Being a “starving artist” is a highly overrated profession. I was traveling across the U.S. on an 80cc Yamaha motorbike I dubbed Odyssey, living in a tent mostly and working odd jobs, when I reached New Orleans and got the bright idea that I could make some money selling my canvasses as an artist. I possessed some talent, mediocre though it might be, but I figured tourists on Bourbon Street would buy anything from a struggling young artist who looked like he might actually be starving.
I wrangled a closet-sized cubicle in a rooming house in the French Quarter run by a kindly black woman named Sara who took a liking to me. She ate lemon pie every day for lunch and always brought me a slice. Something was wrong with her eyes. They bounced around like balls on a pool table so that you had trouble catching an eye when you talked to her.
“Lawd, boy, you gonna starve to death,” she worried.
I rode my bike down into the bayous and worked up a batch of landscapes of the little stilted swamp cabins and shacks called “Chicken Coop,” “Day’s End,” “Poor Road,” and the like. All I needed to complete the image was to hack off part of my ear for my lady love—if I had a lady love.
Early on mornings, especially on weekends when the tourists and gawkers were out, I tied my satchel of masterpieces to my little red Odyssey, put-putted down Bourbon to Jackson Square, displayed my wares, and hung around with the real artists, prepared to make my fortune.
And I hung around. And hung around.
I sold one painting. I think the purchaser felt sorry for me.
“(The Tea Parties) came to Washington with their crude signs and listened to speeches by Right Wingers such as Jerry Baer and Congresswoman Michele Bachman, afterwards breaking up to feed their kids ice cream and catch buses to see the sights. If they only knew what was really going on in government, they’d come armed with pitchforks and torches. . .” From A Thousand Years of Darkness by Charles W. Sasser