Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Cobrança É Na Rua


As I waffle between extreme anxiety and moderate depression in my daily life, I realize that it might be a good time to vent a bit.  And what better place to vent than on the Internet, for all to see and hear the faint bleat of my rage.  And what better thing to rant about than the very least of my problems, because: a. everyone loves a whiner, and b. the important stuff is going to have to wait for me to publish the book I'm never going to write.

So.  My store.  It is very small.  It has no ventilation, and the air conditioning is on all the time.  This is important to know because the product that I sell the most of is composed of toxic gases and other organic solvents and fun stuff.  It is sealed in steel cans so generally I am barely aware that I am surrounded by stinky, dangerous (not to mention flammable)  stuff.  It is a bad idea to let this paint out of its can in a non-ventilated area, and I don't let my customers do so.

Another thing about my store: for years now, I have been allowing my clients to leave their 'tag' on the wall, using non-stinky, non-noxious markers of course.  When I moved to my new location a couple years back I held off on this for a while but I eventually gave in and now the store is covered in tags, and my clients complain that there's no space left for their own.  They also complain if I paint over them in order to make space for new tags.  I tell them my store, my rules, and the store is not the street so the same rules don't apply to their tags.  Then I paint over them and the cycle starts anew.

No longer.  I'm going to paint over all of them and I will not permit anyone to leave their tag in the store anymore.  You want to know why?  Of course you do.  It has to do with "cobrança."

One thing about graffiti is that it's very territorial.  It's an integral, original and apparently eternal element of the art and to be honest I'm finding it increasingly to be a pain in the ass.  I used to accept it and deal with it but the truth is I'd rather just be able to make art in the streets and not have to deal with all the ego and the "respect" and all the other crap that goes along with it.

One important part of this territorial business is cobrança.  That means "collecting" as in collecting a payment for all you non-lusophone types.  If somebody paints over you, you go and paint over them.  That's cobrança.  Of course, it gets complicated, because a lot of the time it wasn't the graffiti artist that painted over you initially, it was the city, or the owner of the house that happened to have your graffiti or pixo on it.  Us graffiti and pixo types love nothing more than a blank canvas, so invariably it doesn't stay blank for long.  The previous artist gets pissed and makes their cobrança, which may make the most recent artist pissed off if they weren't the ones that painted over the first artist, etc.  There are serious amounts of bullshit and sometimes it gets ugly and it sure doesn't look nice to the general public - there's one wall on a very busy street here that had a fresh new painting on it and the previous artist wrote VIADO (slang for a gay man, usually offensive) in huge black letters over it.  I won't get into the details.  I've heard both sides of the story.  It's tedious and it bores me and it's wearing me down and it's part of why I wouldn't mind just not even selling spray paint anymore if I had a viable alternative.

Anyhow.  As the title of this post suggests, cobrança is a thing of the streets, and the way I see it, should be dealt with on those streets.  However, certain street artists who shall go unnamed have decided to do their little cobranças in my store.

As you may have figured out by now I hate cobrança (even though I've done it as well, I won't get into why) and it enrages me that people want to use the canvas I have provided to work out their stupid beefs.  My store, my rules, remember?  The other thing that I discovered about the recent spate of cobranças that have been going on in the store is that they begin and end here in the store - they aren't taking it to the street which would be a more serious and legitimate arena for them to be disputing in.

Which brings us to today.  I was already annoyed by some recent cobranças on the counter in the store, so this weekend I painted it black and announced that nobody would be allowed to leave their tags there anymore.  I had intended to leave it at that.  Then this freakin' numbskull of a client of mine (he's basically a decent guy, but he has a tendency to do stupid stuff, you know how it is) takes a can of spray paint he had just bought from me and, without consulting me, begins to PSSSSSSHHHHT cover up a large tag in the store with it.

I went kinda ballistic on the guy.  I mean, it's not like I'm dealing with a divorce and the constant fear of governmental collapse and extreme fiscal insecurity amongst other things.  I have to let the little things get to me or I'll be reduced to a gibbering mess.  This guy was doing exactly the thing that has been my personal pet peeve for the last couple weeks, but he was doing in in my store with the aforementioned toxic stinking product that I sell.  And after he split I was going to be left with the noxious fumes mingling with my air-conditioning and a guaranteed headache. I told him to stop and dude told me that the other guy had painted over him in the street.  I asked dude if he'd painted over the other guy on the street as well, and he said no.  So now I'm even more annoyed - same story as before: the guy doesn't have the guts or is too lazy to do his dirty business on the street, so he takes advantage of my store to restore his ego.  At the expense of my health and well being.  I was probably a leeetle bit more annoyed than I should have been under the circumstances, and dude told me to calm down and take a deep breath.  Then he informed me that he is now an ex-customer.  Oh well.  He's not the first.

But won't I miss all the colorful chaos that the walls provide me on a daily basis?  I don't think so.  Some of these tags are nice but half of them are butt ugly.  I might miss the entire store if I eventually can no longer scrape together the cash to pay the bills and have to close down.  But the tags?  I'm done.  I'm going to paint over all of these fuckers, except for one by a guy who died and maybe one by a guy who is kinda famous.  And then the walls will be white and peaceful and boring.

And the least of my problems will be solved.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New View



There are two things I love about my new apartment:  it has a view, and it is generally very quiet.  The absence of these two things have long been my biggest gripes about the house I have lived in for the last twelve years.

Wait a second, you may be saying, if you know me and/or follow this blog for some reason, don't you own that house?

Yes, in fact, I do.  Still do, although that may be in some dispute now.  My wife and son still live there.  I now live alone.

Alone?  you might say.  You left your house and your family?  you might add.  But you probably won't, as that was kind of obvious from the previous paragraph.

I really like my new apartment, except that I'm rarely here and when I am it seems awful empty most of the time.  My son likes the apartment too, but I think he generally prefers the noise of the old house and I'm not sure the view means much to him, except when we get the chance to see 200 motorcycles drive by, like we did today.  Never would have seen that from the other place.

The other big problem is that I left a largish house that I own for a place where I will now have to pay rent, and at least currently I'm still paying everything at the old place.  For now it's working out because I actually lucked into the place, some friends of mine got sick of Salvador and decided to leave, and they paid the rent through next month.  Once the real bills kick in things will get more complicated, but one thing at a time.

If you are hoping I'll say something about why after 12 years I left the house I'm afraid you'll be disappointed.  I will possibly make mention of what went down over the last year or so in future posts, if there are future posts, but then again maybe I won't.  It's entirely possible my next post will be sheepishly written in retreat, from the confines of my old, viewless bedroom.

But I kinda doubt it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Could Have Been Luckier


We had a dog.  Lasted about five months.  I guess that's better than our last dog, who lasted about 24 hours.

The little guy's name was (and still is) Lucky, an unfortunate moniker as it was just a little too similar to my son's name and thus ripe for inevitable confusion.  I rolled with it - it was in theory my son's dog and so of course he could name it whatever he wanted.

As things worked out the dog was pretty much mine.  I was the one who walked him twice a day, fed him most of the time, cleaned the patio area that he was confined to for 23 hours a day.  My son turned out to like the idea of the dog more than the actual work of the dog, despite his promises to get more involved with the little guy whenever it was threatened that he might be leaving soon.

The threat of leaving the house pretty much hung over Lucky since before he even arrived here.  I for one was not pleased at the sudden reality of a puppy being thrust upon us without warning - which is what happened when my sister-in-law came home from work with him one day and gave him to my son.  I was woken up one day with this news and I did not take it well.  I lobbied hard for him to be taken back to his mother, he had been weaned (ie taken away) too early and apparently was just a little pea of a thing when he arrived.  My wife didn't think he'd make it.  He made it, but he was not returned to his mother as I was told his mother had been hit by a car.  I would have preferred a grown shelter dog, but despite my best efforts we ended up with the puppy.

Dog owners fall into two schools: the inside dog school (me) and the outside dog school (my wife).  Outside dogs are fine, providing they have space to run around and preferably another dog to keep them company.  At our house, the only real outside option is the patio, which is only about 15 feet on a side.  This was okay for a while, but Lucky got bigger.  Quite a bit bigger - we though he'd be a smallish medium dog, but he ended up being more of a large medium/small large type dog.  He got really strong - taking him for a walk was more like him dragging me or me dragging him from one place to another, plus he had the unfortunate habit of slingshotting to the end of his leash when he got excited, which was often.

But I liked the little guy.  Sure, I resented somewhat that I had to get up early on my only day off to feed him, and I felt really bad for him when he would whine for the attention that he deserved but wasn't getting, and I hated it when he started barking for no reason. But I like dogs.  I've never really been a dog owner per se, but I've had dogs come into my life like Lucky did, and I've been nice to them, and they've been nice to me.  I'm happy to know that I helped Lucky get a good start: vaccines, walks, decent food.

Lucky's real doom was that he smelled.  He urinated and defecated in his area, although much less recently than when he first arrived, and he wasn't bathed as often as he could have been, as that was supposed to be my son's duty.  His patio was just off my wife's room, and my wife hates stench.  She also has the best/most sensitive sense of smell of anyone I've ever met.  Lucky also had a charming habit of jumping up and pulling the wash off the clotheslines that shared the patio with him.  No longer willing to accommodate him in the patio area, my wife wanted to confine him to an even smaller space, which I use as a shop.  I put my foot down and said no way.  My son's preference for YouTube videos over spending time with the dog definitely lessened my desire to fight on Lucky's behalf.

Things would have worked out differently if he could have stayed in the house with us at least part of the time.  It would have worked out differently if he was older and calmer and I could have taken him to the store with me during the day.  And obviously, if my son had been more interested and engaged that would have changed the calculus.  I have to keep reminding myself that I didn't want the dog in the first place.

So my wife lobbied hard until her sister agreed to come and take Lucky back to her house, which is what finally happened today.  I would like to feel better about it, to think that he's off to a better life, but the reality is that he almost certainly is not.  He will be confined to another concrete area, and I'm sure nobody will be taking him for walks anymore.  There is an area for him to run around in, with grass and trees and stuff, but my guess is he'll rarely be able to take advantage of it.  And there's the unfortunate reality that dogs don't tend to last long out with my wife's family, they either disappear or die before their time.

Now it's the next morning and I am freed of my obligation to walk the dog and wash away his poop residue.  The patio that I built gates for and raised clothes lines in sits empty.  I can take the chicken wire off my potted plants now that there's nobody to dig in them anymore.  No more plaintive whining.  I'll be happy about that, eventually.

If there's a next time, and a next dog, it will be on my terms.  The dog will live in the house.  Miss you little Lucky.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Markuza Shows Art

Welp, I done did it.  It's taken me about a week to recover from my extraordinary efforts, but I can proudly say I have mounted my first solo exhibition.  Before I turned 50.  Who knows, maybe I'll do another one some day.

I'm not going to write much here, a picture being worth a thousand words I think I'll go for some ten thousand picture-words with brief annotation.


The dragon - probably the most popular piece of the show. It is made entirely of what they call eucatex here, I can't remember the damn name in English.  All scavenged from the street, formerly the back part of cheap wardrobes.  It's segmented and each segment fits into the next one.  It is modeled after a wheatpaste I made that went to China with Eric Marechal of Urban Hearts.  This I mostly worked on at the store during quiet periods, of which there have been many lately.


This is an older piece that I included when I realized that I wasn't going to make enough new art to fill up the whole space, which was pretty big.


The owner of the space encouraged me to "break out of the rectangle," which is why I made these more sculptural things.  This guy is a Markuza version of those bird mobiles you see around, if you pull down on the tail he flaps his wings, briefly.  Also made of entirely found materials - I only bought the paint, the string, and the eye hooks to attach the wings to.  Well, I bought the hinges and stuff too, but for previous, forgotten projects.


My dad met Alexander Calder, and was friends with his daughter.  He used to make mobiles too, which is probably why I was inspired to make one myself, albeit a super simple one.  There's a preschool in this space (hence the toys and the tent) apparently the kids loved these guys.  Let me just take a second to say that my dad would have been thrilled that I did this show. 


The last of the semi-3d 'kinetic' works.


All these guys are made from repurposed particle board, mostly old shitty wardrobes that get thrown out on a fairly regular basis around here.  I had been looking around for one to make these guys out of and rescued one out of the back of the dump truck.  As you can see, an extremely fragile material to work with.  I was terrified the flapping guy would fall on the ground and meet a similar fate.



These two paintings were by far what I spent the most time on.  I wanted to do the whole show in this vein, but it's just as well I couldn't pull it off - the owner of the space didn't really like them.  He said that although my other pieces were mature works, these looked like I was "trying to be a painter," to which I say: fair enough.  I wasn't terribly pleased with the result either, I needed at least another week of dithering on them to finish them properly.  However, they have gotten a positive response on Facebook and by the few who were present at the opening, so now I feel better about them.  And will continue to work on stuff like this, regardless of what people think.


More filler works: the one on the right is part of a tryptich of unfinished panels I did, this was the only one I was able to finish in time for the show.  The painting on the left glows in the dark and is one of the only paintings that is done on a proper canvas, the rest are painted on repurposed political posters.


The freakin' gorgeous view out the back of the "gallery."


He had the idea to make a labyrinth in the entryway, which turned out pretty cool even though it didn't photograph well.  It would have been better if I'd had a couple more hours to work on it.  It was also the item that pushed me over the edge into the realm of pure exhaustion.


And that's it!  This is a picture of a rainbow, because everybody loves rainbows.  It has nothing do with the show.  I took it while I was walking the dog, something I won't be doing for much longer, if at all.  I'll leave that story for the next post.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Markuza Makes Art

Markuza was offered an opportunity to show his art.  A whole gallery (of sorts), all to himself.  He was sought out by the gallery (home gallery, actually, but it's better than that sounds) owner to do the show.  How could he refuse?

Markuza is flattered, but he is also super busy.  He is desperately trying to get the art together to fill up the space, which is large.  He works six days a week, walks the dog twice a day, makes food for his kid, and tries to make art in the rest of the time available.

He had hoped to make all new pieces, large paintings, etc, but he is coming up against the reality that it's not going to happen.  He has a fair number of older pieces which he can include.  It was suggested that he have an overarching theme to the work, but that ain't gonna happen.

It was also suggested to Markuza that he "break out of the rectangle" by making non-painting type art, which he has embraced with some gusto.  He probably alarmed and/or confirmed the suspicions regarding the sanity of non-brazilians to the garbage men when he hauled a bunch of particle board off the back of their truck.  This particle board, from a recently deceased cheap ass wardrobe, is now being cut into relatively 3-D versions of the monsters that Markuza likes to paint in the street.

Here's a couple of pictures of work in progress for you curious types:





Markuza won't be posting any pictures of the paintings at this time.  Maybe if he's motivated he'll write a post about the opening.  He's planning to do a Live Paint!

I love it when people refer to themselves in the third person.  All the best people do.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Where Has All the Water Gone

I think about this blog sometimes... wistfully...

I really would like to get back to it.  I haven't run out of things to say, that's for sure.  We got a dog, I built a door and then ran out of money before we got it installed... then I ran out of more money.  And the store keeps me very busy, even if it doesn't appear to be making me rich yet.  It is decidedly not making me rich.  Nothing, lately, has made me rich.

And if I wanted to wax metaphorical about all the different ways one could be rich, I could wax on about how one could have a richness of time, which I most decidedly do not.  But the reality is I have exactly as much time in the day as you do, and as I was fond of saying in my idle youth I took my retirement at the beginning of my adult life, and now I must pay the piper.  Various pipers, it would seem.  Retirement is something I can guffaw about if I don't want to let myself get dejected.

But enough about all that, let's talk a bit about water.  Or the lack of it.  And the excess of it.  Water in Salvador is both precious and a waste product that literally cannot be gotten rid of quickly enough.  And sometimes the two states intersect, as they have this week.

When I lived out in the bairro of Paripe for a year I got pretty used to the fact that the pipes would run dry periodically, and no water would flow for a day or more.  Since we didn't have storage tanks for the water we were pretty aware of it.  It happens where we live now too, but we've got 1500 liters of storage, so generally we're fine for a couple of days, and we don't even notice.

Well.  A couple of days.  They shut off the water on Wednesday for a couple of days, for pretty much the whole city.  A big water main project was to be worked on, something about routing water from one dam to another due to the severe drought that's been going on here.  A severe drought, over a long time frame, but that doesn't mean we don't get extreme, severe downpours from time to time.  A couple weeks ago I took this picture:


Now what looks like a couple really badly parked cars were actually three cars that got floated down the hill in the intense runoff from a storm.  Like I said, they can't get rid of the water fast enough.  It doesn't help that everyone wants to pave over their lawns and all the drainage gets blocked with trash, or grates are deliberately covered by people to keep rats from coming up out of the sewers... the week previous, I had to remove my shoes at this exact spot and wade through water that came half way up my shins in order to get to work.

So they shut off the water for two days to dig up some pipes and wouldn't you know it, we got a couple of days of insane downpours, which caused a delay in the work, and now it's Saturday night and we only have water downstairs (water... downstairs?  Don't worry, I'll explain that in a second).  How ironic is that?  They do some work to help deal with the drought and the whole thing gets bolloxed by a biblical amount of rain.  If you're thinking there's something not quite right about this equation, like maybe you're one of those people who thinks it's insane to flush your toilet with potable water rather than repurposed rainwater that might otherwise be floating someone's car down the street, you'd be very, very right.  It's nuts.  Not just in Brazil.  It's nuts everywhere.

Anyhow, I can't say much about that because I've been meaning to install a rainwater capture system for years and haven't seemed able to get around to it, but like I said earlier, I don't have a lot of time.  It's on the list I tell you!!  It's just people keep putting things like dogs and homework and cans of spray paint on other more demanding and more pertinent lists.

So this morning I'm being the optimist I really am not and hoping we'll get our water back, because our 1500 liters of water are gone and we're expecting four guests at the house.  And yes, my neighbor informs me that it's coming back, some people on our street already have water!

But not at our house. Not in the morning, and not in the afternoon.  Now I've known for a long time that we get water at a faucet on the second floor long before it makes its way up to the attic where the storage tanks are.  The faucet in question is attached directly to the pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic.  So I started thinking about it today, and I realized that everybody who had water was getting it from faucets that were close to the ground.  And I had this vision of the water in the city being like some massive, fragmented body of water - gradually filling up in all the pipes in the neighborhood until it finally makes it up to attic level.  The problem, I realized, is that we didn't have any faucets close to the ground that weren't fed by the tanks in the attic.

I realized this at about 5:45 PM, and all the hardware stores close at 6:00.  I ran out and spent R$4,50 (that's less than two bucks for you USD types) on a couple pieces of hydraulic plastic, and took a saw to our mainline water pipe that feeds the tanks in the attic - luckily it's still exposed in its 'temporary' state we left it in oh about 12 years ago when we got the house renovated.  

And wouldn't you know it - there was water in there.  Here's the charming result of my efforts:



I can't tell you just how much this kind of ridiculous jury rig expresses something very profound about my personality, formed in the days when I was a kid looking at elaborate drawings my father made of the same kind of craziness - I guess he had a similar obsession.  Here's what I mean:


Well, kinda.  It's got some pipes anyways.  Miss you Dad.

These kind of ingenious fixes are also liable to cause severe bouts of self-satisfaction and self-patting-on-backiness.  Nothing makes me happier than resolving a situation with little more than my wits and the junk I squirrel away for just this kind of situation (the faucet has been sitting in a box for about ten years).

So maybe tomorrow the water will work its way to the attic.  It would be good, because even if I am fiendishly clever and frugal to boot we're still washing out of buckets this way.

These situations always leads me to the same train of thought, which is: what if the water didn't come back?  What if we didn't generally have running water every time we turned on a faucet?  Or for that matter, what if the trucks stopped coming with the food and the meat and the toilet paper?  I guess I could ask someone from Venezuela, they'd probably know way more about the subject than anyone would want to.  It's something I didn't think about much when I lived in the States.