Rendered Fat Content


Wojciech Siudmak: Door (1999)
" … probably something even better!"

When I was in my early twenties, I took a job as a pot washer, the lowliest job in the kitchen. My work station was in the grimy basement beneath where the chefs reigned, adjacent to the service elevator which brought me a continuous stream of freshly-ruined pots and pans. I had not taken the job with the aspiration of advancement. I was at the time convinced that I was a songwriter. I took the job to support my songwriting, which I firmly believed would eventually bring me fame and fortune. That job served as a medium and not as an end unto itself. It turned out that I had a penchant for the work. I declared myself The Pot Wizard and challenged all comers to try to dirty a pot in a way I could not conquer. Nobody ever did.

I learned more while washing pots than I learned at university.
I came to understand that an ounce of fiction injected into tedious work might utterly transform it. Washing pots was essentially a disgusting occupation. Being The Pot Wizard, not so much. Everyone understood that I was joking, but joking for a very good reason. I was Sublimating, elevating that stupid job into something etherial. This tendency to sound a little self-deprecating and sarcastic has followed me through several careers. I worked not just for an insurance company for several years, but for The Best Of All Possible Mutual Life Insurance Companies In The Greater Portland Metropolitan Area, Bar None. Notwithstanding the fact that it was the only mutual life insurance company headquartered within the greater Portland metropolitan area, it served as the medium for much personal learning and self-discovery, a truly epic backdrop, not just a faceless bureaucracy. When I worked as factory labor sorting asparagus along a conveyor belt, I declared myself a 'hand dancer,' a more elegant job title than day laborer and one more respectful and ego nurturing.

My Pop-up Paint Shoppe is just the latest instance of my fantasies gaining substance. I almost always create an inflated and silly context as the premise of my work, especially if it might otherwise seem demeaning or overwhelming. The Muse and I live in The Villa Vatta Schmaltz, after all, and not merely in a house on anything like an ordinary street. We inhabit "the center of the universe, where gravity works right," or so I insist. Who am I to insist such things? I'm the guy in charge of the context within which I operate. Given the choice of inhabiting just another ordinary space or a virtual palace, which would you choose? At one level, it's the same place either choice, but at another level, such choices make worlds of difference. In my Pop-up Paint Shoppe, magic just naturally occurs. It's bound to happen there. A driveway painting tent sounds more like a work station than the stage set for magic to happen. I want to live in a world where magic routinely happens so I assign lofty label to the places I inhabit and the tedious chores I perform.

Last evening, while sitting after finishing my painting for the day, I noticed sunlight filtered through foliage sparkling along the edge of the door I had been painting. It looked every bit as if Tinkerbell was having her way with it, or some wizard was perhaps blessing or vulcanizing it. It looked like pure magic and was not unexpected. I created my Pop-up Paint Shoppe space anticipating magic. The alternatives each seemed to reduce themselves into some variant of tragic. It was bad enough that I'd indentured myself to refinishing almost every door in the house. It could have only been worse to engage in that work without an explicit expectation that magic would visit during the course of the assignment. I enter that space with reverence, hesitating at the edge, understanding that once I enter, I'll be on a stage, performing, and The Gods (or somebody equally noteworthy) will be watching. They will very likely influence my performance, injecting some insight or intuition to aid in my continuing education. Not just my education as a painter, but as a person.

I stumble away from my laboring at the end of the day. I feel both energized and exhausted, as if I was a hero returning from a quest. It's all pure fiction, except the part where I've somehow managed to ennoble my humbling undertaking. Yes, I spent the day engaging in only the most menial of tasks, the ones I couldn't bear to pay anyone else to perform, the ones not worth paying anyone else to do. I pulled the nails out of the baseboard we'd removed and stacked them for refinishing while Kurt Our Painter removed them with the studied skill of an actual tradesman. I, his dog's body batman, advancing the plot line, developing character, inflating the story. Not all of us spend our days creating works of art, and I'm moved to wonder why we don't. It's well within anyone's power to project some useful fiction upon even the least of their proceedings. If I can cast myself as the hero of my adventure, it seems to me that anyone could cast themselves as the hero of theirs. Maybe you're a Pot Wizard, too, or working for The Best Of All Possible all your own, probably something even better!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver