17 September 2009


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 18 September 2009

Alright, folks, no politics this week! I've had my fill of ass-bags, dirt-bags, gas-bags, and wind-bags--cheats, sneaks, and liars most. So, a necessary break from those I would never chose to mingle--to relax and regroup.


for a fitting "shout out" to Representative Joe Wilson (R, SC)--who, himself, knows a little something about "shout outs"--for his seemingly reflexive and candid outburst, "You Lie," barb directed at President Obama during his healthcare address to Congress last week.

With six letters comprising two words and two syllables, who would have thought Wilson would have so quickly captured everyone's attention--and the wrath of some. Had he yelled, "Fire!" he'd not have triggered as much reaction in the people's House.

In the world of Marine Corps fitness report markings, for his "performance," Wilson merits a far right "X" (the best possible) for "Moral Courage" and a far left "X" (the worst possible) for "Judgment." And, then a swing again to the far right with an "X" for "Integrity"--must respect a man with backbone regardless of how poor his judgment.

Appropriately, Wilson extended an apology--for breaching decorum not the accusation--to the president and his contrition was accepted. It's over. Or it had better be. Another far right "X" for "Character."

Finally. Section "C" Narrative--directed remarks: "A true Representative--a folk hero--of the people. Refreshing. Keep up the superb work, Congressman Wilson! Senator material. Reread George Washington's 'Rules of Civility'."

Now, today's story...

A light and fun read--a true story with aliases to protect the innocent--to end your week. May you smile and laugh, at least once...

A couple of months ago I was approached by a new friend--who for the purpose of this story will be known as "Jay." "Jay" learned I was a painter and asked if I accepted commissions. "Why, yes," I replied, "I accept commissions but with some caveats. What do you have in mind?"

"Well," says, "Jay," "We're trying to decide on an appropriate departure gift--from the staff and officers--for the general and his wife and thought maybe a small painting--a landscape of some sort capturing the area--maybe a distant view of the base would be nice." Didn't sound terribly thrilling to me for subject matter--right up there with Elvis on velvet--so I was polite and said, "Well, that's an idea."

Now, keep in mind we're kicking this conversation around on the golf (our games only bear slight resemblance to the game) course--outside earshot of the general (who we convinced is "the man" with a club in his hands--aren't all generals?!) who is among our foursome. When opportunity presented itself, "Jay" and I'd take in the vistas and quietly discuss possibilities. But nothing was particularly catching my eye, so I decided it best to just leave it alone and think about it.

As an aside, I invited "Jay" and his wife, "Elle," to my studio (within a week they made a visit) to see, first-hand, my paintings and suggested that doing so would help a great deal scoping the project.

After finishing the round and relaxing around the "19th hole," the general nonchalantly said to me, "Andy, if I was going to be here another year or so I'd commission you to come out and paint our home...the Mrs. and I really enjoy living there and it's such a beautiful, striking place." I think I responded something along the line of, "Yes, Sir, too bad...it's not going to work out...that would have been a fun project"--while quietly thinking, we now have our subject for the painting.

I later relayed my conversation with the general to "Jay"--no discussion required; he agreed--that's the subject.

Now, since I am a plein-air painter (only from life/on location), it was going to require close coordination to find a window of opportunity when the general, and his wife, would be away--a time for me to set up my easel and "work."

As luck would have it, a few weeks after the round of golf, there was a four-day window for me to paint. Now all we had to do was coordinate a few particulars e.g. ensure, though away from home, colors (National Ensign and USMC standard) were flying on the front of the house, and hope the weather would cooperate for at least one of the four days--they were and it did. Plus, a short email from "Jay" to the general's aide regarding the colors being on display with gentle encouraging words, "Don't screw this up!" ensured all went smooth.

On Thursday morning, 16 July, under the canopy of a stunning crisp, clear and sunny desert blue sky, I painted the general's home. As with most paintings that are inspired, this one came together quickly--design and colors fell into place. Decades of experience handling a paint brush made it feel as if this one was effortless--never effortless but the result sure looked it--the immediate sign of a successful painting.

I later photographed the painting and sent an electronic image for "Jay" to see--and approve (it's posted to the left of this Commentary). He did. And, if the truth were known, the painting exceeded expectations; as would be validated a few weeks later. Keep reading.

Within a few weeks, the painting, done in gouache (pronounced: "gwash")--an opaque watercolor, was matted and framed.

For several weeks the painting hung in my studio and garnered much attention from the occasional visitor. Finally, one Saturday afternoon--a week before the painting was to be presented to the general and his wife--"Jay" and "Elle" accepted an invitation to come over for a beer (or two) and take custody of the painting.

Walking into the studio and approaching the painting, "Elle" unexpectedly and without any prompting let loose with a breathy, "OOOOOHHHHHHHH, AAAANNNNDDDDDYYYY!" That is, as if experiencing a sudden adrenalin rush or some other involuntary pleasing physiological reaction. Just the kind of approval a painter likes to hear. Frankly, even better. Much better. And, maybe empirical proof--though not scientific--that "mental stimulation" is indeed a pretty powerful phenomenon.

In fact, with dozens and dozens and dozens of commissions under my belt, never has a painting triggered such a strong, heartfelt, completely innocent reaction. Especially with the suggestive interpretation, by others, that came across merely through "Elle's" two words and tone of voice. Presentation is everything. Size--of the painting--did not matter.

"Jay," standing behind his wife, with mouth open and a look of disbelief on his face said, "Hey, wait a minute, nearly three decades of marriage and I've never heard anything like that--what in the world?" It was damn funny and we all laughed. My only regret was not having the quick wits about me, at the moment, to have offered "Elle" a cigarette!

A week later...

Last Saturday evening--was the farewell for the general and his wife. "Jay" and "Elle" and a platoon of helpers threw quite a party! Nearing the end of the evening, it was time to officially farewell the guests of honor. "Jay" had prepared a scheme to hold the painting as a surprise to the final moment. Cleverly, he had lightly "tacked" several gag photographs that were meaningful to the general and his wife to the back of the painting.

"Jay" began his presentation humorously talking about each photo and after several minutes of laughter by all he said, "Seriously, general, we are going to miss you around here and we hope you'll find a place in your new home to hang these photographs to remember us. But, if you ever tire of looking at these photos, on the back we have a "picture" (at least three times during and after the presentation I had to correct "Jay"--it's a "painting"--he's a slow learner) of your home--and he then revealed the painting." It proved to be quite an emotional moment for the general and his wife--as they have much sentimental attachment to their home (which they never refer to as "Quarters") and the desert community.

As the general and his wife were taking in the painting, "Jay" proceeded to enthrall all by retelling the story of their studio visit and "Elle's" reaction upon seeing the painting. For dramatic effect, and unrehearsed, "Elle," seated nearby, replayed her, "OOOOOHHHHHHHHHH, AAAAANNNNNNDDDDDDDDDYYYY!" comment; triggering laughter! This time I was prepared and injected from the back of the crowd, ""Jay," my only regret last Saturday was not having been quick enough to think to offer "Elle" a cigarette! For that moment of rudeness, I have profusely apologized to her." The crowd cracked up.

Not to be outdone by me, "Jay" chimed in, "Since the general and his wife are not leaving town for another week, the painting is available for temporary loan." He continued, "It seems this painting has some strange, mystical aphrodisiac qualities, and if any of you guys want to borrow it to hang in your bedroom the general would probably not object." Then he added, "But, don't be surprised or offended if your wives exclaim, "OOOOOHHHHHHHHHH, AAAAANNNNNDDDDDDDDDDDDYYYY!" Laughter abound!

So, not only a painting for the departing couple but a memorable story to go with it. And, nothing like a good, clean "naughty" joke! All innuendo--the best kind of humor.

Before departing, I had an opportunity to spend a few moments with the general and his wife. To recap how the painting project came about and was executed. So, they, too, knew not just the rest of the story but the whole story. No point dwelling on happenstances--some things are just meant to be. The painting, "CG's Home," is one of them.

Post Script

Guys--if thinking or planning "fireworks" this weekend, feel free to print a copy of the painting and sign it--your name--not mine. Hang it in your bedroom--wife's side of the "slumber" chamber. Who knows? Good luck! Have a great weekend! If "things" work out, don't forget to suavely offer a cigarette. You are welcome!


gulfscuba said...

Excellent story Andy! You paint with words as well as the brush.

Anonymous said...

Well I'm sure he's heard those words before (ohhhhh Andy) in the cover of darkness. He was a Lt at PISC. Good story my friend.

Stephanie said...


A Colonel of Truth said...

Thank you Joe, Anon (Rob, that you?), and Stef for commenting. Stef, yours perfect complement for the story--clever. Stay tuned...more each Friday. Thanks for reading.