The Fine Art of Being Yourself

Tonight I took the bull by the horns and finished my Houston story. It took seven hours of intense grappling, but it’s done. I have a deal with GoNOMAD that when I’m fussing over my stories, I do it off the clock, as one of our writers would do.

I can’t wait to go in tomorrow and pop in the photos. That I can do on the clock because I do it for all our writers.

This Houston story was really hard because, for one thing, I had a great time and our hosts were so gracious and such nice people that I really wanted to do justice to the destination and hold up the GoNOMAD reputation.

And I’ve always done too much fussing over pieces with my name on them. My freelance career was, like, “Wow, they paid me $200 and it only took three weeks. At this rate I’ll be… bankrupt soon.”

On top of that, I visited my Houstonian friends Geoff Walker and Ann Kennedy, whom I deeply love and admire, and I had to write something that hopefully they would like, too.

The whole thing came together when I figured out how to put myself into the story. A lot of our writers do this naturally, but for me it takes a while to figure out.

I had devised a title, “Houston Texas: A Great Place to Be Yourself” which I liked. I think what took almost three months was the line, “Being yourself sounds like a simple proposition, but in my experience, it’s not; and it is from literature, music and the arts that we learn from others how to do a better job of it.”

I had been bowled over by some great exhibits at the Museum of Contemporary Art which I’m definitely going to work into a gallery, but talking about them would have been an overlong sidetrack from the main story — stuff that I find really interesting, but many readers might not.

One guy had a bible rotating on a turntable in a diorama about his college days — see he had me right there, tho’ someone else might not get it. It was in a plexiglass case with cigarette butts, empty liquor bottles and albums from the 70s that served as a bar where he sold drinks in the museum.

Another guy had a junk shop in the museum where he sold stuff. He had a painting called Ocean of Tears that I’m thinking of purchasing and donating to the Museum of Bad Art in my hometown of Dedham, Massachusetts.

And there were lots of other great exhibits like Gallery 1.6 and the Fundred Dollar Bill Project, and so many others.

But all this stuff was too difficult to explain.

Instead I invoked two Houston artists who have made an impact on the world in a uniquely Houston way. The postal worker who created the backyard museum known as the Orange Show, dedicated to his favorite fruit, that spawned the foundation that brought you the Art Car Parade, and the Beer Can House guy who spent 40 years siding his house with beer cans and making curtains out of ring tops.

Here were guys who had a lot of great ideas about how to be yourself.

Then I found the student named Roxanne who decided to be an artist after visiting the Orange Show. Her teacher left a comment on the Orange Show website.

And I realized, here it was, the spark being passed along. After that it was a piece of cake.