The Artist Life: Part 1

As an artist, I’m pretty fortunate to live the sort of life that one leads as a creative individual; a life full of interesting people and things. It’s hardly ever dull, that’s for sure. I can’t see myself living any other kind life to be honest with you. It’s not something you plan. It’s something that just happens. It’s not a lifestyle that’s for everyone. If security and day in and day out repetitiveness is important to you, this lifestyle is not for you. However, if you’re adventurous and have a keen sense of intellectual curiosity about the world around you, then this lifestyle is definitely for you. 

In the past three weeks I have spent time in:

  1. San Francisco. My good friend Monica Ambalal and I went to see a documentary on Cambodia’s lost rock and roll scene called “Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten.” The documentary tells the tale of how a once vibrant and diverse music scene that existed from the mid 60’s to the early 70s was pretty much wiped out by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. People that were once stars in their own right were forced to abandon their careers and keep their past lives a secret out of fear of being punished or disappeared; many of them ended up as farm laborers and many others simply disappeared. The documentary was a grim reminder of Cambodia’s past — a past their music scene has not been able to fully recover from, even 40 years later. The director Joe Pirozzi and a participant from the film were present and spoke after the film’s screening. I highly recommend this documentary. Afterwards, we had dinner at Mifune, a favorite haunt of mine from my days as a young art student in San Francisco in the late 80s.
  2. Walnut Grove. Living in California’s agriculturally dominated Central Valley doesn’t always make it easy for an artist (yeah, me), to find inspiration or anything cultural that could be stimulating in any way. It’s slim pickings out here, that’s for sure. It does, however, have areas such as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta where one can take a scenic drive and forget the Central Valley for a brief moment. That’s exactly what my wife and I did a couple of weeks ago. We decided to take a drive through the Delta as we drove to a friend’s for dinner. As you drive through the Delta, you go through quaint little waterside towns such as Walnut Grove, Locke, Isleton, and Rio Vista. Many of these towns have existed since the Gold Rush of the 1800s. As you can see from the pictures above, we decided to stop for ice cream at Mel’s Mocha and Ice Cream, a small ice cream and sandwich shop in Walnut Grove. It’s a pretty small place but their ice cream, and the laid back character of the Delta are totally worth the drive. 
  3. Columbia. Columbia is one of two places where I got to spend time over the weekend. Columbia, like many of the towns in the Delta, has existed in California since the days of the Gold Rush. Its history is obviously the main attraction for tourists, but there are other things to experience there. As we walked around the rest of the town, I found myself enchanted with the scenery and thinking that I could see myself living there. Most people who know me know that I’m a big city person at heart, but I must admit, these small foothill towns have a charm all their own. While we were there, we found a great little place called Columbia Kate’s where we had lunch. Their food was delicious and their outside eating area absolutely perfect. It was the perfect start to a wonderful day.
  4. Sonora. Our last and final stop on our day in the foothills was the town of Sonora. Sonora, unlike Columbia, has a decent little downtown area filled with shops, restaurants, and, surprisingly, a good number of coffeeshops. Again, it was the laid back, slow pace of the town that charmed me. It’s interesting, I find that as I get older, I find myself being more and more attracted to smaller areas like this. I guess living in a small town that’s adjacent to a bigger city would be ideal; these two towns are still very inviting despite the fact that they’re nowhere near a big city. Strolling up and down downtown Sonora was definitely nice. I guess the one thing that I would miss is the later hours that businesses keep in larger cities. Cafes closing at 5pm doesn’t really work for me. 

Over all, the past few weeks have been very enjoyable for me. I’ve seen new things; I’ve learned new things; I’ve made new friends, and, most importantly, I’ve had a good time. I’m fortunate because this is the way my life has always been; even for the few years when I did other things besides art to earn a living, my life was never boring. It was always interesting in one way or another. The life of an artist isn’t something that most people understand, especially nowadays. Being tied to a cubicle eight hours a day year after year isn’t my definition of living or freedom. When do you get to start enjoying life, at 65? Nah, I’ll pass. As an artist, I get my fair share of snide comments and rolling of eyes (don’t think that I don’t notice) when I tell people that I’m a working artist; it’s OK, I’ve learned to laugh it off. People are just bitter — especially about the decisions that they’ve made that have gotten them trapped in jobs that they clearly hate. We all make our decisions. I say, “Have a good time all the time.” 

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