Good Deeds

At the close of the last blog, I mentioned that, even in these hard and troubled times, I’d come across (actually was a small part of) a heartwarming story about an act of kindness, an exceptional gift given a favorite Monterey Bay Area performer: jazz vocalist/drummer Dottie Dodgion. I’d like to tell that story now, and am happy to say that, before I do so, I can add to it another “community” oriented event (this one international in scope) that speaks well, rather than ill, for the somewhat shabby era we are passing through when it comes to the eternal (I’m afraid!) conflict between folks who feel that human existence is a matter of their own (and solely their own!) proprietorship rather than a condition in which we all attempt to work together for a common, better, and higher end.

On May 7, 2015, Print Day in May—an international printmaking event—was celebrated by “thousands of printmakers in 29 US states [50 artists alone in California participating], 30 countries and all seven continents.” The results of this event, which had its humble origin in a few studios in Monterey and Santa Cruz, California, was described (on its “Print Day in May” site: http://printdayinmay.mpcprintmakers.org/) as a “whirlwind! … an exhilarating, magical, global event”—and it was!

I had the good fortune to study printmaking at Pratt Institute, the University of Hawaii, and the University of California-Berkeley, and I made my own small contribution to that day in May (posting some prints on a Facebook site; I’ll place them here in a moment), but what I found most heartening (no, thrilling!) about Print Day in May was the overwhelming collective response of thousands of people all over the world engaged in a fully positive celebration of an art form they love: a fully creative, uplifting, ennobling, non-destructive activity, whether a vocation or avocation—one that honors and offers truly meaningful and disinterested (as in “done for or given to” others) work in place of a senseless/sensational assertive self-aggrandizing pursuit (a world of Selfies living their lives in the palm of their hands, or more recently, off a watch on their wrists).

The word went out on the Print Day in May site: “Printmakers Unite! Let’s spend one day a year doing what we love to do. Let’s all print together on the same day, all over the world!” The Monterey Peninsula College Printmakers (formerly The MPC Fine Print Club) had devoted the first Saturday in May to the activity in 2007, and what began locally in the Monterey Bay area of California has become a world wide occasion, its manifesto stating, “By providing a cause for creative synergy and a forum for building and sharing community, the event unites the world printmaking community and fosters a better understanding of the art of printmaking … Join us as we print on the first Saturday in May.”

And that was exactly what printmakers from around the world did: artists in Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, North Wales, Poland, Saipan, Scotland, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the UK, and the United States.

Here are photos I gathered from the Print Day in May site: of Robynn Smith (who got the whole show started at Monterey Peninsula College in 2007); activity in Dingle Bay, Ireland; two photos of printmaking in the Bronx; a book produced on that single day in Australia; and a collection of photos from Anil Kuamr Govindappa from India:

International Print Day Robynn Smith   International Print Day in Dingle Ireland

International Print Day in the Bronx   International Print Day Bronx3

International Print Day in Australia   International Printmaing Day India

At the risk of indulging in the shortcoming (or sin) I’ve been ranting and railing against (self-aggrandizement: “Hypocrite lecteur, — mon semblable, — mon frère!”), I would like to explain my own attachment to this art form. From the time I graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1958, I exhibited prints in several national museums (the Honolulu Museum of Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the San Francisco Museum of Art, the Smithsonian Institution, and other museums and galleries), and I loved the process of printmaking—later combining it with a love of poetry (executing prints that incorporated Modern Greek, Russian, and Japanese poems which I translated). The medium I loved most was woodcut prints: not just the sweet act of pulling a fresh rice paper print off a recently carved and amply inked board (often “boards,” for multi-colored prints), but the actual act of designing and incising that board in the first place: the physical dexterity required and a spiritual commitment that made me feel as if I were a fully dedicated medieval monk at work in the Scriptorium. Like my idol, my “sensei,” Shiko Munakata, whose retrospective shows I saw at the old Modern Museum of Art on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco in 1959 (I believe), and later at the Daimaru Department Store in Japan in 1996, I used an inexpensive set of four or five chisels, ordinary children’s tools; modest Munakata himself explaining, “I like them better. I’d probably cut myself with professional tools, but children’s tools break first. Professional tools have to be sharpened after you buy them, but cheap ones come already sharpened. I can use them until they’re dull, and then throw them away like chopsticks.”

Once carved, the blocks themselves are often every bit as handsome as the prints, and I have several mounted just beneath the ceiling in my studio, making up a sort of modest Parthenon frieze. Here’s what they look like:

Parthenon Frieze2

Parthenon Frieze

Because of declining eyesight and a touch of arthritis in my right hand, I no longer carve prints, so my way of celebrating Print Day in May was to “exhibit,” online, some of those prints I’ve done over the past fifty-five years: the first piece, “Emblems of Conduct” (based on a poem by Hart Crane) an aquatint (an intaglio technique, a variant of etching); the second a color woodcut (a poem in Classical Greek, “The Lost World of Adonis,” by Praxilla); the third a color woodcut (a poem in Russian, “A Sail,” by Mikhail Lermontov); the fourth a color woodcut, “Crucifix” (title in Koine Greek: Χριστὸς ἀνέστη! Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη!); the fifth a color woodcut also (a poem in Russian, “To Love Some Women Is a Heavy Cross,” by Boris Pasternak).  Here are those prints, with my own translations of three of them (#s 2, 3, and 5):

Print Emblems of Conduct     Praxilla2

Print Lermontov   Print Crucifix

Print Pasternak

THE LOST WORLD OF ADONIS: Loveliest of what I leave is the light of day,/and secondly the brilliant stars and the moon’s face,/but also ripe cucumbers, apples, and pears.

A SAIL: A single sail shimmers, lonely,/above the azure mist of sea;/what does it seek in distant lands?/ What has it left so far behind? …Waves play. The wind sings./The masts creak, constantly./ How sad! It is not joy he seeks,/ nor happiness from which he runs … A blue light glows within the waves./The sun above burns golden./Yet the rebel sails toward storm,/ as if in storm alone were peace.

TO LOVE SOME WOMEN IS A HEAVY CROSS: To love some women is a heavy cross/but you are beautiful without blemish./The secret of your subtle charm/rivals the secret of life itself …Spring comes rustling and we know again/what stirs with novelty and truth …From that source you began./Your meaning’s clear and like the air, so unconcerned … Lightly you’re aroused, and then to ripen!/To shake from out the heart the waste of words–/to live! No longer bound./But this takes more than cunning, more than craft.

Because a blog can be a more expansive medium than a Facebook page, I’d like to add some more woodcut prints to this “collection”:

Greek print   Leda and Goose

Archilochus3   Buson1  Buson2

Archilochus    Daphne

Pan Print   Pacific Grove3

I did a series of prints taken from the Odyssey (#s 8 and 9 here: “Odysseus Avoids the Sirens” and “Odysseus on the Beach with Nausicca and Her Handmaidens”); a series taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses–#s 1, 2, and 7: “Halcyon & Ceux,” “Leda and the Goose” (in this case, not a swan), and “Daphne” (turning herself into a laurel tree); Two poems by Archilochus: #s 3 and 6: “A Girl” and “Glaukos, Look!”; and two haiku by Buson (#s 4 and 5). Here are my translations of  the poems:

GLAUKOS LOOK!: Glaukos, look! The surge and swell is roused/within the sea, and straight above the Gyrean peak, that cloud,/a sign of storm. We face with fear the unexpected.

A GIRL:
She held a myrtle shoot, delight/in this and in the rose; her hair/ shadowed her bare shoulder, and her back.

BUSON: Even though I feel alone, at odds with the world– the moon is my friend.

BUSON: Freely through this land without mountains, a spring stream flows.

With considerable reluctance, I turned back from the positive creative tight community accomplishments of Print Day in May (a day as joyful as the International Jazz Day held in Osaka Japan, April 30, 2014, for and about which I had also written: a day devoted to that art form, also celebrated all over the world, a day I’d experienced and enjoyed for similar reasons)—turned back and reentered “the broken world” (Hart Crane: “And so it was I entered the broken world/To trace the visionary company of love, its voice/An instant in the wind …”): this era we live in or must live through (the way athletes “play through the pain” of their games perhaps), and I bent down to pick up the local morning paper from the front sidewalk and scanned headlines that have become all too commonplace: “Police sued, accused of filing false report in fatal stabbing,” “Rash of car burglaries in Seaside,” “Farmworker admits to 2012 killing,” “Oil spill cleanup costs $69 million,” “Body found in Laguna Grand ID’d,” “Pope creates tribunal for bishop negligence in sexual abuse cases,” “Suicide bomber targets temple in Egypt,” “21 dead, dozens missing as landslide buries Nepal villages”—and also read the last words (well-chosen and with which I found myself agreeing) of an editorial by Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker, commenting on Caitlyn Jenner’s entry into this world on the cover of Vanity Fair magazine and the media’s “group embrace of Jenner’s transition,” which Parker sees “for what it is—not a revolutionary step toward minority rights, but a money grab for ads, ratings, sales and buzz in a culture of provocation and greed without ethics or conscience.”

Reluctant as I was to “return” to that world, I managed to stay cheered by memories of the other event I had originally set out to write about for this blog: a “heartwarming story” (truly!) about a community act of kindness, an exceptional gift given one of our “local treasures”: jazz drummer and vocalist Dottie Dodgion. I’ve written about Dottie on several occasions: the last for this blog—a profile piece that celebrated her many accomplishments, “The Remarkable Dottie Dodgion” (Bill’s Blog: January 13, 2014). Dottie started her career singing with jazz bassist Charles Mingus, took up drumming in the early 1950s, and went on to play with a host of other jazz greats that includes Benny Goodman, Wild Bill Davison, Marian McPartland, the Al Cohn-Zoot Sims Quintet, and Melba Liston. She now performs with her own trio (Marty Headman, piano; Heath Proskin, bass) each Thursday night at The Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.

Dottie will be eighty-six years of age in September, but she doesn’t acknowledge that fact (and not out of vanity), because–a grand talker with a lifetime of stories to tell—she claims she’ll remain eighty-five or even be (stretching things up not the customary down) eighty-seven because she’s proud of not ever having been “86’d” (ejected or refused service) at a single venue throughout her career. Dottie has been celebrated in the book Jazzwomen: Conversations with Twenty-One Musicians (a sixteen page profile devoted to her alone: a genuine pioneer) and has been justly honored for her contribution to the music at the Jazz Heritage Center in San Francisco.

Here are two photos of Dottie: as a twenty-year-old blonde “girl singer” (a term she likes to make fun of) in the very distinguished company of Dizzy Gillespie (playing piano), Miles Davis (standing beside Diz), Percy and Jimmy Heath, Sonny Criss, Milt Jackson, Carl Perkins, Kenny Dorham, and others; and Dottie (a brunette) standing between tenor saxophonists Al Cohn and Zoot Sims (with Steve Novosel, bass, and Jimmy Rowles, piano, making up the rest of the quintet):

Dottie Dodgion4   Dottie Dodgion3

One day not long ago, Brian Gingerich, a local music promoter who has been highly attentive to Dottie’s welfare for years, phoned me and said that she was having major car trouble, the vehicle on its proverbial “last legs”—a seriously ailing automobile she ran the risk of having break down on her either going to or from her Thursday night gig at Spanish Bay. Brian asked if I’d be willing to be part of a “Dottie’s Day of Adventure” he and others had planned (without her knowledge): the surprise element of which I will save for the way this story unfolds. I told Brian that I needed to see Dottie anyway, for she had phoned me in regard to an article on Howard Johnson, a “trailblazing” jazz musician like herself (and someone she’s known firsthand), and that she had hoped to get together with me to discuss the article, which appeared in Allegro (a Musicians Union 802 magazine she said she’d send to me). Brian and I concocted the following “scheme”: he would tell Dottie that he’d accidently run into me on the street and that, because I was about to get in touch with her anyway, the three of us should get together for, in his words, a “pleasure ride followed by a martini social hour somewhere.” Dottie loves a good martini.

That was the inception of “Dottie’s Day of Adventure.” We arranged to take her to and pick her up after a hair appointment in Marina, and because it was a bright sunny day as stunning as Dottie appeared just after her salon session, we decided to drive through the lolling hills of what was once Fort Ord and across rich agricultural flatland in the direction of Salinas. Brian suggested we stop off, since we were in the “neighborhood,” at Sam Linder’s Honda dealership, so Dottie could meet Brian’s friend Sharon Austen Attebury, Customer Relations Manager there (who might have some suggestions regarding disposing of the nearly defunct automobile)—after which we would wend our merry way out in quest of the perfect martini.

As Brian had already written Sharon, “[Dottie] has no clue of anything beyond that”—and she truly didn’t. Sharon provided a very cordial greeting and the four of us sat down at a table in the large dealership. Sharon then produced a sheet of paper from which she delivered a tasteful declamation as handsomely intoned as Lincoln’s Gettysburg address—and  heartfelt. She spoke of the love the entire Monterey Bay community (and not just the jazz or music community) has for Dottie, the high regard in which she is held, and the love that Dottie gives back to that community by way of her music and by being herself, just who she is. Then, to Dottie’s total astonishment, Sharon announced the “surprise”: several people, including Sam Linder, had decided to assemble a gift for Dottie, free of charge, and that gift was a totally refurbished, re-created 2004 Toyota Corolla. This gift would include lifetime maintenance, also free of charge.

Sharon then escorted us to an adjacent showroom. There stood a vehicle so spanking new it looked as if it had just come off an assembly line (which in many ways, it had!), brand new, pristine as the dawn of day, magically (and mechanically) endowed with its original purity, an uncorrupted, unsullied entity—a gift ready for Dottie to drive away. She was astounded, deeply moved (to say the least), and, as if the presentation had not been emotional enough up to that point, everyone who’d had a hand in returning the car to such glory was on hand: Eddie Suber, who settled Dottie behind the wheel of her new car, and even honked the horn to show how efficaciously it worked; Merritt Guthrie (who’d painted the vehicle: A1 Autobody); Bill Davis (Dent Pro); Bernie Maravilla (Headlights); Casy Vollis (Leather—custom auto trim); Juan Rangel (Mechanics) and Al Abanico (Shop Director), Oscar Esparza (Service Director)  Edward Pestano (Service Advisor—oversaw smog and safety); J.P. Deroin (who’d procured the car: Used Car Manager); Nancy Deserpa (assistant to congressman Sam Farr, who had championed the granting of this gift from the start)—and Sam Linder, who in no way resembles the stereotypical TV commercial “car salesman,” but is a warm, dignified, classy, generous, very “cool” (in the jazz sense) gentleman whose face and bearing seemed to proclaim—like that of everyone else attending the ceremony—“This is for Dottie Dodgion, with Love.”

Astounded, and perhaps in a state approaching joyous shock, Dottie, seated behind the wheel of her gift, cried out a single word: “FAMILY!”

Brian arranged a day to return with Dottie to Salinas, so she could permanently settle (no longer in shock) behind the wheel of her “brand new” 2004 Toyota Corolla (with a trunk that provides ample room for housing her drums) and bring her gift home to Pacific Grove—rather than attempting to do so that day. Brian did take some photos (which I’ll display in a moment) and, after a few necessary “particulars” were arranged and settled, Dottie thanked everyone profusely, and, emotionally sated by the granting of this gift, the three of us drove all the way back to Pacific Grove, where we stopped off at the International Restaurant on Lighthouse Avenue to celebrate some more with the promised martinis: refreshing chocolate martinis no less, which they make there so well.

And that’s my story—true in all (well, in most!) of its details: a story of good deeds, good will, human generosity, and outright love on the part of an entire community: a day, having been a part of, I will never forget. Happy driving, Dottie Dodgion—and many more years of the music you give so well and we all certainly enjoy receiving! Perhaps you’ll drop by someday and take me for a spin in your new car and we can chat about musicians such as Howard Johnson and the fully creative life you’ve shared with them.

Here are photos Brian took that day of: Dottie’s car; Eddie Suber (a solid jazz fan himself) settling her behind the wheel; Dottie’s joy there; and two photos of Dottie with Sam Linder:

Dottie's New Car6   Dottie's New Car5

Dottie's New Car   Dottie's New Car3

Dottie's New Car2   Dottie's New Car4