life (partly because they lost their jobs), I tend to take more calculated risks. … But because math is not my strong point, I often have trouble calculating risks and simply avoid them altogether.

But I have calculated a theory (because while my math skills are lacking, I'm pretty good at making stuff up to compensate for what I don't know). My theory is that many people don't risk it all to pursue dreams, because their dreams are so big and so perfect, and reality could never measure up ... when it doesn't, it feels like a failure and kills the dream ... and sometimes keeping a dream alive is more important than reality. In the end, it's the dreams that keep us going, isn't it?

Fortunately for me, my dreams aren't huge.
Even if I won the lottery tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t travel much, or buy a fancy car or a big boat … I’d just live in an old farmhouse on a nice plot of land in a town small enough to ride my bike around. I’d hide tiles and write stories and novels, and I’d practice playing guitar and try to learn to sing (in a more tolerable way) ... I’d read good books and grow vegetables and garden and cook and walk a lot … for miles and miles everyday. Sometimes I’d invite other people from around town to come and sit on the front porch and play music, or cards, and maybe drink some wine and eat some food and talk about life. I like to keep it simple.

Dropped Delia and moth at Starbucks at Davie Boulevard and Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale (just south of the tunnel) ... They're in the ladies room.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Janie's Awesome Vacation

One day, rather than live vicariously through the characters I paint on my tiles ... I may just go to happy hour on a Friday .... and never return. Out of all the characters I've painted over the last two years, the ones that leave town for big adventures were typically only headed out for happy hour, or so they thought ...

A cat with a meandering heart and a taste for tuna landed in Tennessee, a woman terrified of asterisks went to N.C. and now Janie, an office worker who'd been trying to rack up happy hour funds by establishing an "awesome-free zone" and charging co-workers a buck every time they said "awesome," has been dropped in the restroom of Chalet Restaurant pictured above.

Janie also visited the birthplace of dictionary man Noah Webster in West Hartford, CT and the Mark Twain House and Museum, also in Hartford. But that was after her ferry ride, in which she apparently drank a little too much and wound up hanging with "some lazy ferry dude."

But, ya know, I just paint them. I can't protect them forever ... and it turned out that her little incident with ferry dude was harmless. Surely her tour guides, the adventure duo of Sherry and Rucci, wouldn't let anything bad happen to her.

Sherry and Rucci are the very couple that took Feisty Fred from a shopping center in Fort Lauderdale to Tennessee ... and they took the asterisk-fearing Roni from Ernie's BBQ in Fort Lauderdale to North Carolina. More recently, they found Janie at CVS Pharmacy in Fort Lauderdale. Apparently, she'd stopped at the pay phone to call friends to meet her for happy hour ... After that, no one really knows exactly what happened.

We do know that months later, she was found in a newspaper box not far from that phone .... and so her adventures began. Here's the story, as told by her hospitable tour guides Sherry and Rucci. Yesterday, they sent this full update via e-mail, along with photos from Janie's lovely vacation.

"M.T.M., Janie had accumulated soooooo many dollars that she decided to skip 'Happy-Hour' and head the hell outta the office and outta town on that particular Friday.

Happy that the ferry arrived on time, feeling altogether
WELCOME, she made her way to the lifeboats and the bar where her crazy "Awesome-Free-Zone" came to a screeching halt.

"The ferry bartender took one look at her and exclaimed (without reading the back) AWESOME!!!!! We explained her situation and headed to other parts of the ship. It was enough to drive a girl to drink and some lazy ferry dude as you can see.

"She then headed for some historic places that included Mark Twain's house..(she looks sooooo sweet in his garden) and then to Noah Websters home where he wrote a lil book you may have heard of.........Oh, yeah...THE DICTIONARY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

"After a sweet vacation, she ended up in The Chalet...a cool little castle like bar/restaurant/lounge in the ladies room... she seemed so happy amongst the stone wall there...Sherry really knew just where she should end up. And ironically.............IT WAS HAPPY-HOUR!!!

"Gee, what a great big silly circle she and us have encountered!
Sherry & Rucci "

I love a good story. When Sherry and Rucci hit the road with one of my characters in tow, I always know I can count on a good story. There are more than 200 tiles out there ... Once in while, I get to hear what happened to one them, and I always love that ... Clara, who was hanging out in a parking garage in Coral Gables, also was discovered this week. Photographer and tile finder Carlos Miller tells the story on his blog.

Still others are living quieter lives in their own little places of honor in people's homes, and I've heard about some of those too... Recently a friend encountered Scruffy in Tokyo Sushi place. She wanted Scruffy but did not kidnap her, as she said she looks like she belongs there now. She has an actual place of honor. Next door to that sushi place at Cold Stone Creamery, Sean lives in a glass case. Also in that plaza is a Starbucks where Sara found a home behind the counter. But I noticed that she has disappeared now, so Betty made her way over there recently to investigate. No word on Betty yet.

I like that the tiles that once dully sat in stacks in my dark closet are now out there in the world, living colorful lives of their own, and having awesome adventures. So thanks to all who've adopted them. You all are the very best.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Betty Cooper: Hula Hooper

Betty's Boss, a narrow-minded power tripper who brown-nosed her way to the top, sent Betty right over the edge some days. That's when Betty would go home and hula hoop like mad until the anger wore off. Now that hula hooping has been declared an Olympic sport, Betty plans to hula hoop her way to fame and fortune.

Left Betty at the Starbucks just east of Southport Shopping Center on 17th Street Causeway in Fort Lauderdale ... She's in the ladies room .... propped up under the sink ... against the wall.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Clara's Tuesday Outings

One Tuesday Clara was feeling sorta down in the dumps, and as she was walking through the park she noticed a lot of older ladies who seemed really happy, even though they were all alone. Some of them were feeding the birds and talking to them as they gathered and the other was sitting at a picnic table surrounded by lots of very happy looking cats. Despite that Cat Lady looked like she didn't really have much in this world, she did have a sack of cat food and a stack of little bowls and a loyal following of feline friends who apparently had her daily routine down and scheduled their lives accordingly.

Clara realized that the difference in mood between her and the ladies in the park pretty much came down to that. While she was just thinking about all the little problems rolling around in her own head, those very independent ladies were thinking of what they could to to contribute to the happiness of some birds, or kitties and maybe people as well.

The park ladies had unknowingly taught her something about life and on Tuesdays, she started picking flowers here and there on her way to the park... She didn't really think of it as stealing since none of those rich downtown businesses would really miss a flower or three .... and the ladies in the park were happy, not just to get whatever Clara had picked for them that day ... They just liked chatting with her ... even though they all thought she was a little weird, and sometimes talked about that among themselves.

One Tuesday, Clara actually heard one of them saying to the other that she wondered what time Weirdo Flower Girl was going to come along. But Clara didn't take it personally. After all, these were ladies who talk to birds in the park and even have names for the birds. She knew if they called her strange, it was only because they liked her, and that they knew she was truly one of them, which she is.

Hid Clara in a stairwell in the City of Coral Gables Museum Parking Garage ... though I'm not sure what museum they mean. But surely someone will find it, as it's in a pretty obvious spot. They might even think it belongs there, and maybe it does.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Victor loves words … word jumbles, crossword puzzles and especially Boggle, a game where you make words by connecting all the letters on the little cubes.

Despite being a word master there is one game that terrifies Victor. It’s the biggest and most important word game of all – Scrabble. When playing Scrabble, he can find plenty of places to build on existing words. But then, when he finally picks all the right letters for the big one - a 7-letter word that could earn him 50 bonus points, there’s no place on the board for it … no place at all, because by this point in the game, the board is all crowded up with letters, words all over the place. It’s a state of complete and utter chaos.

But, you know, it’s kind of a nice word, so he holds onto it for awhile, even passing up turns in hopes that he might find some place to put those seven tiles down and earn that 50-point reward. But in the end, no space opens up. There’s simply no room and the tiles are slid off the rack and returned to the brown bag from which they magically emerged.

Scrabble is such an emotionally exhausting game sometimes … That’s why Victor typically resigns himself to word jumbles and crossword puzzles. They’re much easier to solve. … And Victor, when it comes right down to it, likes to stick to what he does best. It’s what we all do really, isn’t it? We dream of magical things such as writing a novel, growing the perfect garden, moving to a faraway place or just somehow making one small but significant mark in this world, but when we seriously consider the difficulty of achieving such dreams – it's much like trying to squeeze a big word onto our overcrowded board and it feels too hard so we just stop searching for a place to put all that.

In the end, we throw the letters back into the bag and return to the warm and comfortable place where we feel most secure ... because seven-letter words are fun to think about, but seriously hard to accommodate …. Especially when the board’s all crowded up with the words that have already been put down. It’s not like you can just move them all out of the way and put a new one there. That would be against the official rules of Scrabble.

For those who struggle with breaking the rules, Scrabble’s a very risky game. It’s not for the faint of heart, even when you get all the right letters … especially then.

It’s a hard game for those little letter tiles too. If you don’t believe it, just ask the letter Z, or her freakish buds X, Q and K. Well, actually it’s not that hard for K, ‘cause K knows how to fit in a little better, and you can tell that because she's valued at 5 points, whereas Z, X and Q are considerably more. Apparently, the more unique and harder to accommodate you are, the higher the assigned point value.

Somehow, that all makes sense to me, and given the friends I have … I consider myself a high roller, ‘cause even though I may be breaking official rules by just coming right out and saying this, they’re all worth at least 10 points. And some, a little more. So all things considered, I guess I’m fortunate…. Because even if I can’t find the right letters to make them into words and even if they wind up costing me points, I’m OK being stuck with every last one of them.

Writer’s note: I would like to thank my friends Q, X, K, and also the letter J, who frequently goes unrecognized, for their unknowing yet thoughtful contributions to this soul-searching if somewhat mushy post.

Victor is in the ladies room at Total Wine in the Harbor Shops off Cordova Road ... in the right hand upper drawer of the only cabinet in there. I hope he gets found .... The restroom is not in the most obvious spot there. So here's the guide: Walk in, go all the way to the left and then proceed to the back of the store .... left on aisle 7, and keep going until you see it on the right.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bon Voyage to Janie

Rucci the Tile Kidnapper has struck again. Janie, who got so tired of hearing the word "awesome" that she started charging co-workers every time they said it, was dropped at a phone booth at the now-defunct CVS Pharmacy on 17th Street and Andrews Avenue on May 28. By that time, she'd collected so much money in the "awesome" jar that she had hit the streets looking for a happy hour. She started at the phone both, perhaps calling some friends to come and meet her, but she never did make it very far. Rucci just recently discovered her in a red automotive newspaper box not far from the phone at CVS.

Nobody really knows how Janie wound up there. Maybe none of her friends were home that night. Maybe she realized she didn't have any friends. Maybe she was just really, really tired and crawling inside a little red box just seemed like a grand idea. Then again, she could have been looking for a good used car and fell asleep waiting for callbacks. ... and while sleeping perhaps she began to dream of fairies, and then she transitioned directly into another dream ... about a ferry of a different kind.

By the time she woke up, she was feeling a little faded, but apparently her dream was about to become a reality. This e-mail and the above photo arrived in the Tilefortlauderdale e-mail box today.

"Janie decided to skip Friday 'Happy-Hour' and spend her new found "Awesome-Cash" in a different way! She wanted to join her cousins on her OWN magnificent journey! All she knew was, she wanted a secret Ferry-Ride and was going to get one. She would take her jar with her and order strangers to pony-up a buck when she hears 'Awesome!' That should just about cover the cost of the ferry. Ahhhh, another of MTM's offspring leaves the nest to take yet another trip to far off lands. Will keep you updated on her wild time and final destination."

R&R, the team of Rucci and Sherry, thought another recently dropped tile might make good company for Janie, so the next day, they went to Birch Park to search for her too, but the secret-telling Veronica was nowhere to be found. She may have been hiding, or she might have just run off, or maybe she was curled up somewhere in the park, resting up from telling all her secrets night after night.

They did, however, encounter the heart art, and the old train, and Rucci is seemingly a longtime visitor to Birch Park.

This followup e-mail arrived just after the e-mail about Janie's new adventure: "The next day we were hiking in Birch Park and saw the hearts within the hearts you were speaking of and wanted to take Veronica with us also but we think she was discovered as we know that area well and REALLY looked for her. I actually rode that little train long ago ... the part where it would travel over the narrow tressel, the conductor would stop the train and declare "If anyone doesn't like the way I'm driving the train, THIS IS WHERE YOU CAN GET OFF!!!" Too funny! R&R"

R&R have been picking up tiles for some time now and taking them on adventures in places like Tennessee and North Carolina, and then photographing and recording the exploits for this site. Sherry shares the tile adventures with everyone down at the firehouse too.

We'll have to wait and see what become of Janie. As for the aptly named Vulnerable Veronica ... no one knows where she is tonight ... probably beside a little patch of thriving flowers, somewhere out there in a field, whispering about her trip to the trees.

As for Janie, I wish her an awesome bon voyage.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Vulnerable Veronica's Secret Garden

Veronica dreamed of transforming a corner of the big field behind her home, into a secret garden. She spread soil, she dug in the dirt, and she planted little seeds and watered them all regularly ... She even began burying all of her fruit peels and eggs shells and coffee grounds out here to help the soil. Despite doing all the things gardening experts advised, it wasn't going as she envisioned. While occasional sprouts developed into straggly plants, nothing grew and thrived the way she dreamed it should.

Furthermore, the whole process began to feel like a chore, like something she started and had to finish just because she sometimes heard that little voice going, "Finish what you start." She knew, however, that that little voice was a fibber because the truth is that there are plenty of things that people start and shouldn't finish, and even as she thought about this, she realized how that statement could be taken many different ways, and all of them would be true.

And this is mostly what she loved about spending time in the secret garden space ... Even when things weren't growing, she's just kinda sit around for awhile and thought about stuff ... She'd let all the little idea bubbles in her head float around get to know one another, and then just sit back and listen to their conversations. While doing so, she came to some rather interesting realizations about herself, about life and about this garden and all that this little space meant to her.

One night, after watering and fertilizing and doing all the things people say you should do with gardens, she found herself sitting out there on an upside down metal tub, looking up at the moon and wondering what on earth possessed her to keep returning here. She had a vision that this garden would "burst into life," as she once heard it put in a song on the radio. She envisioned fireflies, ladybugs and flowers dancing in the moonlight to the sound of the frogs and the crickets ... and she wished really hard for her garden to be able to enjoy that sort of life.

On some deeper level, she needed confirmation that envisioning, believing and wishing really hard can help bring about new realities. Once she realized all of this, she spoke these shiny new and honest thoughts aloud to this little piece of earth known as her secret garden and it felt pretty empowering. The next night, she saw that the plants looked healthier and happier. She even spotted a bloom. So she did some more thinking, arrived at new realizations and shared those with her flowers.

One of Veronica's biggest epiphanies turns out to be something she had known all along, but had simply never applied to gardening. The garden took so long to thrive because she approached it the way most people approach it instead of just stopping and listening to her garden, and to her own thoughts. She wasn't feeling her way through things, which has been the only thing that has ever truly worked for her in this life.

Now Veronica understands how to garden, and while it's not the way most people would garden, it's OK, because Veronica's just different. Not that she's a freak or anything. She just processes life a little differently than some people. And her garden, well, it's pretty unique too. Now that they talk, everything is going much better for Veronica, and the garden she continues to fertilize with her secrets

Late every night, Veronica wanders out to her garden and sits on that upside-down metal tub for awhile just thinking and trying to get to the heart of things she doesn't understand, even about herself. It's like the secrets she keeps from herself, about herself, are emerging. When they surface, she whispers those secrets to the flowers. They share with her too ... blooms, fireflies and occasionally, when the wind is just right, all the flowers sway in unison in what looks like a garden ballet. But that doesn't happen very often, so it's truly special when it does.

The garden is thriving now, and Veronica finds herself wondering what will happen when she's completely out of secrets. Will that be the end of her little garden project? Will she long to keep returning to that comfortable space? How long before new secrets emerge? She's decided not to think about these things yet ... mostly because she doesn't have to think about them right now. Instead, Veronica has decided that on the night she has revealed the last of every last secret buried inside of her, she'll curl up right in the middle of her gorgeous flowerbed and sleep for a very long time.
Dropped Veronica at Birch Park today, where after years of walking the track, I discovered many hidden trails that apparently have always been there ... yet somehow I never knew they existed. I saw a sign at the end of a path while walking on the main track and wanted to go check it out. Once back there, we learned from a little information board that the park once had a train that went around the perimeter of it and that part of the tracks are still out there.

Also back there was this really long and gorgeous path with plenty of interesting spider webs to check out. I happily did not get tangled up in any. One of the paths was completely covered by a canopy of trees, and someone had been down that path today because as we were walking we encountered a carving in the dirt that was one heart inside of another inside of another. I love finding little temporary art things like that ... But then about 20 or so steps later, there was another and then another. I think we counted like 8 of them. Later when I would pass someone on the track, I'd wondered if it was them who was back there on the secret path, drawing hearts. With the exception of babies in strollers, I didn't spot any kids in the park today, so maybe it was an adult which somehow makes me smile even more.

One of the paths we discovered today led to the secret tree garden where Veronica is now hanging out. You have to go back there in that little tree maze to see her because she is not that easy to find. If you stick to the road and don't travel off the beaten path ... you'll never find her, which seems appropriate. It also means she may not be found , or that by the time she is she'll be weathered and faded.

Come midnight, she may still be out there in that secret tree garden in the pitch darkness There could be rain, thunder, lightning ... creatures hanging out ... But somehow, I think Veronica will know what to do. If there's anything that doesn't scare her ... it's being in a secret garden in the middle of the night.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Roni's Big Adventures

It's sometimes downright uncanny what happens with tiles ... Yesterday, as I was planning the tile that would ultimately end up in a local ice cream parlor, I received a message about another tile that apparently took it's own trip to a faraway ice cream parlor.

Roni was dropped about a year ago at Ernie's, the famed local BBQ spot that's been on Federal Highway since 1957. It was picked up by the same couple who took Feisty Fred, the mischievous cat on an adventure that landed him in Tennessee and got him into newspapers there. AP apparently picked up the story and news of Feisty Fred eventually came back home and onto the pages of the Miami Herald one Sunday morning.

But this is all about Roni, the woman with a fear of asterisks. When Sherry and Rucci first e-mailed about Roni, whom they spotted behind the bar at Ernie's, they informed me they could not find her on my blog, and though I was convinced I had posted every tile, Roni was not there. Not in my picture file either. So she's mysterious and has apparently found a way to live off the grid and her adventuresome spirit was justly rewarded with a Harley ride to NC.

Yesterday, I received this message from Sherry and Rucci:
"So it seems Roni had quite a trip..After some game play on the slots, she headed up to North Carolina on the Harley.

"After posing with Wild Bill Hickock, a romp in The Pisgah State Forest was in order... she looks so happy among the wild flowers.

"A trip to the oldest soda-shop/pharmacy in Brevard, N.C. and it was off to The Jordan Street Cafe. A very hip, college student type place with good drinks, great bartenders and SWEET POTATO FRENCH FRIES!! What more could a roaming girl want? Ironically, she ended up in the ladies room, where her journey seemed to have begun. We hope to find out what becomes of her. She has come a long way, baby! Sherry & Rucci"

I'm very happy for Roni and her adventures ... Better start having some of my own so I don't become one of those people who has to live vicariously through the tiles they hide on the street ... Everybody's doing that now. But look at her among those wildflowers. The setting looks so peaceful and still, she looks all freaked out. Maybe I felt freaked out when I painted her into existence a year ago. I'm kinda hoping that one of those creative types at the cafe will find Roni and paint a happier little mouth on her, and send that pic too .... 'cause Sherry and Rucci have obviously taken her to all the right places and done all the right things ... They've done all they could for Roni, so maybe she just has stuff to work out.

We all do. We'll see where Roni goes next.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Candy's Meaningful New Life

The crew down at the factory where Candy worked had been steadily shrinking over the past year. She knew that one day, her position would also be eliminated and she would no longer be able to make those little widgets she loved making. So she'd been surfing local jobs sites for something new and preferably something meaningful to do with her life when she spotted an ad that intrigued her. It read: “Dancing Ice Cream Cone needed at old fashioned ice cream parlor.”

Now, Candy's not much of a dancer, but the little voice inside her squealed with delight when she saw that ad. Not one to ignore her inner voice, Candy called the number in the ad and then drove directly to Jaxson's Ice Cream Parlor to see what this job was about. As it turned out, it was about promoting Jaxson's new hurricane season offering: A 3-flavor Cone of Uncertainty, for those who just cannot make up their mind. The owner of Jaxson’s explained to Candy that with all these recent hurricanes being described with terms such as “disorganized” and “confused” … he felt it was high time South Floridians stepped up to embrace the confusion and celebrate our place in the Cone of Uncertainty. Laughing, almost to himself, he said, “You know what the last straw was for me, Candy? The moment I decided there must be an ice cream cone to celebrate this?”

“What, what was it?” Candy asked in complete interest.

“Well,” he says, “it was the day I read a story about one of those storms ‘bamboozling’ the computer models. I might actually make that a new flavor he says … maybe something with rum raisin … Bamboozled indeed.”

If there's one thing that Candy could work up feelings about. It was Uncertainty. After all, she'd been living in the Cone of Uncertainly, both mentally and physically, for some time now. She felt uncertain about a lot of things, most of the time. She knew she was THE perfect candidate for this job, and that no one on this planet had explored uncertainty to the extent that she had explored it.

She knew competition for this job would be tough, with so many people being out of work and searching for more meaning in their lives. So she gave the interview her all. But the owner didn't want just any dancing ice cream cone. "Can you swirl?" he asked, somewhat challengingly.

"Swirl?" she asked cluelessly, thinking she might have to make fudge ripple ice cream or something.

"Yes, you know, swirl, like a hurricane?" he said, making a swirling motion with his index finger.

"Oh, swirl, of course I can swirl," she lied.

"So give it a swirl then," he says. But I need you do that while holding the two ice cream cones I’m going to make.

Suddenly Candy realized just how ridiculous she was going to feel, putting her whole entire self out there to this extent. She had no swirling experience, and had she known that she would be called upon to swirl, she’d have practiced at home first.

She also realized that she may never again find work as meaningful as this. I mean, imagine what a better place the world might be if we united around our uncertainties, if we all just for a moment stopped pretending that we know everything and realize that in essence, we know very little and we're unsure about a lot. I mean, look at all the things we once thought were true, and maybe some were true at the time, but time changes, life continues and uncertainty, like an old but loyal friend, surfaces again to remind us to let go of what’s no longer true, and maybe never was. It reminds us that at any given moment, life can come along and it can huff and puff and blow your fragile little house of cards down, and when it does, as it inevitably will on occasion, we must be brave enough to keep swirling in new directions, even if the little wind turbines of our minds get stuck or start clanging in the wind and making us crazy.

No longer afraid, and clearly grasping the significance of the moment, Candy bravely rose from her chair, took the cones from the owner's hand, and gracefully swirled out the door of that owner’s office and then all through his ice cream parlor. She did at one point, drop a cone, but quickly recovered by grabbing handfuls of sprinkles then twirling clear out into the parking lot where she showered those sprinkles upon ice cream lovers while gracefully spinning and singing little made-up songs about uncertainty, disorganization and total confusion. But they were happy songs, songs about the empowerment of uncertainty ... because uncertainty comes from a very honest place, whereas absolute certainty is often just about us trying to convince ourselves that something is true, or not true.

If you want to find out what’s really true, swirl in the Cone of Uncertainty and let the ice cream drip where it may. There’s no guarantee it won’t make a sticky little mess. But you can clean it up and move on. Or better yet, toss some sprinkles on that sticky mess and let it serve as a colorful reminder that one of the most real and the most beautiful things in life is pure unabashed uncertainty. Embrace it with all of your might, and swirl. Swirl like there is no tomorrow.


Dropped Candy at Jaxson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Dania. She's under the sink in the ladies room, ready to come out swirling …. Since Candy started waving cars into Jaxson’s parking lot from her new post along Federal Highway, a dance craze now known as The Swirl of Uncertainty has been gaining popularity in South Florida clubs and now -- thanks to the Internet (where people are posting videos of themselves swirling) -- across the U.S.

Also ... in an unprecedented move, TV weather people have come forward and confessed that they actually know nothing about where these storms are headed but that they too enjoy a good swirl. The local weather people, however, do predict that Jaxson’s will still be standing in 100 years, and that Candy will be long gone … but that her disciples will continue to celebrate the start of each hurricane season by swirling to music in the parking lot, eating drippy ice cream cones and tossing sprinkles onto sticky puddles of ice cream to symbolize their ongoing respect for uncertainty and all that it symbolizes.

Writer’s note: The story you have just read bears no resemblance to the truth, at least the truth as most people know it. But even after swirling in my Cone of Uncertainty, it all still sounds true to me. : )