Sunday, April 11, 2021

Thinking Tall

In this shot from the 1980 opening of my second Pizzeria Uno in Cambridge, Massachusetts I'm bracketed by a couple of college footballs gods, on the left is Ike Sewell an All-American guard at the University of Texas from 1923-1925. He founded Pizzeria Uno in 1943. On my right is Mark Olivieri, an undersized but ferocious linebacker at Tulane. He was the star of the Green Wave's 14-0 win over mighty LSU in 1973, the first since 1948. Mark played at 5'-11" and 220 and was the last cut of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. At that hot moment when I was 38 I was taller than Mark. 

I’m obsessed my height or more correctly by my lack thereof. My obsession has worsened as I’ve become a gnome. One of the markers of osteoporosis is that you’ve lost more than 1-1/2 inches of your former self. I qualify and then some. I’ve gone from a person who thought of himself as a little tall to someone how realizes he’s short. Yet I still feel a little tall despite evidence to the contrary.

I also seem taller than I am to others. I think it’s that I have the legs of somebody 6’-2". Even as the withering that has accelerated the last fifteen years people will say things like, “You must be close to six feet tall.” Or when I lamented about my diminution to a couple of painter friends from southern Colorado, they responded, “You’re not short!” Even a close friend whose husband is 5-9ish recently guessed, “You’re 5’-11” aren’t you? Uh,no.

When I joined the Army Reserve in the summer of 1960 the weighing and measuring folks called me 5’11”. I don’t remember the specific event, but I guarantee that I stretched my back, lifted my head and put some air between my heels and the floor. I always elongate by back, tilt my head to its tallest disposition and raise my heels off the ground to get maximum altitude. 

For the last five years since I got my osteoporosis diagnosis, I’ve tallied 5’-91/2”at my Osteo doc’s office. Then in my February visit the bone density tech measured me at 5’-81/2”. Is that even possible? Can a person actually lose an inch of height in six months?

You know you’re short when people that you have always considered short are taller than you are. That happened as recently as last Monday. When we left our new accountants office, we ran into acquaintances we know from the art world. John Crouch, the husband of the couple has always seemed short to me, but when I stood across from him, he was as tall as I am. His ever-present Stetson and cowboy boots may have contributed to the illusion of height.

And speaking of cowboy boots, they have been my favored footwear since I was 10. When I was in Manhattan during the summer of 1966 I was dubbed “Tex, the singing cowboy.” But you can call me Tex or Mister Tex.

Assuming that I was a legit 5’-11” at some point in my life, when I wore boots, I was 6'-1" one to my fans and to my deluded self. Then when I gave up my cowpoke affectation five years ago and returned to the sneakers of my collegiate years, I lost two full inches.

So, it’s cowboy boots starting now, pilgrim. As my late friend Jim Crivits liked to say, "Win if you can. Lose if you must. But always cheat."

Sunday, April 04, 2021

A man of few words

Work in Progress

I have few words and certainly no images to share. I’ve discovered that extruding a garden variety 800-word blog is the stepchild to writing an 80,000-word page turner. My friend and now life coach, thank you John Ellsworth, has covered me up with concrete processes for constructing a novel, the mechanics of said pursuit. Without these planning and plotting tools a fella will flail away, take way the hell too long to produce even one book, and all the flailing will come to naught. According to a book that John recommended and which I read in a single sitting I am a “pantser” meaning that I write by the seat of my pants while I need to be a “plotter” which should be self-explanatory. Hell, if I wanted to be a bricklayer, I’d have bought a trowel. And all I have is this stupid computer.

The truth is that the strictures of book construction make sense to me even If I don’t fully grasp them yet. In the early going I’m still pantsing and the plotting or planning parts languish in the nether regions of my brain. Right now, I’m mired in the character development phase as I flesh out the protagonists of the novel of which there appear to be two. I didn’t know there would two such characters until I’d written the first 500 words, my daily goal for now according to John. “That should be easy for you” John suggests. Easy for you to say, Mr. 2,000 words a day. 

In the aforementioned book the author speaks about getting a call from her publisher. Her publisher tells her that she wants to publish her next book in the fall and needs the manuscript in three weeks.  The publisher asks if she can do that. Is she sure? Our author responds, and I paraphrase liberally, “Sure. I do it all the time.” And she proceeds to deliver a 90,000-word novel in three weeks. The secret is that our author had already outlined the entire book and after re-acquainting herself with the outline she knew she had a good one. She says that she can do such an outline in a few hours. I am blown away and challenged to give it a go.

When I began writing, the presumptive hero of the novel was known to me. Then my keyboard named him. Those little squares have minds of their own. I knew what the character did for a living. I chose a profession which would put him in situations where he would stumble into trouble. And I knew his, he is a dude, personal demons before the first keystroke. But when I began writing the character became real to me. The second protagonist grew from knowing what makes the primary character tick and where their lives could intersect. If not on a collision course they are placed on the same turf at the same time and sparks fly, both good and bad. Beyond character one’s flaws, fierce antagonists by any measure, I have yet to discover his archenemy. If I’m conceiving a series of books headlined by our hero, the malevolent super genius villain will emerge from the situations I’ll create. That’s the plan, Stan.

And for those of you who scoff, “You mean to tell me that you’re thinking about a series of books when you can’t even write one?” Uh, definitely maybe. 

And now for some construction work.


Maxwell Edward James struggled down the steps of his rent-controlled apartment on 11th Avenue. He’d lived in the below grade apartment in Hell’s Kitchen since he returned from the first Gulf War. The $1,400 a month he’d been paying since 1991 made the trim two bedroom a luxury that he could afford. He’d be paying $5,000 if he rented the place today. Freelancers like Max live from assignment to assignment. He accepted the uncertainty that came with his freedom to come and go as he pleased. Freedom was job one. $5,000 was not only be out of reach but he had to have a second bedroom for writing and editing. He was a one-man production team that sold finished television news stories in 9 minute segments. Video, stills, narrated, edited and ready to broadcast from the field via Max's second bedroom.

At $1,400 he couldn’t even live in Queens or Hoboken.  Hell, he couldn't live in Newark, heaven help him. And he didn’t want any part of it anyway. To Max Manhattan was the center of the known universe, and Hell’s Kitchen had been his neighborhood for going on 30 years. He knew the rhythms of the place. He He knew every street, alley, gin mill and bodega from 42nd Street to Central Park and West Side Highway to Times Square.  

Everybody in the neighborhood knew him. They stood by him though he was a pugnacious sort when he had a load on. They dismissed the occasional dust-up because he was one of their own. Even the beat cops looked the other way. And the other guy started it didn't he?

According to his building super, Javier, “Max is a stand-up dude. He paid his dues in Iraq, didn’t he? Cut him some fucking slack.”

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Two things at once

Bombay Beach Yacht Club, Salton Sea, CA.

Peggy and I have added a show to our spring roster. Several weeks back I got an email from Mary Q. Williams who owns the prestigious Mary Williams Gallery in Boulder, Colorado. It seems that Mary had seen my website which is hosted by FASO, Fine Art Studios Online. I switched to FASO about this time last year and recommend it highly. The next day Peggy received her invitation to participate in the show, America the Beautiful, a 50-state virtual exhibition with 10% of the proceeds going to Feeding America which supports 200 food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and community-based agencies that serve more than 46 million people. I can’t think of a more worthwhile endeavor. So, not only am I excited to be part of such a significant show but am honored to support Feed America. Thanks Mary.

Standard Station, Rice, CA

Conoco, Lake Valley, NM

Monhegan Light, Monhegan Island, ME

This isn't Kansas anymore, Toto. San Luis Valley, CO

Mary describes America the Beautiful as “the most important and aggressive show we have done in the 26-year history of Mary Williams Fine Arts.” And asks “What could the gallery do to promote through the beauty of fine art, the profound beauty of America?”

Her vision is to have artists from all 50 states represented though the art doesn’t need to be from the state in which we live. And it's a good thing if these selections are any indication.

To have the art and sculpture clearly evoke many aspects/icons of the country.

To have the gallery and the artist each give 10% of the proceeds of their sales to Feed America. In Mary’s words, “The show has the ability to inspire people to buy art while also helping hungry Americans.”

America the Beautiful will launch on Memorial Day, May 31 and will run through July 10th unless it’s extended due to popular demand. Yes, careful reader, that’s the same weekend that our live Two Person show Immel² New Perspectives opens at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art in Taos. Our cups runneth over. We’re twice blessed. Two shows are better than one. Make me stop.

Among Mary’s ideas for subjects for the artwork are:

The American landscape such as National Parks, Mountain Ranges, Rivers, Lakes and Rock Formations and more.

American Holidays

Iconic or important American bridges, buildings, churches, beaches among other subjects that are famous nationally or locally.

Industry… farming, ranching, the railroad, automobiles, lumber, mining, aerospace. and aviation.

Mary’s ideas and buzzwords aren’t meant to be comprehensive but to prime the pump. Mine's primed.

She has asked for invited artists to submit up to 10 pieces for the show and reserves the right to accept all or none.

I will submit my full allotment of ten. I reckon at least one will make the cut.

In this post I’m showing images that may or not be among my ten. I reserve the right to submit all or none of them. There may be something even better just around the corner. And I’m certain to include at least one from Immel² New Perspectives. But today I want to post new stuff, obscure stuff or stuff that’s so old you won’t remember seeing it.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Immel² New Perspectives

Cruz Blanca

Autumn Oranges

I’ve been experimenting with the square format as well as spot color since the first of the year. Then in January Peggy and I along with Rob Nightingale who owns Wilder Nightingale Fine Art began tossing around ideas for our fourth bi-annual show at his gallery. We named the show Immel² New Perspectives and, yes, the title refers to the square format Peggy and I will both be using. It’s a notable departure from the landscape or horizontal format we have long favored and brings new design criteria to our work. 

Sunlit Wall

Ventana Azul

In that light today’s offerings are, you guessed it, all squares. These may or may not be part of the show but are representative of our new way of looking at things.

Please mark your calendars for our opening at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art on Saturday, May 29, 2021. In light of the Covid-19 pandemic the opening will be held from Noon to 7pm rather than 5-7pm to spread the crowd over more hours.

Look for our Show Preview and ad in the May issue of Southwest Art Magazine. Senior Editor Allison Malafronte writes, “the Immels decided to they would turn a fresh eye toward their beloved New Mexico and Southwestern surroundings” and “which forced the artists to reconsider familiar scenes through a new lens.”

Peggy added that, “Changing formats allowed me to find creative ways to paint the same subjects while providing a design puzzle that’s been fun to solve.”

I told Allison that. “New Perspectives encouraged me to get out of my comfort zone and show less of the subject not more. I’m showing a different angle and aspect ratio that focuses on texture and detail.”

Be there or be square. I can’t help myself.

Wilder Nightingale Fine Art is at 119 Kit Carson Road in Taos. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Writer's Block

I should have been a writer. That’s a hell of a thing to conclude when you’re approaching eighty. It might be too late to write for anybody but myself. When this crystalized last October, I was thrown into a frenzy of wondering; wondering about what to write, how to write it, who to write it for and for the first time, how to pitch and sell my stuff.

I’ve never had the huevos to submit a story or a book, to make a cold call. Sure, I have a byline in a handsome online magazine for which I’m paid exactly nothing. So, I have no skin in the game. Is that real writing? As a guy who’s always measured himself by the proceeds of his efforts not being paid feels like less than a whole loaf. Which is not to suggest that I’ll stop. It’s what I do. And for that matter if the principle is that you must be paid for your creative work for it to have value I’ll have to stop photographing, too. Then what would I have? Good food, good wine, adventuring forth, a loving marriage and vying for eternal youth. Which might be enough.

Still, I need to grow a pair and take some risks. My lifelong friend, the author John Ellsworth, says that he papered his walls with rejection notices till he began self-publishing page turners through Amazon Kindle. They’re gripping mysteries, spy novels and the like. He produces one of them every 40 days. He’s really good and really prolific. His books keep you glued to the page. And he’s a machine. The man writes 2,000 words a day like clockwork. He edits that 2,000 the next day and writes 2,000 more. He does employ a high-powered professional editor to polish the manuscript. From what I’ve learned from friends who are published authors everybody needs an editor. John levels with his considerable audience right of the gate. He writes to entertain. I’d be delighted to entertain and have long felt that being able to make a buck selling entertaining fare would be nirvana. Of course, the grander dream is to craft work that is demonstrably different and definably “art.” Literary fiction John may have called it; writing that aims higher. I’m far from sure that I possess that august gene though John says I do. Hell, I’d off somebody to sell a bodice ripper.

The obvious path is to warm up with shorter offerings through an online vehicle like Medium which I follow closely and of which I’m a member. Medium monetizes based on readership and comments. It publishes work by categories; History, Travel, food and wine, aging, you name it. Those are among the subjects I originally chose but now Medium’s algorithms subject me to exposés about depraved Roman emperors, ten-year old gypsy serial killers and nymphomaniacal French courtesans. Can’t for the life of me figure out why.

John has told me on more than one occasion to submit one of my pieces to the New Yorker, to reach for the gold ring. Scares the crap out of me.

On the other hand, 1,200 words, a typical Medium essay, spring from my fingertips with some ease. That’s my typical blog. So that may be a place to start. I read that writing is hard and that you have to put your head down and do the work. I don’t find sprints unduly hard, but I haven’t often broken the 1,200-word barrier very often. Maybe that’s when writing becomes soul crushing, and your brain explodes.

When this dilemma began percolating in the fall, it dawned to me that crafting a book length tale from some 4,000 pages of blog posts would be the most expedient path. It would be more of an editing gig than scratch baking. Enough of those 4,000 pages the past 15 years were about my life experiences, some of them deeply personal, that a memoir of the path to my 80th year or something fictional that carries a big part of me is worth a real effort. John Ellsworth has told me on more than one occasion that whatever you write, however fanciful, it’s always about you. That mitigates for fiction it seems to me. The protagonist of a novel, saint or sinner, can be exaggerated, can be exponentially more flawed or heroic, can live closer to the knife’s edge of sanity and can be the redeemed or the redeemer. And who is to know when real events and characters are subsumed by fiction.

In a superficial first cut I stitched together 35,000 words from posts that moved me in some way. Gut wrenching in some cases. Using John’s “80,000 words make a book” premise, I’m almost half-way to something. Or to paraphrase the title of Jerry Seinfeld’s recent memoir, “Is this anything?” Are these 35,000 words anything? Seinfeld believes that standup is all about the writing. From that laugh line I'll extrapolate that writing’s all about writing. My son Garrett who has been a special effects make-up artist for film and television for more than 30 years says the same. You can’t tell a great story without great writing.

My story real or imagined could start like this:

Eight year old Steve Immel at Capwell's Department Store in Downtown Oakland

I have no memory of living in a household with a mother and a father. Though photographs from 1942 in Urbana, Ohio and 1944 in Antioch, California suggest otherwise. My 3- year-old self in the Antioch photo is a shirtless tyke in tighty whities who had just broken his front tooth on the concrete stoop. My father was a newly minted Navy officer who was preparing to ship out to the South Pacific where he would serve as Executive Officer of an LST, Landing Ship Tank. He was a Lieutenant Senior Grade, two full stripes. I don’t know if he saw combat. He never said and wasn’t part of the family unit when the war ended. So, I don’t remember him living with my mother and me before he sailed for the South Pacific and know he was never was part of the Immel household after the War ended.

My first memory of my father was on board his LST just before it embarked from Treasure Island across San Francisco Bay from Antioch. I was scratched by the ship's mascot, an unpleasant spider money named Sam that was tethered to the mast. I cried like a baby. Hell, I was a baby.

We moved to California to play the dutiful family, but Glenn and Rachel's marriage was already dead in the water. Just months after their wedding my father told his baby sister Ruth, “This isn’t going to work.” Ruth recounted that moment to me at my father’s funeral in North Lewisburg, Ohio where he was born. The year was 1988. He had just turned 80 when he died of a stroke. I hadn’t spoken to him in 15 years.

Putting the pieces together from what I’d observed and heard, the divide between Glenn Richard Immel and Rachel Helen Immel, nee Sykes, was sexual. He was a sexual being and she was cold to his touch. That’s what Glenn meant when he confided to Ruth, “This isn’t going to work.”

Rachel, that what I called her after she disowned me on my 2lst birthday, was a cultured and erudite lady. I use the noun “lady” for emphasis. She was a voracious reader, something she gave me, loved theatre, ballet, and arthouse films. There was an ebony Wurlitzer Spinet in our living room. My drum kit stood in the corner. Show tunes filled the house. My first 78 was Dave Brubeck's Take the A Train. My mother had a regal bearing that suggested she was living beneath her station. She and wore clothes with panache. And Jungle Gardenia. Once on a bar crawl with my father, a bonding ritual by his reckoning, he pointed out a fetching brunette with an updoo and asked me, “Who does she look like to you?” I mumbled something unintelligible. Ogling your mother’s doppelganger has creep factor of 11.

She was asexual as far as I know. She may actually have been the man hater my father’s sisters Evah and Ruth called her. Thankfully, they copulated at least once. Certainly, their lives paint pictures of wildly divergent sexual appetites. He had two more marriages, one to Denice a hot 26-year-old divorcee and the last to Irma, a stacked Latina from Nicaragua. He dated a parade of curvy babes who looked like B-movie actresses while she was defiantly solo and died childless.

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Not necessarily nude

Rose is Rose

Nearly 13 years ago I participated in a workshop on photographing the nude. The two-day workshop was led by my colleague Tim Anderson who is now the publisher and editor of Shadow and Light Magazine to which I am a regular contributor. It was called Dreamscapes. It is the only time I’ve photographed the undraped female form, a nervous making adventure at the time but quite demure in hindsight. Tim gave me a B for my efforts. That was about right because my results were “competent” in the words of Howard Green, a member of long dormant photography salon that once met quarterly. I blazed no new trails.

Then this week I found myself posting two moody portraits that came from Tim's workshop. They were the best thing that came out of that weekend at an adobe hacienda in Bernalillo, NM. The figure stuff was adequate. But Rose's portraits were intensely intimate. As you can see I favor photographs that get beneath the veneer.

Sun dappled Rose

Here are two portraits of the comely Rose who called herself the “Slutty Unicorn.” Don’t ask. She carried the heavy burden of melancholia. She seemed world weary. Her eyes said, “I’ve seen things.”

She was “Very filled with soul” according to Taos photographer Elida Hanson-Finelli. She was, indeed.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fixated and Disconnected

The cliffs on the Lower Hondo above the John Dunn Bridge

More of same

The images in this post are connected by absolutely nothing. There’s some experimental work where I’m playing with Spot Color, two straight- ahead landscapes along the Lower Hondo and finally two bleak statements from the West Rim where some fried tagger has issues with wealth and privilege. Maybe it was the plus 8 degrees at four in the afternoon, but the barrens of the West Rim felt like a one way trip to the gulag. I’m projecting Kill Jeff Bezos and Eat the Rich as a diptych for Immel² the two-person show that Peggy and I will have starting Friday, May 27 and running through June 18 at Wilder Nightingale Fine Art. Immel² is our fourth biennial show at the gallery.

Behind the Green Door
The corner of Valerio Road and Dead End

Kill Jeff Bezos

Eat the Rich

This is the shortest post in years. I’m completely fixated on getting my COVID booster shot and minor surgery on Friday.