Let It Grow Organic Gardens

And I resumed the struggle. -Vladimir

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The Secret Room

Not even Buck Rogers turns heads on the Las Vegas strip these days. It takes a whole lot more than that to turn even the most naive head in a town that promises instant fortune, stucco Versailles and exposed breasts.
Buck managed to garner quite a little following, though, when he made a guest appearance at a Star Trek convention at the Las Vegas Hilton last month, and he sat at a little card table for most of the weekend signing autographs and hawking DVDs. Some thought him sad, but they didn't understand the promise of Vegas (or, I daresay, the promise of America.) Buck has managed to find eternal youth in the video screen, and he'll be older and grayer still and covered with still more liver spots and he'll still live in the glory days of his old adventure series. It matters not that he's done nothing noteworthy in the past fifty years. He's living in the past, when he lived in the future.
Walter Anderson was insane, they say, but he was an artist and he had earned the right of eccentricity. He pedaled his little bicycle around Ocean Springs, Mississippi when he got old, muttering to himself and scaring little children. But he was reputed to be a genius, and high society smiled upon him, and that's what kept him from the jailhouse or the drunk tank or whatever fate awaits other old codgers. When he was young he'd row a 10 foot skiff out into the sea and live on an island for weeks at a time. He'd draw crabs and pelicans and grass and clouds, and then row back. He had a wife and some kids, so he'd invariable row out to sea again. He managed to find the time to do it all, just about - wood cuts and water colors and oils and then he started to make ceramic figures. The world embraced his eccentricities - eccentricity is lauded in the South and celebrated along the Gulf Coast, at least, if you're an artist - and was willing to pay a pretty penny for a genuine Walter Anderson. He never got rich, but he managed to keep things rolling. A cottage industry grew up around him, especially after he died. Walter Anderson prints can be seen in the finest homes in Biloxi and Mobile, they compliment the drapes in motel lobbies along US 90, and they're miniaturized onto postcards that can be bought just about anywhere. There's a artists colony, of sorts, outside of Ocean Springs, and it supports itself selling Walter's legacy. They reproduce his ceramic figurines like a machine stamping out widgets. The young show up to reside at the colony, clutching arts degrees and personal visions, to do their own thing. Their own thing, in Walter's shadow.
The hurricane earlier this month blew all that away. I feared the worst, at first. Family told me they didn't know what happened to the museum, specifically, but everything south of 90 was flattened. Those reports, it seems, were somewhat exaggerated. The Walter Anderson Museum is still standing, and a lot of his work seems to have survived. Shearwater, the Gulf Coast arts colony and crypt to Walter's memory (and bankability) seems to have been smashed to bits, but those reports, too, are sketchy.
Walter has a surviving sister, and she has tended to his legacy for oh so many years. She is a refined and genteel Southern woman, and she has never taken her role lightly. The finer families along the Gulf Coast don't take anything lightly. The sister has lived a fine Southern Gothic drama: her family name was made by a lunatic, and she maintains its honor as if it had been made by a Confederate general. Whether any of this is lost on her or not, I don't know, and how much she mourns the losses brought about by the hurricane, I don't know. But she seems to have found some fresh air when the winds died down and the waters receded. She is undoubtedly proud of all that has happened at Shearwater over the past generation, and she knows that they were living in the past. She seems prepared to say good-bye to all of that, finally, and move into the present. The hurricane seems to have destroyed all of the structures that had become nothing but a crypt, anyway, and what will be rebuilt in its place no one yet knows. One things for sure: Walter never settled down and stagnated. He may have been amused by the hurricane. He may not have mourned his lost work. He may have just resupplied his little skiff, and rowed out to sea.


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