Thursday, July 28, 2011

BURIED TREASURE '11 - Jamie Ford, Oscar Holden & The Alley Cat Strut

Henry and Keiko's record
Mail Art Thank You to Jamie Ford

Seth Apter of The Altered Page has once again invited blog artists to post a bit of Buried Treasure from their archives. In the previous two editions, I posted MY favorites. This time, I'm posting one that has has been a favorite of readers - music lovers, and Jazz buffs in particular. Well... First of all, Oscar Holden is the only 'real' character in a book which I'll call a love story and historical fiction. The traffic to my blog for this particular post has more than tripled the overall page views, but strangely enough - visitors are here looking for MUSIC, and one song in particular - "The Alley Cat Strut".

The title for the post I've chosen to spotlight was the following:

                  Jamie Ford, Oscar Holden and The Alley Cat Strut

Google rapidly moved my post up into the top two places for any combination of author, musician and song title. Combining them together was an even bigger boost.  If you don't believe me, try putting any combination of the words from my post title into Google search. There's not much art involved in this endeavor, but it did take my art to a different level. How many more records (or rather record labels) can I actually create that people will enjoy?
Back on January 24th of this year, my brother-in-law Chuck Pefley put up a post about the Panama Hotel. Chuck generally posts a neat photograph that he's taken in and around Seattle on an almost daily basis. I follow him not only because he's my brother-in-law, but because he's an excellent photographer and a source for models for a number of my pieces of art.  I don't know whether he discovered the book Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet first and the hotel later or the other way around. It really doesn't matter to me whether the chicken or the egg came first. There's a fascinating story to be told about the real Panama, and Chuck discovered it long before I did. I was initially taken in by the gold leaf sign on the doors in his photograph, so I followed up on it. I was hooked.

In late January of this year, my wife and daughter and I were planning on being in Seattle.  I managed to follow the link Chuck had given to the Author Jamie Ford's blog, quickly skimmed it and discovered a small but very meaningful connection which I planned on exploring - after returning home from Seattle. We arrived in Seattle to an empty house - Chuck was at work, and my sister was in Tacoma with my brother Dan, doing what she does best. After unloading the car, I was ready to sit down and take a nap (at my age, it's almost a necessity). I can nap anywhere and in my short trek to the couch, I spotted Jamie's book on my sister's desk, picked it up, and quickly fell in love. No nap. I had discovered a BOOK. A GOOD book. Over the next twenty-four hours I read it. It came very near to being a Sleepless in Seattle moment. I'm a history nut. This book should be read by everyone who wants an understanding of the social upheaval caused by the Second World War in these United States, and the West Coast in particular.

Chuck took us to the Tea Room of the Panama Hotel that evening for a cup of  Rooibos tea, and I was able to experience first hand the basement of the Panama Hotel. The story had taken me right in. After returning to Chuck and Penny's that evening, I read the Author's notes at the back of the book. They're there for a reason: *** Jamie lives in Montana *** As a matter of fact, he lives ninety miles up the road from me.

To tell you why the book was so interesting I have to revisit my childhood, or rather that of my father. As a teenager, my father had spent time at Fort Lincoln, south of Bismarck, North Dakota. My grandfather was an Immigration officer charged with guarding German, Italian and Japanese 'prisoners' at Fort Lincoln during WWII. My father also met my mother while attending St. Mary's Catholic High School in Bismarck, so I knew some of the story of the internments.

The love story Jamie has written is about a young Chinese boy of 12 (Henry) and a Japanese girl (Keiko) of the same age, who both attend an almost exclusively white school in Seattle, and the story begins shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  A key element in the love story is a 78 recording of a Seattle Jazz legend by the name of Oscar Holden. I will not reveal the significance of the recording. If you haven't read the book, get a copy. Suffice it to say it is a key element in Henry and Keiko's life, and in the belongings of thirty-seven Japanese families in the basement of the Panama Hotel - and the belongs are still there, unclaimed.

Upon returning from Seattle, I had it in my mind to do something special for Jamie Ford. I started my artistic journey by searching the local second hand stores and thrift shops for old 78 records - with sleeves. I purchased a stack of them at a Veteran's thrift store, brought them home and selected one that was in fairly good shape, although the paper sleeve was unusable for my purposes. I also spent a great deal of time on the web, looking for a record label for a recording studio that would have existed in Seattle during the 1940's. I then soaked and removed the label from the vintage 78 and spent several hours creating one of my own with all the 'right stuff' on it. I also took a Ben Franklin brown paper bag and created a paper sleeve for the record. I was assured by Jamie that although Oscar Holden was a very real Jazz musician, the song is a fictional creation of Jamie's. His book is still on the New York Times Best Seller list, and if you haven't read it, you should. But of course I told you that already, didn't I?

I created the record label for a recording that does not exist, but because Jamie had brought some of my childhood family memories back to me, I gave him something tangible the end of March that existed only in his creative 'storyland'. What I received from Jamie in return was a signed First Edition of his wonderful novel of love lost - and found - in the grooves of a 78 record. Thank You Jamie. You did my spirit good. There's more songs yet to be sung.

And just so you can be sure that the piece of mail art I've included above did indeed go through the mail, check out the post he put up on his blog after he received it. He hadn't yet taken the removable label off of it, but you'll get the picture.

Friday, July 1, 2011

It's A Duck! PFF#47

Well --- Not really. It's a Goose. A White-fronted Goose in fact. This is my first of about twenty First Day Federal Duck Stamp covers that I have to do for subscribers. I'm very pleased with the way this one turned out as well.

If you get a chance, try to visit Hostess Beth Niquette at The Best Hearts Are Crunchy, for this week's version of Postcard Friendly Friday. More really great postcards and mail art!