Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Southie guy at the White House.

I am returned home from a reception at the White House last week. Yep, That’s right … me at the ‘White House’. It’s not that I was trying to get there before Obama … but back in July I was asked if I would like to paint an ornament for the White House Christmas Tree.
Duh, I said …let me think …
Of course I said yes and snapped up the invitation. This idea was sponsored by George W’s wife, Laura Bush, and each congressional district in the country was asked to propose an artist. Thank ya … Congressman Steve Lynch.
So in September, in the mail comes a large shiny silver ball … about 5 ½ inches in diameter.
Note … we’re talking about a shiny ball. The surface … Shiny. No, not just shiny … but really shiny … shiny as in a large ball of mercury. I’m a watercolorist. Watercolors do not work very well on shiny metal surfaces. Think like trying to paint on a toaster. The stuff rolls right off like … uh … uh … well … a large ball of mercury.
So I had to switch to acrylics. This is a kind of paint that I can hardly spell … let alone use well.
For a while … in the spirit of fairness … I thought I should do the right thing … give it up and let someone with acrylic and shiny ball painting expertise paint the ornament But then I says, “Screw that!”
And … after much mental anguish (mental anguish is what we artists call thinking) … and a drop or two of Jameson’s … I started sketching and decided on Southie as a theme. And what better to represent the 9th Congressional District than Southie’s Castle Island and the people who enjoy it.
But how do you hold this shiny slippery ball to paint it? First I hung it down on a piece of string, but that was like working out on a speed punching bag. Then I I tried a flat surface but it was rolling all over the table. Then I used my head … and some duct tape, bubble-wrap, a soup bowl and a hunk of non-skid rubber stuff that’s used to lay under carpets.
This steadied the ball and I went acrylic. Painted Castle Island’s Fort Independence, with walkers, roller-bladers, bike-riders, and moms with baby carriages circling the fort, and sent it off.

Then comes an invitation to the White House reception for me and one guest. I took my daughter Catherine. Her two sisters and brother might start talking to me again by the time Obama is up for re-election.
The tree and the reception was in the East Wing in the Blue Room …like I’d know what a Blue Room was … right? Well it was blue wasn’t it? Getting into the White House wasn’t too much different than say … going through sixteen-seventeen airport security checks.
However, there we were among five hundred or so other painters and guests from all over the country … good looking Army, Navy and Marine guards in dress uniform … and a bunch of black suits with a squinty eyes, tight lips and computer chips in their ears. Also in this Blue Room was a large catering staff and a great spread of food and beverage. We’re talking about some serious lobster and shrimp … and it just don’t get much better than that.
Somewhere … at some time … I heard that private funding paid for the reception. I hope so and I accept that concept just to keep from feeling too guilty.
OK … now for the tree. It was what you would call a Big Tree. A twenty-footer. Covered with these magnificent ornaments from top to bottom. Some were incredible and most were fantastic and the whole scene was magnificent..
I was already to blast out that mine was at the top nuzzling against the angel … because the tree was so high no one could really see it to prove me wrong … but … uh uh … there I was at the very bottom. Well I was not about to let any negativity get between me and my White House moment …and after a short spell I came to the conclusion that my ornament was supporting the whole tree … and besides, you could see it better than the show-off ones on the middle or on the top … particularly if you were you on all fours.

But wait a minute. Don’t the Bushes have this dog that bit a reporter last month? What was I having … a Woody-Allen-worry/guilt-moment? The ornament was too big for a little doggy to bite … so give it up … what else could a dog do to it? Hmm … let’s not go there.
Well after two hours of living the high life with pride and gluttony … we were cleared out for another party coming on. I did manage to swipe two or three napkins with the White House seal. OK … they were paper napkins … but they were hardly used.
Thank you Congressman Steve and wife Margaret.

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